I have a confession to make—when it comes to raising a family, I don’t believe in “quality time,” a phrase you’ll often hear in America as justification for earmarking or designating an especially important encounter with children.
In truth, I just believe in time. And sometimes that time is nothing more than quantity. In other words, I try to be accessible and available to my children, even if I don’t have something particularly profound to say or a bond-worthy experience worth sharing. For example…
My wife and I try to eat as many meals as possible together with our children. We don’t allow phones at the table, we don’t answer them during meals, we don’t keep the TV on during feeding times, and we don’t answer the door. We basically hit pause on the world and its many distractions and opportunities (aka “I’ll stop the world and melt with you.”)
Few if any earth-shattering things are said at our table. But ever so often they are, and that’s only because we spend enough time there to allow those exchanges to happen.
Another example—my wife and I occasionally plan “one on one” encounters with each of our children. Daddy-daughter dates, mommy-son dates, getting ice cream, going on a bike ride, or just sitting in the front living room or porch to converse.
When I first started doing this, I felt pressured to have something really important or wise to say. I rarely did, and that intimidated and discouraged me from taking on these encounters.
Over time, however, I realized that much (if not most) of life and time spent together is monotonous. So I no longer get worked up about the possibility of the following: “Anything you want to talk about, son/honey? Nope. Okay. Wanna hang out or go do something commonplace or cool together? Sure.”
And off we go. The important part is sticking together, maintaining time, and learning how to enjoy it as much as possible.
In that way, planning “quality time” is too ambitious. Quantity time, on the other hand, is really how you make your mark.