“Dad, do you have to work now, or can you just hang with me?”
Let’s be honest. How often does a 17-year-old girl ask to hang out with Dad? Or let me ask a more important question: how often does Dad say “yes”?
Well, when my daughter Ashley asked m this question this week, all my instincts told me to say no. I had three articles due in the next two days, including one due the next morning. Not to mention a bunch of administrative tasks I needed to accomplish by the week’s end. It would have been very difficult to drop all that and just hang with my daughter. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
So I answered her the only reasonable answer a father should give in this situation:
“Sure. Let’s hang.”
We sat on the couch together, mowed down some of the leftover Halloween candy and watched classic Saturday Night Live sketch reruns, cackling as we noticed Jimmy Fallon laughing uncontrollably in the fringes of the cowbell sketch.
Later that evening we ate dinner as a family, did the dishes together, lit a fire and hung out in the family room until almost 10:00 when Ashley finally went off to bed. Lori and I hung out for an hour, then at 11:00 p.m. I cracked open my laptop and cranked out two tasks I needed to accomplish before bed. Got to bed past midnight.
As I crawled into bed I peeked at my alarm clock and hesitated. Tomorrow was Wednesday. Ashley leaves the house at 6:50 a.m. She always eats breakfast around 6:30AM. Then I don’t often see her until late that night.
Sigh. I set the alarm for 6:15 a.m. At 6:30 Lori and I were in the kitchen together cooking scrambled eggs and toasting bagels.
I’m sure every parent would love to spend ‘quantity time’ with their kids, but the excuse I hear the most is, “I’m busy.” So instead, they opt for try to catch occasional rare ‘quality time’ moments.
Problem: you never know when ‘quality time’ will happen.
So what’s the secret?
Yes, you’re busy: your job, yard work, taxes, yoga, walking the dog, grocery shopping, flossing your teeth… all that urgent stuff that we’re supposed to do. But in a world where every single entity is vying for our attention, the one that needs you the most is your kids.
I’ve never met an empty nester who looked back in retrospect and said, “I spent waaay too much time with the kids. I should have clocked more hours at the office.”
Your kids need your ‘quantity time.’
Don’t misunderstand. When you tweak your schedule and make time for your kids, I don’t promise you deep conversations and amazing teaching moments. In fact, those times will rarely come. You’ll get up 12 times and cook breakfast only to hear grunts and one-word greetings. But then… on the 13th breakfast something happens.
“Dad, when you were my age, did you ever get teased for something you believed in?”
Quality time! For seven minutes you’ll have an amazing ‘quality time’ conversation.
Then for your next 12 breakfasts… nothing.
That’s the key about ‘quality time.’ It takes ‘quantity time’ to get ‘quality time’, because you never know when ‘quality time’ will happen.
So ask yourself. Do you really need to finish your taxes this second? Do you really need to work hard to get that bonus so you can buy your kids more crap this Christmas?
Your kids don’t need Xbox One.
They need you.
What time are you setting your alarm for tomorrow morning?
JONATHAN IS THE AUTHOR OF OVER A DOZEN BOOKS LIKE THE BRAND NEW, GET YOUR TEENAGER TALKING