Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Quality time

Last night I watched an episode of Supernanny in which Jo told the family they were neglecting their kids. The mom worked full-time and spent every other spare minute cleaning. The dad worked full-time and spent the rest of his time resting on the couch. The kids had toys, clothing and nice enough home, but they weren’t receiving enough of their parents’ attention.

It made me wonder if I’m neglecting River. I love spending time with him when it involves an activity. I’m happy to take him to the library, for a walk, a bike ride, to a nature preserve, a farm, a presentation, a concert, a party. I’ll cook with him, I’ll read him a ton of books. But in terms of sit down on the floor and play what interests him, I don’t do a lot of that.

When I’ve tried, I’ve found I don’t really enjoy pushing cars or trains around. I have to struggle to come up with a story about what is happening with the cars. He seems to appreciate it when I do, but it feels a bit forced to me. I’ll build for a little while – we had some fun with a marble tower we picked up recently – and I’ll color for a little. But I rarely set up play-doh or clay or other arts and crafts.

My husband spends less quality time with River than I do. While I try to fit in chores, exercise or social obligations into my time with him, Mark tries to get in personal entertainment – frequently watching movies or TV shows that interest him. So if I’m failing, then as a team we are definitely failing.

At only 28 months, River is already saying, “No more work!” and “Please play with me!” He’ll grab me by my two index fingers, lead me over to the bean bag and fall into in. I’m supposed to follow suit. Once I’m situated in the bean bag, he seems to think I’m in place for a while. He’ll go grab some books and we spend time together reading.

Partly, it makes me laugh, because one thing I appreciate about Mark is how he encourages me to slow down and rest sometimes – to not always think about getting things done, as is my nature. Now it seems my son is doing the same thing. But another part of me feels bad. Is he begging for attention because I’m not giving him enough of it? How much is one supposed to give?

How much of the time you spend with your children is actively engaged with them? And how much of are you available, but engaged in something else? Where do you think the balance lies?

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