Monday, April 17, 2017

Parenthood: Week 200 – The Right Amount Of Time

You can spend too much time with your kid.

Yes, it’s true that often I spend the entire day with my family, but if I really think about it, there’s always part of that day when we may be in the same house, but we are separate from each other doing our own thing.

You can also spend too much time away from your child.

Days when I have to work late and have little to no time with Ollie are really rough. I feel out of whack and unsettled knowing that I’m not going to have much time with him. In college one of the signs that I knew that there was something special with Diana was that my day never seemed to really start until I saw Diana during lunch at the cafeteria. In the same way day doesn’t really feel lived without time with my boy.

It’s a tricky balancing act. There’s this idea that we should always want to spend time with our children but the reality that’s not the case. It’s the cliché about absence making the heart grow fonder. An appropriate time away from your child allows you to bring more enthusiasm, interest, attention and energy to your child. Quality is better then quantity when it comes to sharing time, to a point. Two minutes of interacting with your kids with all of your care and attention, doesn’t immediately outweigh a couple hours with your kid, some of which you were zoning out on your phone.

This is a really hard balance to strike. Unfortunately many parents don’t have the privilege to be able to manage this balance. If you are working two jobs to make things happen financially, or have challenging child-care situations, you are more likely going to find this balance something that is untenable, yet you somehow have to make work.

The other problem is that sometimes when I carve the time out to spend with Ollie, he’s not really interesting in interacting with me. This goes both ways. For example, this morning Ollie climbed into bed with me at 5:15am and wanted to play with me. I was not in the mood to play with him at this time. This additional factor sometimes leads to frustration, but as the adult, the older person in the relationship, I feel it’s up to me to make the adjustment to make it work.

Sometimes we need to be pushed to spend more time with our children and sometimes we need to be pushed to take a break from our kids.  It's hard to know where we are and we need help from others to figure this out.  I'm grateful that Diana has suggested that I spend certain afternoons with Ollie and also has offered to give me breaks from him.  And I'm grateful that my little boy, always makes up for the times when he doesn't seem to want to play with me with the cutest smile as he pushed a book into my lap or when he runs up to me calls "daddy!"    

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