Friday, May 3, 2013

There's No Such Thing as Quality Time

I don't know if anyone is still saying that time with one's children doesn't really need to happen in large quantities as long as it's high quality, but I'm here to put on my Captain Obvious hat and tell you that anyone who tries to sell you that particular parcel of land is full of shit.

There's no such thing as quality time with teenagers. Okay, what I mean to say is that quality time with teenagers happens quite frequently, but you have to be there waiting for it. It's like the Great Blue Herons in the river near our house. You can't just go down to the river at a scheduled five-minute interval and see one; you have to hang out for awhile and if you're lucky one will show up. They aren't rare, exactly - they live around there somewhere - but you have to be there a lot if you want to see one.

It's the same with Twelve. She says the most hilarious things, but it's not like I can tell her to save them up for x period of time.

Science was so much fun today! she said the other day, and I had this delicious split second where I thought that her interest was finally piqued and that she was finally going to become A Scientist ... and then she continued, I sat next to J and we almost had a conversation!

A couple of weeks ago, on a whim, I sent an email to our city's theater asking how they handle costuming for their shows. I had a lot of fun doing wardrobe for a short independent film a few years ago, finishing my dissertation within the decade is looking fairly promising, and the theater is five blocks from our house, so the email was kind of a completely and totally obvious first step.

They replied that the costume designer for the show opening in two weeks had just quit and would I be interested in helping?

Um, yes please.

It is not every day that people who sew get to feel like superheroes.* I had a literature review draft due in a few days and Twelve had just gotten back from Washington DC, so I said that I would love to help starting that weekend. I got the draft turned in and then spent most of the next week's waking hours working on Victorian-era costumes. It turns out that my tendency to notice every little thing that is wrong with something makes me really good at transforming a bunch of begged, borrowed, and found garments into a coherent and properly fitting wardrobe for a seven-person cast. Ultimate result: I may now be moving toward a career in theater costume design. I may also be starting a community sewing studio and sewing machine repair shop, which is irrelevant except that it would have the same proximal result: I was away from home for the greater part of several days.

Twelve handled my absence that week with aplomb, according to her usual orientation to life; she came to visit me at the theater after school and we'd have tea at one of the nearby bakeries before she'd head home and I'd head back to the dressing room-turned-costume shop in time to greet the actors as they arrived. When I'd get home after rehearsal, she'd be asleep and I'd tiptoe in to kiss her temple.

On Wednesday, when cast and crew took the night off before Thursday's final dress rehearsal, Twelve acted like my being home was like Christmas. Several of her very sweet comments that afternoon referred to how we should have a special dinner and otherwise celebrate. It was funny, because it had only been four evenings, but super adorable.

After the show opened and my job was essentially over (even though I left my phone number all over both dressing rooms, I never did get any frantic phone calls with costuming emergencies), we shifted back into 'normal' like nothing had happened. Instead of finding myself saying, ridiculously, that we'd better hurry up and talk because I had actors coming in for fittings, we were back to leisurely teas after school with Twelve telling me how she had burped SO loudly during lunch or that they had teased J about the time that he farted after he laughed, just like that character in that movie they had just watched (I have no idea).

I'm so glad that I'm not trying to squeeze 'quality' time into the window between after school and before rehearsal on a regular basis. We need large quantities of time, during which I might cut organic turkey bologna and two kinds of cheese into triangles and arrange them with crackers on a blue plate, joking that we're having the 'real food version' of Lunchables.

We need time to watch Psych, an utterly ridiculous confection of a show that's perfect for Twelve because it's at exactly the right level of maturity for her. It's grown-up enough to be interesting but not too scary to be comfortable - we *had* a nice thing going with Bones for awhile there, until the Gormogon showed up and Twelve was too freaked out to sleep. (I felt pretty awful about that at the time, but now Twelve is careful about what she watches, so I think it's an overall win.) It is also fun for me because when I predict the completely predictable plot twists, Twelve is totally impressed.

We need time to go over, for the third or fourth time, whether her Washington, DC scrapbook pages should be all cream colored - requiring us to purchase more of that color - or if each day should be a different color altogether (also requiring us to buy more paper), or if each day should be one of the three colors we already have, and just alternate the colors already!

Okay, my dear daughter, we don't need more time for that particular conversation. I am also tired of reiterating that we are not buying another 50 pack of sheet protectors if you end up only needing a few more, and we're not buying any more at all until you know exactly how many you need. (That first 50-pack lasted thirteen years, and I don't want to start over.)

But we need lots of time for the non-annoying stuff, like indulging your desire to drink coffee by taking you to the coffee shop that a friend's parents own and asking her to explain just how much caffeine is in decaf coffee before agreeing that if it's only three percent of usual, it would be okay to buy some to take home. We need time to unfold, drape, and consider six different white fabrics that could become privacy curtains for your room, just to have you conclude that you don't want the one with the sequins or the one with the silver threads or the one with the paisley burnouts or the off-white one with woven stripes - you just want plain white.

And then we need time to re-fold everything, preferably while you tell me that you made your dying kangaroo noise in class and scared all the boys.

*Except for surgeons, but that is not my point.


  1. HOW did I NOT KNOW you were writing this amazing blog???? I am loving it. I think this is so important - thank you for sharing your words! Love it :)


You, brave reader, are invited to commiserate, congratulate, reminisce, and/or respond lovingly in the comments. Nasty comments and negativity of all kinds may be submitted to