Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Quality Time" With My Kids

Have you ever started the day with good intentions, but by the end of the evening you're frustrated, deflated and ready to pout? I think I'm the queen of such days. For example . . .

Feeling a desire to spend some quality time with each of my children yesterday, I made a point to specifically seek each one out. Since I had already spent the early afternoon with my five-year-old, I decided to start with my 12-year-old daughter. She arrived home from school, and as usual, retired to her bedroom to pick up her ipod. Not so fast, I thought. I plopped down on her bed with her and told her we should spend some time together. She agreed and put down the ipod. But what to do? After some small talk, I suggested we go to the piano and sit down and play and sing together (note: I do not play the piano or sing well, but I was trying to be creative). She was not interested. After some coaxing, we both pulled ourselves off the bed and headed to the office. I sat down and began trying to pluck out a tune to a song I'm hoping to learn. She sunk into the office chair and pulled her ipod back out. I tried to get her to come join me on the piano bench. Not going to happen. Finally, in desperation I said, "Are you going to spend time with me or am I just going to have to cry?" Her answer? "Cry." I'm pretty sure she was joking, but I found no humor in it. I stood up and sulked to my bedroom.

That's when I heard my seven-year-old's cheerful voice. Aha! Regyn is usually a little more desperate for attention. Perfect. I called to her and she came in my bedroom. I shut the door and she asked what was going on. "We're just going to spend some time together," I said cheerfully. "OK." Awkward silence. "What are we going to do?" I had no good ideas. I decided to ask her about her day. She proceeded to tell me about all her problems at school and how she didn't like her teacher because she told the class to stay in their seats and how someone had tattled on her twice at school the day before so she had cried. . . and on and on. Pretty soon, I was wishing I hadn't asked. I forgot how dramatic she is. I tried showing empathy, even though I felt more for the teacher than my daughter. Finally, tiring of the conversation herself, she asked if she could call a friend. I was now zero for two.

Okay, so maybe I would have more luck with the boys. Where was my 10-year-old? Miraculously, this social child was home without any friends over. I found him in his bedroom reading a book (not something normal for him--I should have taken a picture:). Determined to talk with him about something other than the usual--sports--I ventured to find a topic. Finally, in desperation, I started inspecting his teeth and thus ensued a conversation on how many baby teeth he still had as opposed to permanent teeth. Teeth. That's all I could come up with. Could I be any more lame? I thought to myself. I'm totally blowing this "quality kid time."

I decided to give up and start on dinner. After slaving away for an hour on what I just have to say was an amazing dinner (turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, etc.) with no help from any of my children, even though I solicited it many times, we sat down to dinner. At this point, I was giving myself a little internal pep talk. I was frustrated that my children hadn't helped with dinner. I was deflated that none of them really cared to spend time with me, and I was doing my best not to pout.

To no avail. Chaos broke out. My children started begging and whining when I told them they couldn't have a track meet in the house and race throughout our tiny basement living space, and I totally gave in to every temptation to have a pity party. "I need a break," I said as I grabbed my keys. I walked out, only to return for my phone. I walked out once more, only to return for my purse. If I was going to feel sorry for myself, it was going to be over ice cream. "Call me when you are all ready to appreciate me a little more and I will come back," I jabbed before I left. I mean, if I was going to throw a guilt trip, I had to make it good.

After driving around for a while while the milkshake I didn't even really want melted in the cup-holder next to me, the phone finally rang and Regyn told me they were ready. Was I ready to return? That was the question. I took a deep breath and walked into the house (I was already in the driveway by the time they decided they wanted me back). Colorful love notes hung from the ceiling above the snack bar. My children were ready for bed and ready for me to be impressed. I wasn't really in the mood to shower them with praise over their masterpieces, but after reading the first one, I couldn't help but smile. Darn it. I loved these kids and their sweet notes were more than even my pouty self could ignore. Here is what they said.

My 10-year-old:
"To Mom. You are not good. You are not great. You are the greatest though."

My seven-year-old (with original spelling):
"To Mom. I can't weit tell you come home becase I am gowing to say sorry."

And finally, my five-year-old:
"To Mom. I love you more than never-ending."

I love that! How could I possibly resist being loved more than never-ending? My pity party was definitely over.

Love notes hanging from the ceiling
That's when I went into my bedroom and found a notebook on my bed. It was my 12-year-old daughter's. Here's what was written inside:

"In a person's life, the place that a mother holds can never ever be taken over by anyone else. She is always there to love them, care for them, and even make sacrifices for them. In fact, there is hardly any person in this world who would be willing to do what you do. I love you, Mom. I am so sorry I was rude to you!"

I couldn't help it. My selfish, pouty heart was so full of gratitude for each child and their goodness. I picked up the notebook and wrote back, and this is what I said:

"Dear Hallee,
In a mother's life the place her daughter holds can never be taken over by someone else (I stole that line from someone very smart:). A daughter--especially the oldest one--is someone very special, someone who reminds you how great it is to be a mother, someone who is not just a daughter but a friend, someone who makes you feel like you're okay, even when you have a bad day. You are so dear to me, my sweet Hallee. I'm so grateful for you and so proud of you. You are just . . . amazing! You simply rock! Maybe that's why I want to spend time with you so badly. Anyway, thanks for the note. I forgive you and I love you--tons!

So, not a perfect day for sure, but a worthwhile one. And maybe the time I spent with my children wasn't what I had in mind, but at least we got the chance to express our love to each other.

I have decided, though, that next time I want to spend "quality time" with my children, I'll have a plan!


Julia said...

That is the best! Your kids are super smart and sweet!