Friday, April 08, 2016

Quality and Quantity

I have been lucky enough to be invited into the homes of a number of my friends and family since I started writing full time. Quality v Quantity time with people? I think the answer is both. There are some things we can't communicate over a single meal. I would still take a catch up meal with people I haven't seen in ages. A group get together. A wedding. The truth is that there isn't enough time at those events to relax together. I often walk away feeling nostalgic for when we saw each other regularly, rather than having got my fix.

Kids have a habit of saying things as they see them. Sometimes nasty. Sometimes funny. 'Look at that really fat lady' says lightie within earshot of really fat lady. Queue a disgruntled snipe to the parent about teaching their child manners. They also have healthy stranger danger when meeting people for the first time. They need to get to know someone on their own terms. When you get to spend a bit more time with the children, your impression isn't based on one little incident. The well mannered child occasionally says something inappropriate. The difficult child occasionally has a golden afternoon.

Is this Quantity or Quality time?

We can give too much information to single interactions with people. In reality our characters are wonderfully complex. Couples who have been together for years will still be learning about how they react. Last time doesn't mean every time. I think relationships are in a large part the gift of 'the benefit of doubt'.

One of my friends has a child with Autism. He said that 'if you know one child with Autism, you know one child with Autism'. Each child is unique. Parents learn a bespoke set of skills. I listen to his story with incredible admiration. Raising children is difficult enough already. Parents just desperately want to do the right thing. But it is hard. And they are human. Adding complications requires incredible strength. One of the lessons he said he has learnt is to give the benefit of doubt to other people. Whether it is them having a bad day, or their child having a bad day, or whatever the mistake is.

Behind the scenes, most of us have difficulties we are working through. We have emotional wobbles. Things feel like they are getting too much. We can cover it up to be functional most of the time. By adding some 'quantity time' to relationships we get the chance to see more of the story. We get a chance to be a part of the story. To walk together.

With the benefit of doubt and some time, stories have depth, character and meaning. Life is richer.
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