What Does "Quality Time" Mean?

Quality time is good for everyone.

Quality time is good for everyone.

Last time, we took a look at bluegrass redhead's first post in her Science of Parenting series and explored to what degree recent findings on time spent with children applies to a situation involving rare disease or disability. The primary study cited in her piece found that quality of time rather than quantity yielded benefits to young children. Which begs the question: What does quality time mean?

In her post, Sarah suggests that what quality time does NOT mean is playing with and/or entertaining one's child. At least not all of the time. 

I get this. My mom rarely played with my sister and me as I was growing up, but we had a creative, adventure-filled childhood and a very close relationship with our mother. 

However, I don't really play with my kid is something I will never be able to say, unless I employ someone else to do all of the playing for me or decide that I'm okay with Collin sitting or laying alone while I do something else. Because even though I have found some ways for Collin to have independent time, I actually AM responsible for entertaining him in that his play time is facilitated and directed by me.

But. I still think she's right. Sarah makes the poignant argument:

After all, I don't believe my goal is to make my children happy at the cost of my own happiness or the happiness of our family as a whole. I'm not just raising children. I'm raising a family and time spent to that end is truly valuable.

Though it sometimes doesn't feel like it, this is still true for those of us whose family life revolves to some degree around medical and developmental complications. The happiness and health of the parent is still crucially important. The happiness and health of the family is still paramount.

Quality time fosters connection.

Quality time fosters connection.

So, what does that look like? It obviously depends on the family and their situation. As Sarah suggests, quality time engages and benefits everyone in the family, not just the child. I would add that quality time fosters connection. 

I've learned about quality time for our family through much trial and error. I used to think the best time was spent doing therapy. What could be more beneficial? Then I realized that Collin and I were both hating it. So, we shifted focus. Now we still do therapy together daily, but it doesn't dominate our day.

Some things we do are mainly for Collin's benefit: we read books together, play apps together, do art projects together.

But we also spend a lot of time doing things that are good for all of us. We take walks, with Collin either in his wheelchair or tricycle. When it's dinner time, Collin sits at the table with us and tastes food from our meal even though it's not time for him to eat through his g-tube and he can't handle any appreciable amounts of food by mouth. We talk about our day and ask questions, even though Collin can't answer or participate in the typical way.

And, at least in our case, I've found the quality versus quantity findings to be true. As I concentrated less on the amount of time I spent with Collin and more on making it meaningful and connecting, Collin has been thriving. He's had multiple developmental leaps and is becoming steadily more engaged with the world and people around him. This, naturally, gives us even greater incentive to explore new ways of having quality time and to prioritize that time in our days.