The Importance of “Doing Nothing”

When my parents were visiting in April, one evening Katie (almost 4 at the time) told her daddy,  “Memaw and Papaw are more fun than you and Mommy.”  As my husband started relating this story, I didn’t think too much of it at first; she had said the same thing about them being more fun than her Granny.  Her reason was that there are two of them and only one Granny (even though Granny spoils her just as rotten).

But when my husband asked her why she thought her grandparents were more fun than her parents, Katie replied, “Because they read books with me.”  Well, that hit both my husband and me to the quick.  That night he took the time to read her a book before bed, and the next day I started making plans to pick up more books from the library and integrate more reading time with her.

I have been aware for some time that Katie has kind of been slipping through the attention cracks.  It’s not that she is completely ignored.  (None of my children would ever allow that to happen.)  But she just doesn’t get quite as much one on one time as the older two or “the baby” do.  Bailey and Piper have school time five days a week that requires my time and attention.  At the very least, Sabrina and I snuggle in the bed for nap time almost every afternoon and there is still room for her to sit on my shrinking lap.

Katie and I do have lots of quality conversations as we are driving down the road or just before bedtime, but it seems to be at times when I often have no other choice but to engage with her.  I think for some of us who are with our kids almost all of the time, we falsely console ourselves into thinking that all that quantity time is enough, especially when we feel over-whelmed by all of our other duties.  From time to time, though, I get forcibly reminded about the importance of quality time to the parent-child relationship.

Quality time isn’t just the big gestures like trips to the zoo or the waterpark.  It doesn’t even necessarily have to mean one-on-one time alone with a parent (although that is important, too).  More often it is in the little things that can seem like “doing nothing”:  sitting on the couch during an episode of Dora the Explorer, reading a picture book for the 500th time, or even just snuggling in the bed in the middle of the day.  For kids quality time can be as simple as having mom and/or dad physically present next to them and mentally available for questions, conversations, and requests.

I can always think of millions of things I could be or would rather be doing than “just sitting on the couch”.  For instance, the list of chores that need to be done inside and outside of the house is never ending.  And if I am taking a break from chores, I would much rather be surfing the internet, watching my own television shows, or reading books that interest me.  I think it’s hard for me personally to choose to do something that seems like it would neither be productive nor personally enjoyable and at times just absolutely boring (like watching preschool shows).

I really need to make it a habit each day, even if it is only 15-30 minutes, to go sit on the couch next to a kid watching television or to read her a book, especially when she asks.  And maybe on those days when I’m a little worn out (but it is too late for a nap), I could take my book to the couch or upstairs to read on my bed, purposefully knowing that some (if not all) of the kids will be drawn to follow me like moths to a flame for snuggles and talking.

When I look back on my own childhood and teenage years, the times when I felt most at peace and attached to my own mother were when we would just be lying on her bed, snuggling while she read her book.  I want to give those same feelings and memories to my own children.  I don’t want them to remember that mom didn’t have time to really be with them, because she was too busy playing her 10th game of computer Mahjong in a row or checking her Facebook for the 20th time that day (or how exasperated she acted when they interrupted these oh so important activities).

So, in the long list of things that I feel like I should be doing, could be doing, or want to be doing, I need to remember the importance of “doing nothing”.  Because “doing nothing” to me may mean everything to my kids.

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