Muddle Through the Middle

1 Mar

When my kids were infants, babies and toddlers, there were many parenting books written that highlighted “quality time” with your child.  These moments were most often orchestrated and had the heavy feeling of importance.  For a while, as a VERY young mother, trying to do the VERY best, I bought into this notion.  No interactions or “moments” were significant unless they were planned weeks ahead of time, involved moving the moon and the earth and involved elaborate interactive detail and lengthy amounts of one-on-one time.  As a mother of teens, I can now admit, this quality time idea is a complete crock of shit.  Quantity of time takes the cake every single day.  Show up, be present, know you need to pay attention when the moment arises.  Know your kids.  You can only know your kids if you are there…not for the “quality time” picnic planned in advance for a Saturday way out on the calendar.  You need to be there when they need you and that is never, ever when the calendar dictates.

Children are sponges, they are ever changing and they are their own beings.  A few hours of “quality time” each week or month is fabulous.  This time helps foster relationships and create bonds.  However, children need so much more. Day to day interactions that often seem humdrum or even boring are the ones that truly form our little ones into the people they will become.  Celebrating the accomplishments, teaching morals during dinner and honing politeness at the parent/teacher conference or doctor’s office are all necessary.

But, as Anna Quindlen (one of my favorite modern American ladies) writes, “Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on.  It is about muddling through the middle.”  Muddling through the middle is the real life, nitty gritty, messy, necessary stuff.  Kids have this. They know this. Depending on their age this nitty gritty can involve who pestered who on the playground to whose dad said something weird during a playdate.  As they get older it involves who went to a party to get drunk and whose parents are not even home for the weekend.  But, you  don’t know when they will feel like sharing.  You have to be there for THEIR moments, not the ones you planned.  The most eye-opening conversations I have had with my kids have been in the kitchen late at night or on a generic walk with the dogs around the neighborhood.  This is the middle, this is the muddling through.  As a parent, you have no idea what topic is being thrown at you and you have no time to prepare, but you are there. You are present and you do you very best.  Would children have shared so much during a planned outing where we both felt pressured to bond and enjoy?  I don’t think so.  Time is important.  Kids grow fast. I hope we don’t waste our time being busy or planning quality time because quality time may be missed in the making…and we don’t always get it back.


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