Ice Cream

By: Nikki Richards

Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, so that later you can do things you do want to do…


Sometimes you’ve got to work for your ice cream.

There’s always going to be one kid who doesn’t want to do what everyone else wants to do. I work in the YMCA daycare program, and at my job, that kid was Kyle. Most days were easy, but there were also difficult moments. Last Friday was a hard shift; several babies were teething and another boy accidentally wet his pants. There were tears at points, but by the time the parents arrived to pickup their children, all tears were forgotten. Most of the kids declared their intention of returning “every day for the rest of my life.” Others told their smiling moms that they “never want to leave” and could they “please sleep here” because our toys are “funner” than theirs. While there are ups and downs at the YMCA Stay and Play, the majority of our “clients” recall their playful moments fondly.

In the case that a child refuses to leave, their parent will bribe them with special treats. Some offer television time as a reward. Others offer a trip to Dairy Queen should their child agree to walk out of the daycare to the car. Kyle’s bribe was no different. He, like all of the other kids, receives ice cream if he does what his parents ask of him. But Kyle’s problem isn’t leaving Stay and Play. It’s coming. Upon arriving, he promptly bursts into tears and begs not to be left there. His mom has to promise him ice cream if he is able to stay for an hour. The whole time Kyle is with us, he only talks about the ice cream he will soon receive and how he wishes he would not have to stay at the YMCA because he misses his mom and we are not her. The other day I told Kyle something that I firmly believe: that sometimes you have to do things you do not want to do, so that later you can do things you do want to do. In kid-speak, this translates directly to: Sometimes you’ve got to work for your ice cream.

I’ve always known a variation of this principle. My parents used to tell me: you have to work hard in school so that later your life is easier. As a kid, I only understood that if I did my homework I got to go to my friends house, just as Kyle knows that if he stays, he will eventually get an icy treat. For children, the reward comes quickly and with little work; one need only commit an hour of time to a math packet and they will undoubtedly receive compensation.

However as an adult, understanding that hard work translates into ‘treats’ (read: success) is more difficult. If I wake up one morning and am feeling particularly tired, I skip class. Because that morning, the consequence for skipping one class is small – I miss a day of notes. But if I continue to skip every day that I am tired, I will do poorly in the class and my grade will trend downward. If I do this in multiple classes, I will graduate with a low GPA and a smaller likelihood of going to graduate school. By this time, the idea that working hard so later I can play is pretty clear. The morning I skip class for the first time, the concept is more murky.

With my college graduation just behind me, I am reminded again that hard work pays off. Those hundred-some days when I woke up and didn’t want to be where I was or doing what I was doing, I found it harder to remember the advice my parents gave me and that which I gave Kyle. Each time I complete a task and experience the feeling of accomplishment, their words echo in my head very clearly. While the road to completion may vary for each goal and the rewards we receive for our hard work may arrive in differing lengths of time, it is important to always keep in mind that which I believe: that sometimes, you’ve got to work for your ice cream.

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