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Friday, February 24, 2006

Quality vs. Quantity Time

A friend and I discussed the topic of quality vs. quantity time when it comes to spending time with your children. We often hear, "It's the quality, not the quantity that counts." When I was younger, this made a lot of sense to me. Well, now I'm older and a mother of three, soon to be four young children. And I now seriously question the validity of this saying.

When it comes to spending time with children, it is really about quantity and quality. They want to know and feel that you are there for them. Every moment counts, even when that moment seems so banal or unimportant. Why? Because quality time is most likely to happen when you spend quantity time with your children. You can't schedule in "quality" time with children. It is often during the most mundane occurrences that the most fruitful conversation comes about.

For example, this evening our whole family went out to run an errand. On the way back, we decided to buy the boys some cookies as a treat, and as Evers was dispensing the cookies, the following conversation occurred:
Evers: "Matthew, I'm going to give Andrew a cookie first. Are you ok with that?"
Matthew: "Yes. That is like being a gentleman."
Evers: "That's right. You're being a gentleman in letting Andrew have the first cookie. What's more important is, you're being loving."
Where did this concept of being a gentleman come into Matthew's mind? Well, we'd just come out of Target store (where we bought the cookies). This store had two levels, so we took the elevator to go from one to the other. We each were pushing a shopping cart (three kids split up) and there was another family with a cart in the elevator with us. When we arrived at the destination floor, after I exited (closest to the door), Evers (with Matthew in cart) invited the other family to exit first and then followed. Matthew then asked him why he did that: it made more sense in his mind for both of our carts to exit together followed by the other family (that had entered last). Evers simply said that that was the gentlemanly thing to do: to prefer others and to let them go first, whether in pushing a cart or not trying to rush past people on foot (as Matthew often does).

It's amazing what can transpire and how much children can glean from such simple interactions if we are intentional. But opportunities like this only happen if we make the time for them. To be blunt, I really believe that if we were typical of so many American dual-income families, where weeknights were spent eating late dinners and putting kids down, we wouldn't have the opportunities that we have with our current family setup. For which we praise God.

To all you parents reading this blog: please don't take this as reproof or judgment. Rather, consider it encouragement to make time. No Olympic athlete ever argued that it's quality practice that matters not quantity. It's a false dichotomy. Both quality and quantity are essential to the making of an athlete, and both are essential to the forming of a godly generation.