I'm writing to you from a very kid-friendly hotel in New York City where I'm trying out my theories of quality time vs. quantity time with Madeleine and Carter. We agreed before my latest twelve day trip to Africa that quality time for us would look like an overnight at the beach before I left and an overnight trip to New York when I got back. I forgot to factor in the exhausting four hour car rides when deciding to test just how far quality time will take you! Note to self.
At this juncture--since I'm really tired from traveling and a bit irritated with everyday kid stuff --why does Madeleine have a Sharpie tattoo, for example, and when did Carter start the systematic tormenting of his lawyerly sister with nonsensical arguments?--I'm wondering if there's any quality time at all if you don't have some quantity time as a foundation to spring from. To say I'm burning the candle on both ends is putting it mildly.
Despite the hurdle of trying to move mountains, I think we're all learning exactly what it takes to feel connected--whether the together time is abundant and mundane or highly-focused and exciting. Here are my thoughts so far for your review:
The time we spend together is witnessed by the memories we create. I thought creating exciting adventures would put something grand in the memory bank, and while we've certainly succeeded on that front, my kids are telling me they need very regular boring memories, too. Like mom making a special lunch or taking them to the park every single day. I'll be keeping this in mind when we make plans together for the fall.
Being cheerful and happy to be together trumps everything every time. More than where we are, my kids kids are focusing on how we are. Me crabby because they've been arguing for an hour over whether Carter accurately remembers coming to New York (all the way from DC) for a field trip in first grade (oh the insanity of it all!) makes more of an impression than the Empire State Building. I hate to say it, but mom's mood does matter and so does the kids'. Building conditions for harmonious interactions might be the secret ingredient whether we're spending fifty hours together or one.
Bringing your heart to the mix really does make a difference. You can run your house like clockwork or be the most exciting mom on the block but none of it matters if your kids don't deep down understand your heart is right there with them. We can go through the motions (and granted, the motions do matter) but what stays with any human being is the presence of mind, heart and soul in every interaction we choose. I'm thinking about this as we finish up our little string of exciting reconnecting times and move into more of an everyday mode as school starts soon. My kids need me and I need them--no matter what kind of time we're able to spend together--and I'm hopeful that understanding comes across in the months to come in everything that I do.
Any lingering thoughts on quantity or quality time? Here's your chance to have your time in the comments below.