Blending Quality Time

Preface: After my last blog, four months ago, I knew my next blog was going to surround the idea of quality time. And, after sharing in quality time with my Momma Sunday to celebrate Mother’s Day and her birthday two days early, it only seems fitting to post on her 63rd birthday, since she is the first person to initiate the love of writing within me. I can claim I have been immersed in quality time as to why I have not posted. In part this is true, but more so, I have managed to make every aspect of my life’s work take precedence over my blog. I am, however, devising creative ways to make this blog what it is meant to be. First step is finding – no, scratch that – making time for it to come to fruition. This has become snippets & buckets of time here and there to produce a sentence, a paragraph, or a few pages. This particular blog has been being produced for months now along with my time being shared towards my novel, children’s series, our company’s pursuit, and the various areas of my life I lovingly give my time to described below. Here in the last few days, I finished it… well, actually wrote most of it. The first two paragraphs took a month and a half. *insert writer’s sigh here* If you are struggling to find time for all the loved ones in your life, I hope this post initiates a positive mindset for you to gain the moments you are longing for.

 

Blending Quality Time

“By ‘quality time,’ I mean giving someone your undivided attention,” explains Gary Chapman in his The 5 Love Languages, The Secret to Love That Lasts. My husband and I share our time with our four daughters, our dog, my husband’s main career, our company, my writing, my volunteering at the 2nd grader’s school as room mom (holy crap this is an insane role to fill yet so fulfilling), a slew of friends, and our enormous families; the order of importance wavering with each curve of life. I believe – with every fiber of my being – family comes first. By family, I mean my husband, our children, and me… and understanding the need to share three of our children with equal importance with their “others” (an endearing term we have formulated over the years to refer to their other parents and families, which are no longer necessarily ours but definitely & unequivocally theirs).

Finding the time to make quality time happen in our home is tricky. However, it does not have to be a major event to qualify. Granted, we do one-on-one special outings with each of our children, but those moments aren’t what this blog is about. In this blog, I will explain how my husband and I have creatively found (& secured) ways to gain quality time with each of our children, each other, and all of us together, all the while planning ahead with our brood’s multiple calendars and making time for our community of family and friends.

It takes a lil extra work on my end, but it is so worth it to get the most out of the time I have with my kids. I preface some categories with how I preplan to make the most out of the moments of time I have highlighted & devoted to quality time.

Morning Time

The baby tends to wake with my husband. As she approached 10 months, she was content getting up and spending time with him and playing before needing to nurse. This became their special, one-on-one time in the morning (and allowed me another 30 minutes to an hour of sleep). While he does his morning routine getting ready for work, she is with him in the bathroom playing with toys, baby-talking with him, and just being together. He changes her diaper, often takes her out of her sleeper and puts her in her onesie, and hands her off to me before he leaves for the day. Now that she has weened from nursing, he gets her sippy cup of milk, too. Pretty sweet deal for all of us. More important is the foundation this is building for the two of them. She is learning early how important she is to him. You should see and hear the excitement in her when he returns from work at the end of the day.

The School Rides

Monday through Thursday, my baby and I take my older two – the  8th grader and 2nd grader – to school, and Monday through Friday, we pick them up. Every Tuesday and our designated Fridays, we get to pick up my bonus child, the 10th grader. Wednesday and designated Mondays, my husband takes his daughter to school. THESE ARE PIVOTAL MOMENTS! Here’s how we try to make these moments special and give our children our attention as often as we can (while juggling phone calls, emails, etc).

The Morning Ride: It is predominantly up to me to get my family out of the house on time. No matter how much we want to put the blame on our kids… Accept it; we model whatever behavior they execute… If I want to avoid a stressful morning with my children, it starts with me. The last manner in which I want to spend with my kids just before they start their day is me yelling my head off (and, yes, it happens at times, but trust me, it sucks when you’re the kid being yelled at on your way to start your day).

Our 2nd grader is with us for about five minutes on this outing. We all hug & kiss her goodbye at the foot my sister’s driveway just before she rides off to school on her bike with her cousins. Yeah… what a pristine & sweet pic to start the day with, right? After a brief visit with my sister, we head to the Intermediate. This ride can take anywhere from 12-18 minutes. Whereas some mornings are filled with expectations, lectures, and the Mom-like reflections on life in general, most are allowing my 13 year old to steer our ride whether its listening to the coolest new song, listening to the latest perception of middle school (through her eyes), hearing her consider her future, ummmm-boys *insert eye roll here*, her thoughts on family happenings, her friends impact on her life, little things like the new social media craze, her latest TV series infatuation, and sometimes just riding along in quiet (there is peace in allowing this as the quiet tends to be the brink of a good convo brewing). When there is no need for her to attend tutorials, I pull into a parking space, and we visit (refer to the varying list of items I just mentioned), watch Insta videos, listen to music, or sit quietly both on our phones (I admit, this does happen and will happen, but I try to keep it at a minimal). This 30-40 minutes, Monday through Thursday… WHOA! Wait… back it up… that is two to three hours a week of QUALITY TIME WITH MY FIRST BORN! 2 to 3 HOURS! Yeah… pretty damn worth it. On occasion the baby does not drift to sleep for a morning power nap, craps her diaper, screams in frustration, and requires my attention in the parking lot, or a phone call requires my big girl to spend time with the baby… but, nonetheless, most of the time is devoted to just being with my kid. Why? Because teenagers need their parents “undivided attention” and words of affirmation on a regular basis to truly believe they are worthy, which is an instant confidence booster to pursue life.

Afternoon Ride: Kids are predominantly two things when the school bell rings to freedom at the end of the day: starving and exhausted… also known as hangry… not a good variable for good, quality time with Mom who wants to see smiles and excitement when my kids see me again… Because, yeah, they have missed you sooooo much… maybe Pre-K to 2nd… but that feeling dissipates with each passing year. And, that is perfectly NORMAL. To counteract their sleepy heads and hunger, I preplan the afternoon ride usually with drinks and a snack for each kid. If it is an afternoon ride that moves straight into evening activities with no stop at home, then you bet your ass next to each of their personal activity bags housing changes of clothes, gear, etc, I have a cooler packed with sandwiches, chips, snacks, and drinks… Yeah, a-whole-nother lunch to get them through what our good money is investing in them… It will NOT spoil their dinner. They need fuel for the physical activity & mental stamina ahead, and – the perk – it reminds them they are loved. Which, you guessed it, I get those smiles and excitement (yeah, my kind of personal fuel). We have shared in many an afternoon rolling into an evening having some of us in the truck for five to six hours. As ridiculous as it may sound… what am I really missing out on? As you answer that question, put your child’s face and future at the forefront of your mind… is that thing really that important right now? Nah.

Afternoon with my 8 year old: Monday through Friday, the baby & I pick up my 2nd grader from my sister’s where she returns on her bike with her cousins. Most days, we all exchange a quick hello, how was your day, and we head to the Intermediate to nab our spot in the car rider pick up line where we pick up the 8th grader. Again, this is about 30-45 minutes of one-on-one quality time with my eight year old… every bit feeling the middle child syndrome nestled between two teenagers above her and a lil one year old below her. (Side bar thought- Now, I can joke about middle child syndrome not really influencing a person, but I witness grown adults still affected by their place amongst their siblings. I believe we as parents can counteract this feeling by simply giving all our children our equal attention. And, I sure as hell do not want her growing up acting like a child stuck in a grown-up’s body.) This pocket of time equaling 2-3 hours a week… (YES! Two of my children are getting that amount of time from just me!!!) We tend to do the daily dance of Q&A’s:

me: “How was your day?”

daughter #3: “good.”

me acquiring the knack of open-ended questions trying to get my kids to spill the beans, “what made it good?”

to which this strong willed child will answer with her implied defiance, “everything.”

attempting craftier questions, “tell me about everything. what specifically made it good?”

At this point, she will either tell me the truth of her day, or she will get fanciful and make something up where I have to let her know I caught her in a story, and she will laugh, and this is how I get her to do her daily reading out loud… you know, to tackle the daily grind of homework before evening logistics take over. Now that we are in the last few weeks of school, I have downloaded the Harry Potter series, which we listen to together. Girl is hooked. She asks me to “read” on the way to everything and everywhere. On the days when she really just needs time with me not disguised as anything school related, we play card games, Farkle, etc. Trust me, there are days when she is plum tuckered out and naps along with the baby, and I let her knowing she has karate or soccer Mon-Thurs.

Afternoon with my bonus kid: Every Tuesday & designated Fridays this school year – all a first for me – the baby and I pick up my bonus kid. With her being 16 years old now, this one-on-one time is pretty epic. At this point in her life, her dreams and aspirations are beginning to feel tangible and realistic. These conversations are specific, goal oriented, and full of normal, human confusion and extreme emotions. This view of her life is exhilarating to witness. Granted, there are tears, silence, laughter, anger, pride, disagreements, fast-paced catch-ups, and yes, the cell phone interruptions… but, it. is. so. awesome! She will literally put her phone under her leg to talk with me… And, I will take every bit of it. Don’t get me wrong, there are also typical teenaged banter of friends, boys *insert eye roll here, lol*, drama, and her just not liking me some days… but these moments are fleeting. I respectfully give her the space she needs, and she knows my door for convo is always open. We manage to steal 30-40 minutes on our drive from her high school to my sister’s to gather my 2nd grader. Luckily, every other week, this time doubles.

Recently, mid-April – after learning our summer schedules with all our girls not being altogether aligned – I decided to do some research and look ahead at our upcoming May-August calendars. I also leant on the simple fact I was becoming a conduit between my husband and bonus kid for communication. As a daughter of a Dad and Bonus Dad I respect tremendously, I get those nervous emotions surrounding vulnerable communication a teenaged girl feels when she approaches The Dad. lol. I decided to not selfishly keep this one-on-one time to myself. I wanted to encourage my husband to see how he could manage picking her up from school and remain dedicated to his work. Since we do not have the traditional dad 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends with our oldest (a step her parents easily worked out three months after my husband and I started dating to allow for their daughter to get to know my daughters and allow their daughter to get more time with her stepbrother), we have 2nd, 4th, and 5th weekends with her. I pointed out the number of weekends that will transpire before we will get a weekend with our oldest daughter in May due to Mother’s Day weekend. I explained to my husband the number of hours I manage to get in with each kid each week of “undivided attention.” When we discussed how he could gain three to four hours each time he picked her up from school because she would accompany him back to work for the remainder of his work day, his eyes lit up. His bosses support the idea for the remainder of this school year. We are in the midst of it as I type. She has just two weeks left of school, and summer visitation schedule begins. By the time her last day of school rolls around, they will have gained about 21 hours together. What Dad wouldn’t sign up for that with his 16-year-old daughter? WINNING!

All Six of Us

When we are all together on Tuesday nights and designated weekends, it’s a priority we maintain to all sit at the table together for dinner. This may be over a meal I have prepared, took advantage of the crock pot, fast food became most practical, pizza or a meal is delivered. Regardless, we all sit down together. My husband prays over our meal, and anyone wanting to contribute to the prayer does. Once we say Amen & all start eating, someone mentions Thorn & Rose time. At this point, we get to hear how everyone’s day has gone. For every thorn mentioned, a rose must be expressed (emphasis on the positive here). This exchange includes the baby. Somewhere along the way the 2nd grader asked me what I thought the baby’s thorn and rose may have been for the day; it has stuck ever since. It tends to gain a lot of ahs, ohs, ooos, and laughter. Most days, majority of us claim our rose is “this”, which means being together sharing a “normal” routine.

If time permits, we will also share Failure & Success of the week. This is probably my favorite. It allows accountability with ease and closes with the lesson learned to prevent the failure transpiring again. The realistic aspect of both of these discussions is they allow my husband and me to be real and vulnerable with our children. We show weakness and strength, modeling a relatable behavior. We are each evolving at the various stages of our lives, and discussions such as these keep us (the parents) grounded and help the kids to remember they have a long ways to go by way of maxing out their knowledge (lol, you know, because teenagers know everything).

Still Dating & Married

We were married the weekend of the first week of school in 2015. Our oldest daughter switched her weeknight visitation from Thursday to Tuesday due to her activity schedule. My girls started their weekly visitations with their Dad on Thursdays that same school year due to his change of address moving him closer. This became a win for us as a family and a couple. The girls could have potentially lost an opportunity to see each other during the week. What a GODWINK! My husband and I had nothing to do with initiating these changes in schedule, but we benefitted double. Our girls gained a weekly visit with each other facilitating their bond and relationship growth, and we gained a date night. Thursdays became our “free” weeknight, and we made it date night, no matter what. We ventured out to eat and have drinks, and it became a special lil beacon of fun each week. Even on the days we weren’t fond of one another, we went out, and would stare at each other in silence… someone would eventually touch the others foot under the table… and reconnection would ignite. For almost two straight school years, we had date night to ourselves. (I reference it in school years because I taught high school the first three years of our relationship, recently resigning after the baby’s birth to stay home with her and be more available to our children). Once our baby girl arrived, we have gotten crafty to maintain this evening. For most of this year, it has been order dinner in, pick up dinner, I prepare something special for us, or we cook together. We just recently – last Thursday – went out to eat crawfish and enjoy a live band. Us dating “in” had more to do with me having anxiety about leaving the baby – post partum fear after a scary delivery (another blog to come) – and my husband really just choosing to understand my anxiety. My desire to be available to her equaled my desire to have my Thursday nights with him, so he has accommodated us all. We don’t get every Thursday as our kids have extra curriculars, we are on a cook-off team with framily (friends + family), and life happens, but we try to make sure we honor Thursdays.

God Blessed us with Family

Family is a gift. For some, it’s chaos that is only visited once a year or never. For us, we choose to be with our family… our God-given family. When you are blending families, finding quality time with everyone can be tricky, and ensuring the time is spent as quality is up to us (my husband and me). As a blending family – remarrying in our mid-to-late 30’s – we were stepping into established environments, hierarchies if you will, and well, territories. Whereas some will walk in, guns a blazing claiming “I own this place,” and some blended families deal with ex-spouses whom just don’t know how to let go of their lost position, we have chosen to step into stride and reestablish boundaries over time to allow everyone an opportunity to get comfortable with blending us all. It is not easy for everyone involved. But, it’s a choice we make. Our kids are more important than petty discrepancies. Children tend to make what is important based off what their parents make important. I, for one, will never tell my husband he can or cannot communicate, hang out with, care about someone (family or friend) because it is a feeding zone for resentment. He will not treat me this way either. We love each other; therefore, we love each other’s families. Further, we don’t tend to dance with drama that may hurt someone in our family because our family is just too important.

His family is made up of two generations of strong homes. His parents are high school sweethearts and raised him, his twin, and their baby sister in the comfort of their home and one dedicated church. His mom ran a daycare out of her home bringing dozens of children into their lives; many still connected to this day. One of the boys’ best friends married his high school sweet heart whom is the best friend of my sister-in-law. She, the baby sis, married another one of their best friends. This family groove has been being built for over twenty years. With all of us combined, we have 15 children, soon to be 17, to share. Family vacations are hectically, freaking awesome. Our kids simply love it. In addition, the families have a long-standing tradition to spend time together on the weekends. Since everyone lives pretty damn close to each other, this is easily obtainable. We have Funday Sundays during NFL, any Sunday is good to gather at his paternal grandparents, and any birthday, anniversary, or holiday is an excuse to get-together with both sides of the family. We try to take turns hosting these gatherings, and I just cannot describe the genuine feeling it gives every fiber of my being. It is nostalgic to my early childhood, and it is a rejuvenation. It is an enormous amount of love and support and just plain, dripping with sweetness. It is addicting, and I just cannot imagine my life without this sugary goodness. My older brother told one of my husband’s uncles when meeting him, “You know, “ as he pointed to me, “she has such a big heart. I am so glad she is finally apart of such a huge family to be able to give that love freely to.” (TEARJERKER!) When it comes to all the gatherings, we try our hardest to join as often as we can, but we will not allow it to be a priority over our home. Luckily, his family respects our desire to make our home-front number one and is eager to be with us when we can. Granted, feelings are hurt, there may be resentment at times, but when the dust settles, everyone gets what we are doing to make us and our kids the focus as we juggle our varying visitation schedules. Plus, when there are times they cannot make a gathering we are hosting, they know – without a doubt – we understand.

My family is a bit more laid back with our quality time; an art I believe we have perfected with every step of our combined and individualized stories.

History: I am one of four children, and we gained two stepsisters along the way. Prior to my parents’ divorce – to my childlike perception – it was very similar to Donald’s family. My parents were high school sweet hearts whom had four children and managed a foster home for adolescent girls connected to the church of which they were exceptionally involved in & we attended the private school of. At times, we had 10 or more kids at the dinner table. We gathered, often, at my grandparents’ homes. Holidays brought multiple stops us kids looked forward to, and every special occasion was celebrated amongst both families gathering together.

My parents divorced when I was five. We still visited grandparents’ homes regardless of who’s time it was. And, everyone showed up for our celebrations despite the divorce. My Pops found love, and we were all showered with affection by our Bonus Mom for 12 solid years before the good Lord took her home. She introduced “Yankee cooking”, established my love to bake, taught us to water ski, and gave us a steady routine to look forward to when we lived with them and visited. We traveled every other summer to Michigan where we camped on the Great Lakes with her family. Christmas presents were mailed from her family. Her parents came to visit often as they made their annual trek from Michigan to Florida to ward off the winter. The summers in between the Michigan trips were well thought out road trips or long stays at our cabin on the deer lease where we would take the boat out on Lake Sam Rayburn (we are still doing this tradition).

My Momma remarried when I was 10, and my Bonus Dad has become a steady rock for almost 30 years now. He brought two older step sisters into our lives. For awhile, we had the same weekends and would see the younger of the two often, and the older one – already established – would come to visit us. My Mom and Bonus Dad busted their butts to make a solid home for us with home cooked meals & being present. Whereas we didn’t go on vacations and such, we did play games, have family over often with my Uncles singing and playing the guitar, enjoyed a routine, and just lived together.

I never felt alone in either home nor did my parents’ co-parenting issues take precedence over their time spent with us (meaning, we just didn’t know about them because they didn’t vent to us (Thank God!)). Holidays were shared by alternating them as neither felt they deserved Thanksgiving or Christmas more than the other. Each year Turkey Dinner and Christmas Morning were altered and we experienced one at each, and neither home expected the other to forsake that time. There were times the scheduled was affected by a few hours, but again, us kids weren’t aware at the time. After awhile, people chilled out and learned to share us. We are better for that selfless love today as it allows us to confidently pursue love and family without fret or fear of upsetting someone.

Present: As all of us kids were becoming adults, our Pops deservingly found love again in a kindred spirt, companion, genuine friend, entrepreneur, and eager travel companion for almost 20 years now (married almost 17). My brothers are spread out over Texas pursuing their aspirations and their own families. My sister and I are within just miles of one another and see each other almost daily as we mother our children (takes a village). Our Momma is just around the corner. Our stepsisters are also spread out over Texas. There are no expectations for any of us to make a trek for a holiday, birthday, anniversary, or gathering. We believe in celebrating when we can; even if that means having Christmas in July. This is our version of quality time; no strings attached. We just don’t put that pressure on each other. It works for us. I believe this raising and unconditional love has allowed me to be more accepting of others and more willing to set my own boundaries, and more importantly, finding ease to share my own children.

Friends

This is simple. Surround yourself with those bringing out the best in you. Genuine friends respect you and your family. Touchy… Even if as a friend you do not necessarily like your best friend’s spouse… you are not building a life with your best friend. They are building a life with their spouse. Embrace all of them. I have never had a friend turn their back on me for a person I was dating or married to, but I have witnessed this happen to people I love, and it is ridiculously heartbreaking. Further, loving friends do not resent you for time lapsing between visits since you are choosing your family first. My friends and I just step into stride with one another no matter how much time has gone by. No one points a finger at the other. We are just excited to be together when we can. We just literally fast-pace catch-up convo-overload, with lots of squeals, laughter, cussing, tears, and gasps amidst this quality time. Many of these friends have been in my life over 20 years!!! They have seen it all! We choose to unconditionally love, forgive, and help rebuild each other in trying times and celebrate the shit out of each other. We reach out for prayer requests, we build each other up for life’s most difficult trials, and we laugh together; we laugh a lot. No matter how shameful I have been, I know I can share the details, and they will honestly advise, laugh at me, cry with me, and help me move past it out of shame. They offer forgiveness because I am a fallible human. Further, they adore my husband. One special circle of friends – my angel squad – surprised us with a toast at one of their summer gatherings a few weeks after he proposed; thanking him for loving me. *Best Cheerleaders Ever!* Friends are those you can spend time with amongst your family and without. There is a load of trust and respect. Building this loving and respectful community for your marriage and family is viable and important. They just tend to need to mesh with the lifestyle and priorities you and your family share. Hence, why, at times, friendships wither… it really boils down to priorities and maturity. Birds of a feather, right…

Quality Time Take Away

To close, I firmly believe quality time is what we choose to make of it. No holiday or special occasion defines the quality time. As parents, none of us are more important nor more deserving of quality time with our children, especially if they are shared in blended homes. Our children and bonus children are equally important amongst themselves and their undivided attention of us as their parents and bonus parents is exceptionally important no matter what phase they are in. They need us, and they will always need us. Our God-given families are our roots… you need to water the entire tree; make time for this. Friends are a bonus and should only bring good to your life. Your spouse… this is your number one. Our children will grow up and move on. This is their destiny. They are not a physical extension of ourselves. They are their own separate entity. When they find their calling and are living to their full potential, it is your spouse you will wake up to, sit across the table from, ride with, attend holidays, celebrations, and outings with… You better like this person. To ensure your marriage will grow in health, friendship, and passion, you must make it a priority to have quality time together. In short, take time to make quality time by giving your “undivided attention” to those you love.
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