Thursday, May 27, 2010

Quality Time

For a quality time activity,
be kind to yourself and take the scenic route!
St. Peter's Way a pedestrian friendly greenway,
brings you past such lush, shady sights as this,
right in the middle of busy Philadelphia!
(Can you see our house?)

A few ideas about "quality time"
from some of my favorite writers:

Peggy Jones and Pam Young (aka The Slob Sisters): "I had never agreed with the idea that it was 'quality time' that was important when raising children. I think it's quantity time that counts. A child can't be expected to concentrate all the important things he or see feels and thinks into some arbitrary hour or day that a parent designates as 'quality time.' . . . In the end, the person who is there all the time is the one who gives quality time" (Get Your Act Together, 133 - 34).

Al Franken: "Quantity time is quality time. My dad never took me horseback riding. We never went white-water rafting. He never gave me the seven-thousand-dollar fully functional sale model of a Ferrari that I coveted when I was twelve. But he did spend time with me. Not necessarily quality time, but quantity time, hours and hours and hours of nonproductive, aimless quantity time.

"What did we do with this quantity time? Mainly, we watched television, hours and hours and hours of television. My fondest memories of childhood are of sitting on the couch watching comedians on TV with my parents. . ."

Funny Franken goes on the describe his father's laughing fits, pipe-smoking habit, and eventual death of lung cancer at age eighty-five, concluding that "it was this quantity time with spent with my father, laughing and coughing up phlegm, that inspired me in choosing my life's' work: making people laugh and raising money for the American Lung Association" (Oh, the Things I Know! A Guide to Success, or, Failing That, Happiness, xiv - xv).

Barbara Ehrenreich: "Forget 'quality time.' I tried it once on May 15, 1978. I know because it is still penciled into my 1978 appointment book. 'Kids,' I announced, 'I have forty-five minutes. Let's have some quality time!' They looked at me dully in the manner of rural retirees confronting a visitor from the Census Bureau. Finally, one of them said, in a soothing tone, 'Sure, Mom, but could it be after Gilligan's Island?'

" . . . The only thing that works is low-quality time: time in which you -- and they -- are ostensibly doing something else . . . "

Ehrenreich's essay draws to a conclusion with this amusing yet truthful advice: "Do not be afraid they will turn on you, someday, for being a lousy parent. They will turn on you. They will also turn on the full-time parents, the cookie-making parents, the Little League parents, and the all-sacrificing parents. If you are at work every day when they get home from school, they will turn on you, eventually, for being a selfish, neglectful careerist. If you are at home every day, eagerly awaiting their return, they will turn on you for being a useless, unproductive layabout. This is all part of the normal process of 'individuation,' in which one adult ego must be trampled into the dust in order for one fully formed teenage ego to emerge. Accept it."

Ehrenreich points out that one day, just on the other side of those teenage ego years, our children will relate to us as adults. They may start out as Little Gnomes, but that doesn't last long. As children they are just smaller versions of that bigger person who is soon to come. "Your job is to help them . . . get on with being that larger person, and in a form that you might like to know."

All Ehrenreich passages are from
the essay "Stop Ironing the Diapers,"
found in her book The Worst Years of Our Lives
(see pp 146 - 48)

For more on Raising Children & Perfect Parenting
see my post "Play With This!"
my fortnightly literary blog
of connection and coincidence

Friday, May 28th

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