I keep forgetting about the importance of time spent together.
I put caveats on time. It has to be quality time. We should be doing something, something that matters, something sustaining or fulfilling or super, duper important. We should be connecting – eye contact, empathetic listening, deep and meaningful dialogue.
Otherwise I’ll just go read my book over here, and you can watch TV over there.
In my house we sometimes fall into this rut of doing our own thing. I’m naturally a pretty autonomous person, and so is my son. My husband and my daughter make do, or they watch slapstick comedy together on the couch.
I think it’s no big deal, or I don’t think of it at all. I don’t make the connection to the little annoyances that start to pop up, or the resentment that seems to settle in the spaces between us.
But then the choice to spend time together or not is taken away, and suddenly I’m ravenous for it.
Jared has been working a lot of late nights and weekends lately. Last month my own schedule was packed with after-hour events and meetings. I was acutely aware that the four of us were rarely having dinner together.
So, when Jared walked in the door last Thursday at an unusually reasonable hour, I couldn’t help but jump up and down like a school girl whose first date has just arrived.
I plopped myself down on the couch where I knew he’d be doing paperwork and we didn’t talk about anything important. Somewhere in that insignificant conversation, something was said that prompted me to pull up “Let It Go” on my phone, and that lead to listening to “Defying Gravity”, and that lead to pulling up YouTube on the big TV and having a show tunes marathon.
We didn’t even have to ask the kids to join us. I guess the draw of my dramatic lip syncing was overwhelming.
Or maybe they’d been craving that unstructured family time, too.
It was a great night. One of those that results in no pictures or remarkable stories, but that cements our family story. We are a family who sits around watching videos from our favorite musicals, and some of us sing and dance along.
The great night rolled into a great weekend. Again Jared and I were both not working, which meant we both got to watch our teenager compete in a biathlon. And we both got to watch our 9 year old stagger to the car after a sleepover, shoeless and still wearing the previous day’s clothes. And we both participated in the tree decorating and light hanging (OK, some of us are most decidedly not involved in the light hanging), and we both got to sing Happy Birthday when our oldest turned 15 – 15! – and celebrate with a rousing game of dominoes.
Because we are a family who plays games together, too.
This time together filled me up, and I didn’t even know I’d been empty.
Looking back I can see it. I can see the tight shoulders and the can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-why stress. I can see the low-level depression and the getting by. I can see it now, but in the fog I’d forgotten all over again: we are a family who needs to spend time together.