We needed to get the heck out of Dodge. It’s been a thousand degrees for the past month, and we hadn’t been out of town since our trip to Disney World in May. We were all going a wee bit crazy. So this past weekend the Griswolds Family P loaded up into the car and drove to Chicago for a long weekend. We covered a lot of ground in 48 hours, including Millennium Park, Taste of Chicago, the Field Museum, a Cubs game, and the Shedd Aquarium. It was a wonderful change of scenery and provided a much-needed break from our usual weekend fare. But amidst all our activities, my mind swirled with thoughts of our adoption process.
How will you spend quality time with your children? This was one of the questions on the 20+ page Personal Data Form that GAP and I each had to fill out as part of our never-ending adoption paperwork. It was a question that ran through my mind this past weekend because the weekend we had was a perfect embodiment of the answer I gave. My answer was,
Particularly in young children I believe that quantity begets quality. You can’t ask a three- or four-year-old to just “turn it on” and have quality time RIGHT NOW. You have to spend a lot of time with them and some of it will end up being really quality time. You can’t always plan it, though. A special occasion could be completely lost on them. And a silly game in the bath one evening could end up being the most fun you’ve had with your kid in days.
In that vein… Saturday was a big day. We kicked it off at the Field Museum, then went uptown for the Cubs game. On the way back to our hotel we inadvertently got off the ’L’ at least a couple of stops too early and ended up making a rather long foot trek home. Halfway through that long walk it started to rain. The early sprinkles quickly gave way to heavy, legitimate rain, and by the time we got back to our Chicago digs we were completely soaked through to the skin. At one point during our walk, as it became clear that there was no alternative to “completely soaked” I started laughing out loud. From his perch on GAP’s shoulders IEP looked down at me and asked, “Mommy, why you laughing?” “Because it’s just funny, buddy,” I told him. “We are so wet that it’s funny.” Then he started laughing at my laughter, and I in turn laughed at his laughter. There was nothing to do but laugh.
Back at the hotel, dried off and with naps under our belts we began mobilizing to head out for dinner. As IEP rubbed the sleep out of his eyes he curled up against me and I asked him what had been his favorite part of the day had been. He didn’t have to think before he answered, “Riding the ‘L’ and laughing at the rain.”
I smiled. On a day that included one of the foremost natural history museums in the world, and one of the most storied baseball teams of all time, the things that mattered the most to my son were a ride on a train and the misadventure of getting wet. I couldn’t help but think of my adoption questionnaire. I have some firm ideas about parenting, but many of them are just ideas. Many of them have yet to be borne out by experience. So it made me happy to hear that, in his infinite three-year-old wisdom, my son had confirmed my hypothesis.* We had quality time, but it wasn’t the quality time I had planned. It was the quality time that grew organically out of a long day spent together.
I think I find this parenting truth comforting. I supposed it could be frustrating to know that extensive plans for special occasions may be wasted on a young kid who doesn’t understand their significance. But what I find comforting is that what matters most to a child is that which is genuine. A shared moment. An unexpected laugh. An unplanned memory. Museums and baseball games are wonderful outings. But what matters most is that we were there together. Having an experience together. Laughing at the rain together.
*A sample size of one incident is statistically significant, right?
PS – Our adoption home study is tonight. I am currently accepting prayers, good vibes, happy thoughts, and whatever other virtual talismans of good luck you might want to send our way.