Family Quality Time

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Remember this song? It was a big pophit in Norway back in… 2005? Or 2006. Back then I had one of those “jumping-seats” installed in the ceiling of the front room of my tiny flat. And every early evening I would sit my oneyearold daughter in it, and I would put on Schnappi and other up-beat-songs which I had put together on a minidisc, and she would be jumping and I would be dancing, and thus we shared some quality time together right there, laughing and junmping, dancing and singing, every early evening before bedtime.

Quite clever what he´s done in that clip, bytheway. Translated the German lyrics into English. The original video is funny too. Cartoon. Good stuff.

Quality time. It is a much used concept in Scanidnavia these days. Don´t know if it can be translated directly, but. It means to REALLY be together, have fun together or feel close to eachother as a family. When everyday life becomes a juggling puzzle of two fulltime jobs, and school and kindergarten, plus spare time activities such as soccer or horseriding, times x according to the number of children in the family… then when the weekend comes, families often feel like they have to catch up, do something special together, as there was no time for anything but dinner and bedtime in the week that passed. And the week ahead will be the same. Until next school holiday.

Many families then go out, to some organized play space for children. Or they go for a picnic. They plan and structure their weekend.
I am different.
First, I stay at home. So my 3- and 5-yearold only stay half time on kindergarten. They are tired when I pick them up at 1 pm. They want a cup of cocoa and a dvd, Then they chill on the sofa, sometimes take a nap there. After an hour or so, they start playing together, or a neighbour child comes to visit. So everyday life is not so tough on them.

I don´t mean that other families do something wrong. Children are adaptable, they get used to long kindergarten days. And many don´t feel they have the choice to stay at home. Financial pressure.
We can´t really afford it anylonger either. I used to get a small amount from the local council for staying at home with the young, but now that support isn´t there anymore. We survive on my husband´s music teacher job (in a college, teaching future kindergarten teachers how to use music in their work)… but we definately need more money.
It will come, I am not worried.
Through this blog, through my sound therapy, or through me taking some kind of job.

But this was not my focus today, when I say I´m different. Yes, I stay at home and prioritize free time over money. But what is more important here, is that I understand the concept of quality time differently from most people.

Because I don´t feel that the children need to get out and about and do stuff all the time when the weekend comes.
I feel it is more important for them to relax. To not have to rush, for some set deadline like they do in the weekdays, be it the fruit meal in the kindergarten or time to cook dinner, pick up groceries etc.
My kind of quality time involves slow mornings, big brunches, a bath-tub-session if they suddenly say they want that. Sometimes we go to the woods, or to see a play in a Children´s theatre, or a concert… but normally not early in the day. Afternoons are better.
We used to go and visit grandma a lot. She lived on Rømø, another Danish island an hour´s drive away, in a little house in the woods. Peaceful and always so cosy to spend time with her, around meals, around the guitar, and enjoying the children together. We miss that. A lot.

But yesterday! We had an ace Family Quality Time day, and that is what has inspired me to choose this blog title today.

We had visitors. Simply.
A guy that sings in my husband´s bigband, and his wife and their three sons age 11, 8 and 6. (Their daughter who is 15 could alas not come along yesterday).
They arrived at noon, and we had lunch ready. Kids were served first, as our kitchen table isn´t so big. The six of them ate together, and then us four grownups afterwards, while the kids played piano, and whatever, around the house.

After tanking up, the fathers took the kids to a wonderful playground in the forest. While us mothers did a sound healing session. It was marvellous for me. She was happy too. 🙂 Very exciting actually.
After an hour, the daddies and kids returned and we just hung out. It was so nice to watch the children approach eachother and bond. They know eachother from before, but it´s been quite a while since our last hangout.
We left them mainly to themselves, whilst we hung out in the kitchen where my husband was turning the room into a pizza bakery! He had bought 6 or 8 pieces of dough from Jimmy pizzaman around the corner, and chopped up lots of different topping items. Then the kids were called in, one by one, to make a pizza. They loved it, and they impressed me. Very tasty indeed, and with appetizing patterns of mushrooms and tomatoes and stuff. And every child had a pizza exactly to his or her taste as well.
After eating, I took the other mama with me out into my listeninghut in the garden. Plus two glasses and a bottle of wine. So we sat in here, listened to a minidisc from the 90s and had a good talk like us women enjoy so much.
Ten passed ten pm they caought the ferry back to their car on the mainland, then they drove for 40 minutes, and were back at their wonderful farm. They would have stayed the night at ours, but they have a very pregnant horse, so they wanted to get home in case she gave birth last night.

Yes. That´s what family quality time looks like to me.
Amongst many other things. But just to be with others who have kids as well, share the joys of having children, enjoy seeing them get to know eachother, and with four adults present there is space for some fun conversations and twosome activities for the grownups as well.

As soon as their baby horse comes out into the world, they will call us and we will go visit them. Their sheep is pregnant as well, so I hope we´ll get to see the lambs too… It is such a gift to have someone to visit that live not far away, but the driving there is an additional treat, the little ones take a nap and we put a cd on and sing together in the car… Gosh this sounds so romantic, hahaha…

I am so grateful to know these people. My 10yearold daughter is crazy about horses, and the mama of our friend family there has had horses all her life… she brought her a pair of riding trousers yesterday, and a riding coat and some brushes and a rope. The smile on my daughter´s face…
So heartwarming to see.

The bigband that my husband conducts, is just such a special asset in my life. You can read more about it in the blogpost Not Big Bot Band.
It´s about a meeting and party we had with the band a month ago. Actually at our friends´ farm. No kids that time. Just 28 adults, merrily singing and dancing and eating together. Every time they have played enough gigs, they go travelling together. Bringing their partners and kids if they want. Last easter we spent together with the Not Big Bots in a casa with a pool in Fuengirola, outside of Malaga in Spain.
Autumn 2008 we went to Florida together.
Holiday Inn on Cocoa Beach. Disney World and Kennedy Space Centre and Swamp boat riding, watching alligators… Discovering Red Lobster and Denny´s and…right across the street from our Holiday Inn there was one of the best sushi restaurants I have EVER been to… totally anonymous looking by the main road there…

Yeah. Quality time.
Some times it includes travelling. Some times it means a plastic splashing pool in the garden and us all sleeping in a tent out in our garden… when the youngest is very little, it needs to be easy to remain fun for all…

Of course we go to Legoland and other themeparks, (Legoland is quite near to where we live, so we know that place quite well), we go to the public swimming hall, where they have hot water pools as well, steam sauna, jaccuzies, wave machines and slides for toddlers and for bigger people…

But some of the best weekends we have as a family, is when we don´t plan anything, we just spend the time as if it never ran out, follow the children´s wishes for some piano playing or apple tree climbing, just.
Being. Together. Not focusing on any doing.

Some children get stressed these days. I reckon what they need when their weeks are so busy, is to be allowed to rest. To stop running after the clock. Be in their pyjamas until early afternoon if they want.
Be, just be.
Until they get bored. And allow them to be bored.
Because that´s when they suddenly feel the need to get creative. To use their minds to activate themselves, come up with an idea for making some fun.

Yes we do have an Ipad. But only one, so they have to share it. From time to time the charger breaks. And I have to go with the ferry to the mainland to get a new charger. So it often takes me some weeks to do that. In the mean time they don´t really mention the Ipad. They just accept it´s not an option. I really enjoy seeing that they deal with it that way. Because there are times when they find it difficult to share it, they all want to play with it all the time.

My kids also love movies. We have quite a lot of movies. I buy good films, that I don´t mind them seeing over and over again, like kids do. I don´t think Disney Channel is good enough. Nor the Danish children´s tv channel. Or they are good enough for watching a programme or two. But.
Movies are different.
Astrid LIndgrens films, for example. Swedish author, wrote Pippi Longstocking for example, about a girl age about 9 who lives alone in a big villa with her monkey and her horse (!) , she is the strongest person in the world so she throws thieves up in a lamp post if it´s needed… A true superhero. She´s god a suitcase full of gold coins, and her father is a captain on a ship far away, one time she has to go save him from pirates…
My kids love Miyazakis´s animation films, Japanese. Fantastic films, both in form and content.
And they love the animation films about the tiny African boy Kirikou, and the film Azur and Asmar, all made by the same French animation company…
So.
They get to chill on the sofa and watch movies. In Denmark it is cold, windy and dark outside, from October until March/April. In the Summer, not a lot of movietime.
In winter, quite a lot, but of course not limitless.
I find they naturally get up and start doing other things after a movie. If they don´t, then at some point we switch the tv off, and make a break.
I´m not worried about their use of screens for entertainment. As long as 1; it is quality they are spending their time watching. Or good games like Minecraft or Wii dancing or Supermario, stuff like that, non violent…
And 2; as long as it´s not too much time spent in front of screens, that they are physically active as well, and play more active games with eachother.
For my three, it doesn´t seem be a problem to find a healthy balance. For other children, other rules may be necessary.

Right. I think I have covered what I wanted to include about family quality time.
Maybe I can just add that my husband and I also make sure that there is quality alone time for each of us adults. It makes us better parents, knowing that he will play badminton tonight, or go watch a football match at the stadium. And for me to go to board meetings, and sit out here in my listening hut, do guided meditations…go to the jamsession at the local once a month, or a poetry reading on the mainland…
What we need to get a bit better at, is to make quality time for the two of us as a couple. But it´s getting easier now that our youngest just turned three. We can now go away without the three gems.
And we do also get good conversations in, or watch a documentary together and similar easy stuff, the nights when we don´t fall asleep exhausted, together with the children! 🙂

I never planned to have a family. My first child just happened. My second was planned. And my third just happened. And here we are now, a whole bunch of five!
I have a half Caribbean daughter, and two blonde Scandinavian little ones. There are sisters with 5 years´ agedifference, both of them with curly hair, one dark and one almost white haired, I call them my Yin and Yang…
And then there is a bit less than two years between the middle sister and the little brother. (He´s got long, straight hair, no curles).
So I really have got everything a social psychology loving mother can use to learn about life. 🙂
A mulatto´s path, the issues of identity are special there. Sisterhood.
The big age difference (which I am used to from my own siblings, sisters 6 years and 12 years my junior), plus the little age difference…
Sisterbrother-relationships…

I love being in charge of this family, together with my husband. And of course, the core also includes his adult children. Five siblings in all.
“A together-brought family” we call it in Danish.
The kids that are not biologically linked to oneself, we call “bonus children”. Isn´t that a nice term for it?
And they truely are a bonus to me, his grown kids.
Very loving and wise young people. Creative and honest too. With wonderful life partners, and there is even a grandson in our core now! He will be two in September. His uncle, my youngest, just turned three. It will be so much fun to watch them connect in the years to come.

Lucky is my middle name.
Family Quality Time.
I am truely a very rich lady.

Let me finish with the song that my eldest child was born to. It was in a natural birth clinic in Bergen in 2004. I brought my ghettoblaster and my minidisc mixtapes. We arrived at the clinic at midnight. And she was born 02.34 am. At that moment, this song was in the room with us:

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