How often have you heard a co-worker, neighbor or friend use the term quality time to describe time spent with their kids? It’s a term that connotes play and recreation with the child with no sense of shared responsibility or work, and even I’ve used it as such in the past. But there’s merit in re-examining what it means as the kids grow and responsibilities multiply.
As kids grow, they need to learn how to perform the daily tasks that keep their world running. This includes fixing meals, cleaning their immediate areas and even handling outside chores. Yet they truly do want to spend time with you; these moments provide significant opportunities to pass along the "tribal knowledge" that is often lost in the transition from one generation to another. What can you expect from the opposite sex? What’s it mean to be a good sport? What are the hidden messages behind the events they witness in their daily lives? Play with the kids is important as well as fun, but it doesn’t promote the environment of togetherness – frequently in close proximity and shared effort – that engenders serious conversation. Understand that it isn’t something that is easily done with young children, even if they are willing to shift back and forth from play to time with you. But as the kids age, they can participate in the work. And that participation can lead to:
- a sense of accomplishment;
- a greater understanding of what’s involved in seemingly mundane tasks;
- improvement in higher thought processes;
- understanding of family and personal values that comes from one-on-one conversation;
- unexpected fun.
The point is this. Many fathers – myself included – will shunt the kids to their own activities as they find respite from daily life in the things that need to be done. They then set aside specific periods of time specifically for family togetherness via entertainment and diversion. But this habit is too limiting for the needs of your child, who won’t gain the true education that can come from their fathers.
The next time that you have a set of chores or a project, consider how to include your kids. It can be a better time than you expect.