By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.
My college girl was recently home for winter break. As she attends an out-of-state school, I only get to see her on breaks, or when I go see her. We have always been quite close, so I really looked forward to a full month of her being home over the Winter Break.
She is 19. So, I knew she would try to work some over break to earn a little spending money, and I also anticipated she would want to see local friends. I was excited when she asked if we could host some of her college friends for part of the break, and again when she asked if we could host even more of her college friends over a different part of the break. Soon the reality hit me that the full month to which I had looked so forward, was being whittled down to very little time for her and me. I could have had one of those, “what about me” moments. I really, really could have.
However, what I did instead was cherish what time I did have with her. We had an awesome day of mother-daughter skiing (me) and boarding (her), with the accompanying long drive to and from the slopes for sharing, laughter, and her ever-present great music. Another morning, she and I went back-to-school shopping and had brunch, with more time to talk (and learn she really likes coffee now). Those two times, that was the extent of our one-on-one time through the whole month. It was precious, and it was awesome, and probably even more appreciated because it was so little.
However, I also got to see the responsible girl work so hard to help defray some of her college costs. I enjoyed seeing her maturity in friend choices, as her guests came in and out of our home (and were gracious enough to spend time with her family). I appreciated seeing first-hand how kind she is to others, including making two separate special trips to see each set of grandparents. I was blown away with how much she helped with the big family gatherings we hosted for Christmas Eve and again Christmas Day. My heart melted as she made time for her younger brother, still in high school and admiring her so much. All this time that she spent with others instead of me, or that I had to share her with others, was my amazing “parenting time” too – as this now young lady, in all of her wonder, is all I ever wanted in a daughter.
This was a reminder to me that the same is true in divorce. Although each parent wants as much time as possible with their children, quantity is not the most important component of that. Whatever parenting time we have, quality is very, very important. The importance is as to the moment, and is for the child and is for the parent, but is also as to the future success of that child. When parenting time has to be shared, with friends, or family members, or activities, or homework, or just life, it is still parenting time nonetheless, and it is all part of what parenting entails. When the child is with the other parent for parenting time, it could be one of those “what about me” moments as well. But, it all, all of the time, is part of parenting, and it is all about the child, and it is what we make of it for ourselves, and what we make of it for the child.