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Family Time

Dec
30
2006

How’s the kids’ vacation going? Nice for them to have a break, isn’t it? And then it’s such a good opportunity for family activities. Maybe you’ve been enjoying yourselves the way I have – nagging a six-year-old to do his mounds of homework. That’s fun.
I’ve been reading about some U.S. parents who are pushing their schools to reduce homework assignments. This is supposed to make room for “family time.” In theory, that sounds like a great idea, but I can see how you could carry the family time idea too far. And then, about a week into school vacations and family holiday visits, the appeal of family time might be getting a little tarnished just about now.
To help clear up some confusion, I’ve invited Moral Certainty Mommy – a mom who’s always sure of her opinions – to share her thoughts.
Q: For this family time thing, does driving in the car count, because I’d hate to cancel the piano lessons, kids’ yoga, scouts, art 4 kids, suburban hip hop or any other activities?
MCM: Child development experts do recommend using car time for family communication. If that’s the case, it’s usually best to turn off the DVD player. And then you can catch up with each other at home when you have a break in activities. Many families look forward to snow days for an annual moment of getting in touch.
Q: But we live in Florida.
MCM: Perhaps you have a hurricane shelter?
Q: I feel like it’s really important for my husband and me to spend solid time with our son. But really, who has the energy at the end of the day? Does reading the paper while the kid gets me a beer count as quality time?
MCM: Oh no, I’m afraid you’ve missed the whole point. Family time is meant to be a moment of interaction amongst family members, of sharing conversation and fun and forming memories and habits and customs that help your children feel loved and confident. Don’t just read the paper – interact directly with your child. Teach him the interesting and useful art of mixing you a cocktail instead of just simply getting you a beer.
Q: OK. And can I have the babysitter do the family thing sometimes too when I really need a break?
MCM: I’m afraid not. A good babysitter would never drink on the job – she does all her drinking in private, from a flask in the bathroom.
Q: A distant relative – not one I ever really liked, you know – has died and I really don’t want to go to the funeral. Can I say it’s during our special family time to get out of going?
MCM: Most certainly. Family time is a sacred obligation these days. Families used to just hang out in passing, but now commitments have so increased for even the youngest members that getting together requires special planning. Without that planning, psychologists worry children won’t have those intensive interpersonal moments with their parents that are so important for the development of psychologists’ future therapy practices. And you’ll be teaching your children that these self-focused moments are so much more important than paying their respects to some distant family member who probably didn’t even give them big birthday gifts.
Q: That’s right – just cards with a really small check.
MCM: I’m sure your children will remember these lessons when as adults they must make their own decisions about attending family gatherings – say, another close relative’s funeral.
Q: I’ve bought special family night games, and some special family stories to read together and then I found some snacks that I think will be just right, and I bought a cat too, because I think that will make things particularly cozy, although we might have to take her back because she really sheds, but anyway. Just a little more shopping, and I think we’ll be almost ready to spend some time together as a family if we manage to find a good moment. So, my question is, should I get the big, sectional couch in red to match the snacks dishes or blue to better coordinate with the games table?
MCM: I’m afraid some questions each woman can only answer for herself. I will suggest you get the model that has the flip-up footrest built-in, because shopping is hard on the feet.
Moral Certainty Mommy has some family commitments, so she’ll leave us until next time.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 6:40 PM | Permalink

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