Quality Time

When your first baby is actually a set of twins, you figure out pretty quickly that it’s going to be difficult to create one-on-one time with them. At least that was the case for us. We had our twin daughters first, followed by our older son three years later. Then our youngest son came to us nearly 11 years after big brother was born.

 

I was able to have those moments with my boys—grocery shopping trips, bike rides, ordinary weekdays—while their older siblings were in school, but it was different with my daughters. Early on, my husband carved out little outings with them so that they could have solo time with dad. Sometimes he would take them to get ice cream or to look at puppies at the pet store, just an hour basking in his undivided attention. Now that they are all older, and our schedules are color-coded and overlapping and busy, it’s a lot harder. And since our daughters are fully into their senior year of high school, time feels extra precious.

 

That’s part of what made this last weekend so great. My husband and I took one of our daughters on a college visit out of state. It was only a 48-hour trip with about 12 of those hours spent on the road, but it was just the three of us so that made it special. (For those of you who are keeping score and wanting to call us out on preferential treatment of one twin over another, we made a similar trip with our other daughter last year, only it wasn’t as far away so we didn’t have to make overnight accommodations. Sometimes it’s impossible to be fair in all things, but we try. When my kids ask me which of them is my favorite, I always say it’s the one who is emptying the dishwasher.)

 

We took a tour of the campus and filled out paperwork. Even though we didn’t attend this particular university, my husband and I were prompted by familiar sights and sounds to impart some wisdom from the other side of the college experience. We advised our daughter on things like dorm life, class loads, post-high school dating and cafeteria meals. We told her stories from our college days so many years ago and yet still mostly relevant.

 

It took a lot of coordinating with our other kids and help from a friend to get away from all of the commitments back at home, but it was what we needed to do for this daughter at this time, and it filled up this mom’s tank with some good memories to shore me up for next year when she’ll be six hours away.

 

Whether you have kids or not, there is no replacement for good quality time with those precious souls who are most important to you. If you’ve been wavering on going away on a trip with your people—be it best girlfriends or out-of-town cousins or your spouse—let this be your wake-up call. Jump in the car and go, then generously spend your most valuable currency: your time.

Same Species

I have found that the best way to get to know my kindergarten son’s friends and classmates is by making a weekly visit to eat lunch with him at his elementary school.

 

My go-to questions when meeting these classmates for the first time are usually: “Do you have any brothers or sisters? And if so, how old are they?” and “What did you do in Special Area (art, music, library, P.E., computer) today?”

 

I can’t get out of there without also saying something like: “You need to eat that fish sandwich or you’ll be really hungry later.” Replace fish sandwich with chicken ring thing or steak sliders or whatever else is on the menu, and you get the idea. You can’t take away my Mom-ness, even in a busy, ear-ringing lunch room with other peoples’ kids.

 

A few weeks ago, I noticed one of the girls in my son’s class carrying her lunch tray while timidly looking for a place to sit. I watched as another student banished her with an outstretched arm and pointing finger to the far end of their table. The little girl smiled shyly, assuming they were teasing and tried to scoot back down to sit with the trio of her classmates, but she was instructed a second time to move away. With a broken heart for the crumbling kindergartener, I asked my son if I could go and sit with her instead of staying with him. He waved me off as if to say: “No biggee. I sit with you all the time,” and I headed to the other table.

 

By then, the little girl had pushed her tray forward and laid her head on the table. We chatted for the rest of lunch as I tried to cheer her up and remind her to eat: “That chicken patty looks good! And that corn? Yum! Come on and eat up!” But I was mostly sad for how poorly people often treat each other, even little kids.

 

Our family has been watching The Blue Planet TV shows recently. This nature series—like its forerunner, Planet Earth—shows amazing footage of animals doing unexpected things. The Blue Planet episodes are all set under or around water.

 

One thing I found remarkable was a segment about Sand Tiger Sharks. They pointed out that they are one of the few animals which may resort to eating their own kind. Sand Tiger Sharks will hunt other fish, but if things get desperate they will turn on each other.

 

This got me thinking about all of the times I’ve watched shows with animals in hunting parties—a pride of lions trying to take down a pack of gazelles, for instance—and even if they’re unsuccessful, they won’t attack each other. It’s like there’s something instinctive in their brains telling them not to eat a fellow lion but to keep working together instead.

 

I’d hate to think of humans in the same category as Sand Tiger Sharks, Praying Mantis, and Black Widow Spiders—all animals who are willing to throw away any connection to their same species when mealtime rolls around. I’d rather think that we can show kids (and other adults) the best version of ourselves. Not just because we’re stronger when we work together, though that is true, but because it’s the right thing to do. And because tearing one person down brings us all down a little bit.