One of my very first A Dad’s Point-of-View columns addressed the issue of Quality Time. It has become an “evergreen,” one of the columns that I believe has enduring value and that I send out to all new papers and web sites when they begin carrying my work. It’s an evergreen because it is so true. Forget what you read in new age parenting books about Quality Time. There is NO SUCH THING.
In that first column, I shared two examples of how quantity time resulted in quality time with my younger son. Both cases were not planned and both examples were open-ended as it related to time. Kids have their own timetable about opening up and it’s not something you can schedule like their dentist or doctor appointments.Here are a few excerpts from that column, verbatim, which I continue to believe have merit:
~~ I keep learning this great lesson. It’s something I know, but seem to have to experience repeatedly for it to sink into my stubborn head. With kids, there’s no such thing as quality time, only quantity time.
~~ Some people actually believe they can schedule quality time with their kids—moments when their kids will open up, reveal what’s really going on, and share. They want to schedule this time the way they schedule a business lunch. But, kids don’t work on these kinds of schedules. They open up when they’re good and ready, and it’s usually when you least expect it.
~~ (This excerpt followed the examples that were in the original column): What a lesson in attitude for this Dad. What a lesson for all relationships! When you show up with an open heart, an open mind, and focus on your child instead of yourself, you have every opportunity to win, to bond. This is the quality time we all strive for, though it was the quantity of time together that allowed the quality time to surface.
The busy schedules we all live in today’s crazy world often leaves us less time than we’d like to spend on what we all know are the important things. No one ever says on their deathbed that they wished they’d worked more. They say they wish they’d spent more time with their loved ones.
I like to call parenting a “Lease-option deal” because we get to actively parent, hopefully, not much more than 20 years per child. And, since most families in Western culture average no more than two children, that means your opportunity to parent may literally be just a quarter of your life. Make it matter. There are no do-overs!
Because many families believe they require a dual-income household, and many really do, the time spent at home and with the kids is thus parceled out in often-limited quantities. When the dual-working family emerged and when women in the work place increased, the entire notion of Quality Time was created. It’s bunk, pure and simple.
Nothing has changed with children. They still need and want quantity time with dad and mom. Young children haven’t chosen to enter the work force or decided that they required new cars, new clothes, new tech, newer homes, etc. that some dual working families believe is necessary. Children require love, time, and their parents.
Visit any third-world country and you will see the same scene everywhere: children playing in the streets, making games out of boxes, running, singing, jumping, having fun. It may stun some of our spoiled kids to see how much fun these kids can have without any of the goodies our kids have!
All of which brings us back to what works with children. What works is time. Lots of time. Nothing complicated, nothing academic, and nothing that requires much more than common sense. No higher degree is required to sit and play with your children.
My boys are both teenagers. Don’t feel bad for me. You will be there, too, someday. With teens, your chances of knowing what is really going on are between remote and forgetaboutit. The more you are around them; the more likely they may let their guard down and let you in. The issues around teens are more important than ever with the constantly encroaching world stealing whatever little bit of innocence that remains for young people.
This makes being the best parent you can be all the more problematic. Your only chance is to be there – a LOT! The frank reality is that being the best parent you can be is not difficult unless you want to squeeze it in between appointments. If that is the parent you want to be, get a pet. The moment you’ve brought a new life into the world, that life that human being, deserves your full attention. That is quantity time, period the end…
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