Have you heard about the 5 love languages? They are based on a book by Gary Chapman, a counselor, who narrowed down expressing and receiving love to 5 areas: acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, physical touch, and quality time. In theory, everyone tends to have a primary and a secondary love language preference. This is supposed to help us love each other – as couples and as parents – more effectively.
I still don’t really know my own love language exclusively – and sometimes I think my love language is option #6: food. As for my parenting, I also haven’t analyzed my kids down to the love language quiz results, but I can tell what option each prefers. And yet, I submit that the gift of quality time is one of the most important for any child, whether they realize it or not.
Someone said, “In families, love is spelled T.I.M.E.” I agree. My strong opinion is very much due to the following story:
My father grew up in Germany; he was born in 1935. If you know your history, you know this was a time of great change in this defeated post-World War I land. Hitler was on a quest to build Germany back up and basically dominate “the world”. By late 1939, Germany had launched a second World War. In October 1942, my grandfather, a German soldier, was killed on the Russian front.
My grandmother was an ambitious woman, and as a widow, she worked hard to provide for her children. She owned a small store, which meant at least her family always had enough food in the lean days after World War II when German cities and commerce were destroyed. During that time of shortages, my father had every material thing he needed – probably far more – than most of the children he grew up with.
However, while my grandmother worked all day and wore herself thin to provide for her family, my father was basically raising himself. His older sister, the more responsible of the two, tried to keep him in check or tattle on him when necessary; but she couldn’t control him one bit. My father’s life took on a very different path than his more reasonable sister. He was never very settled, and relationships were difficult for him to maintain.
You can’t fault a war widow for wanting to have enough money to provide for her children, but in contrast, she had no time for them. I don’t want to judge her because I can’t imagine what she was going through; but I do know her lack of time for her children had an impact. Any moral teaching or basic instruction on behavior came from school or a quick warning from mother to “be good…or else.” While my aunt strove to do right and be responsible, my father let his whims lead the way; after all, there was no strong guidance in his life.
In one of our discussions while my father was visiting with me after I’d become an adult, he was thinking back, sharing stories of his adventurous – yet irresponsible – childhood, and he specifically said he wished his mother had spent more time with him even if it meant he would have had less. This struck me so deeply that I determined that if I had children, time with them would be a priority. Thankfully, I married a man who agreed with me.
Spending time with your baby, toddler, and preschooler is easy. They demand time! It gets trickier when school starts, and activities take over. For me, it was important to not over-schedule our time with too many after-school and weekend obligations. We are a family of homebodies, so that was fine. For some families, I am sure that being out and about together is a way of having quality time. Whatever your preference, make it count!
I was a stay-at-home mom for many years, and in that case, spending time with my kids was basically my job. While there were moments I wanted to (and maybe even did!) run away, I cherish those days. I also understand that some moms can’t – and may not even want to – stay home. I greatly admire career women who find a balance to hold down a job and make the most of the time they have with their child.
In recent years, I have gone back to work as well. Believe me, when I come across a blog post or an article written by a mom who is balancing the work-mom life, I very much want to learn how to do this more effectively. I now strive to make family vacation, weekends, or even a simple family dinner count since we are all going in so many different directions these days.
My children are older now, in college and working their own jobs (except my nine-year-old!). I love when my college-age son wants to go out to eat with me or my older-teen daughter asks if we can go out for a girls’ night. Beyond that, my very favorite moments are when the kids come into my room just to talk about anything and everything. I love listening to them share about their days, hopes, and plans. Even when they are rambling or I am exhausted, I try to remind myself that this is exactly what I wanted all along!
Abigail Adams is known for having said, “If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.” I don’t think she intended that we deny our children financial means; it is just a reminder to balance it with quality time. I am thankful to now be discovering that my goal of making time for my children has turned into their gift of willingly giving me their time in return. Perhaps quality time is my love language after all.