Telling yourself that you get the kids twice a week with the divorce? Think that's enough? It's not!
My generation came up with a term to assuage the guilt of breaking up a family. We divorced our partners and then told our children we would be spending quality time with them. We did this for the right reason, seeing their big tears in their eyes as we left. We told ourselves many things, but we forgot to tell ourselves the truth. Kids see quality time as a time to get something or to be with the parent who doesn’t live with them anymore. If you don’t believe me, ask any child. I did just that, I asked ten of them under the age of 7 years what quality time meant. Below are their answers:
• It means I get to go shopping with daddy and he buys me a new toy.
• It is when I get to go on a date with mommy.
• It’s when daddy takes me and his girlfriend out.
• It’s when daddy picks me up, and takes me to MiMi’s house for the weekend so I don’t drive him crazy.
• It’s when I get to have pizza and watch TV any time I want.
• It means I don’t have to clean my room.
• It’s when mommy buys me a new movie.
• I don’t know what it is, but I think it means I get stuff.
• I think it makes daddy feel better because the judge told them to do this.
• I think it is special time.
I was raised in a large family and was number six of nine children. I don’t remember quality time, but do remember good and bad times. My parents were always around. We had work time, play time, prayer time, dinner time, breakfast time, lunch time, chore time, homework time, and bed time, but no quality time. We didn’t need it. The quality was in the stability. I watched my parents work together, pray together, eat together, argue together and love one another and us together. The greatest gift in my life was the lack of quality time my parents gave me. We were given a birthday gift, Christmas gift, and Easter basket, but we were never given stuff because my parents were feeling guilty about not spending enough time with us.
I watch people divorce every day. It looks so painful, but the biggest losers are often the children. Parents rationalize things to soothe the guilt of breaking up their family. One thing parents cannot afford to rationalize are the benefits of quality time. It is TIME alone that makes a difference to your child. You need to be there to talk and listen every day whether it is a text to your teen, a phone call to your toddler, or an email to your tween. You don’t need to be married to their parent to accomplish this although it is preferable. Parents give their kids up too easily. They get their allotted weekend time and somehow think the courts are acting in their best interest. This is your baby; don’t leave it to the courts to decide how often your child needs to hear from you. Make sure that child knows that you are their mommy or daddy. Stuff is easier to give, but your time is what’s important. Your child will face many trials in their life, but none will be as difficult as thinking they do not have a parent who cares. -Mary Jo Rapini
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