Aside from the obvious: food, clothing and shelter, kids really require just one thing from their parents—and a ton of it—low quality time. — Dr. Robert Evans, psychiatrist and human relations specialist
Seven years ago, while I was still in the hospital recovering from the birth of our first child, my husband’s family came and spent an entire day with us. It was torture! Not because I dislike my in-laws, nor because I wanted to be alone, just my husband, infant and me as a new family, but because I felt like I needed to entertain them.
My husband and I had only been married for two years at the time and I was still getting to know his parents and younger sister. And—despite having endeavored 36 hours of labor and a whole night as a breastfeeding-first-time-mom “rooming-in” with my infant—I remember feeling more anxious about filling the space and time with his parents than I did about how to care for our newborn child.
It was entirely a self-afflicted torment because no one else in the room expected anything from me. They were all there just to BE with me, with US, and this was a completely foreign concept to me.
I have always been an incredibly active person. I was raised by a father, who (as we joke in my family) is more a “human doing” than a human being. Spending quality time with him as a kid always involved wonderful adventures or doing something exciting. Sitting still is not one of my paternal, genetic traits.
I think my mother is a magnificent “sit-stiller,” perfectly content to relax with a book for hours-on-end rather than engage in either activity or conversation. But I didn’t grow up with my mom, I grew up with my dad and my concept of filling time and making things entertaining is his legacy. To this day, my dad, now in his mid-70s, still needs to know “what’s on the agenda” when he comes for a visit.
On a recent Saturday, my husband and I attended a parenting seminar called Parent U. The seminar offered a bevy of workshops on a wide-range of topics from raising resilient kids to teaching kids smart social media practices. But the message that hit home for me was the quote at the beginning of this post. It came 15 minutes into the keynote address. It came as an unwelcome message: the one thing kids desire, even require, above all else is unscheduled, unexciting, low-key time. This is not my forté.
You want to know every kid-centric destination in a 40 mile radius? I’m your gal! You want to know the best, most interesting playgrounds in Greater-Boston, the ones with huge slides built into the hill or a new zipline? Call me up. You want a mom-panion to join you and your kids on a quirky adventure to a train museum two states over? Me again. No wonder I find child-rearing exhausting!
When my kids aren’t in school, I always have big plans. They don’t include loading them up with tons of extra-curricular activities, instead, we go somewhere, do something, ANYTHING. I get antsy with idle time. To me, time is something to fill.
My husband, on the other-hand, for as thrifty as he is, is a great spender of time. On any given weekend, he would far rather hang around our house, build train tracks on our living room rug, rough house with our kids, lounge in pajamas…NAP! It sometimes drives me bananas but our kids couldn’t be happier.
So, when Dr. Evans shared his great parenting secret with us at Parent U, it really gave me pause: what if my kids aren’t the ones who are so exhausting…what if it’s ME?! What if my concept of real, quality time has been wrong all along. What if the “Q” word in QT isn’t quality but quantity?!
I’ve known my in-laws for twelve years now. What I used to perceive as awkward silence or wasted time when we are together, I now recognize as true quality time; quality not just because my in-laws are so present in the time but because there is so much of it. It’s quantity time. And really, isn’t that what every kid craves?
How do you spend time with your loved ones? Are you a quality or quantity time spender?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from Senior Editor and over-programmed mom of two, Kyla P’an. You also can find Kyla writing (though somewhat less frequently these days) at Growing Muses.
The picture used in this post is attributed to the author’s husband.