Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Back Link Quality Time

Don’t you love it when a conversation with a friend leads you to a new understanding of some old dilemma? This is what happened to me yesterday, during a conversation about quality time and a three year old boy’s ability to make life difficult.

My friend was bemoaning the fact that her son refused to come to the dinner table, eat his dinner, change into his pyjamas, brush his teeth, and wash his face, every evening without making it into a Huge Production. Her three-year old son uses every means of procrastination… whining, ignoring, being belligerent, crying, screaming… wasting the precious time he and his mother have together. This exhausts his mother: who has been at work the whole day.

She just can’t understand what to do about her and her son’s difficulties. She is frustrated by the fact that the two or three hours she gets to spend with her son each day is, in most part, taken up in an endless petty battle and not edifying, playful, fun activities. Three quarters of their time is taken up with bickering and one quarter with cuddle up and read a book time.

And then it hit me… the reason Quality Time is such a farce is because no matter how much or how little time you spend with your children, three quarters of the time is spent “raising” them, and one quarter in pure enjoyment of them. There is just no way to change this balance. You cannot walk into a home to bathed, powdered, and pyjama-wearing children and expect their inner or emotional beings to bathed, powered, or pyjama-wearing. No, their inner child is whiny, stubborn, crying, and needy: relentlessly demanding the three quarter time before settling into the last short moment of pure enjoyment.

P.S. This piece, in no way, is a statement about the pros and cons of working moms versus stay-at-home moms.


Blogger Susanne said...

You know, one problem with this is that we ourselves divide the time into "fun" and "getting the children to do something". Since I've taken a more playful approach to the whole dinner, change into pyjamas and brush teeth things I found that they can be enjoyable too. For the both of us. But what the children resist the most (and we would either) is that we're pushing them somewhere and there only options are coming along or resisting.

But then my answer might have to do with the fact that my son just turned four and the whole battling every step I do has receded a bit. On the other hand the talking pyjamas and singing toothbrush has helped him motivated too. (I make them talk and sing like sock puppets...)

14 February, 2007 13:30  
Blogger lia from luebeck, germany said...

Susanne, you are so right about parents tendency to define activities between obligatory or enjoyable (and thus worthy of our precious time). Even if we do find ways to mix things around, there just is a lot of plodding along to be done.

Which shouldn't be so surprising, should it? It is like this in many relationships... there is a lot of treading water to do before you can just find the current and go with its flow.

14 February, 2007 18:24  
Anonymous bindi said...

A great topic. I like your imagery, Lia - treading water and going with the flow. I am thinking the metaphor through, just for fun. There are different ways to tread water, as Susanne pointed out. But you need to be in the water before you ever get to go with the flow. Spending time with and interacting with your kids either when you are attending to their needs or doing stuff you both think is fun all works towards building strong relationships.

Personally, I don't care if my children don't bath every night and I figure if you hold out on the junk food and only supply healthy stuff, then they can pretty much eat when they want when they're little - some a grazers and some go for the bigger meals like adults - what difference does it make?

29 March, 2007 00:59  

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