From a New York Times essay titled “The Myth of Quality Time” by Frank Bruni:
“People tend not to operate on cue,” Bruni writes. “At least our moods and emotions don’t. We reach out for help at odd points; we bloom at unpredictable ones.”
This line was referenced on the NYTimes homepage as a lead to the greater essay. It resonated with me instantly. I get along wonderfully with my parents and siblings. I’m always a little shocked when I find out friends don’t communicate with a sibling who is only a few years older or younger. However, when scheduled family times approach on the calendar for upcoming weekends, or worse, holidays, I find myself dreading this time. I panic a little. I wonder where we are going to eat, will the restaurant have food my mother likes (she’s vegan), will they have beer that my stepdad likes (only stouts these days), what will I put on the itinerary (what if they hate it), and how many times will we be insincere. We’re tough on each other, but we all bruise easily. The phrase “you can dish it, but you can’t take it” should be our family motto. I certainly heard it enough growing up.
I love the suggestion that “…our moods and emotions [don’t work on cue].” I’m persistently anxious when my parents are in town. I ask them if they are having a good time upwards of 5 times a day. And I know that must be obnoxious, but I just want to make sure they are happy, when, in reality, I’m making everyone stand on their tiptoes to force a good time.
I need to think of ways that are more spontaneous to show them how much I love them – more than mundane texts, and more than the weekly phone call. I need to ask them about their days, their passions, and what they want to accomplish in the next year. I need to surprise visit them on a weekend that is very much unplanned. I need to finally ask my sister why her nickname for me is Regina.
Back to Bruni. I wrote the above paragraphs before reading the essay. Now, having read it, I encourage you to read it as well but if you’re short on time below is my favorite excerpt:
“With a more expansive stretch, there’s a better chance that I’ll be around at the precise, random moment when one of my nephews drops his guard and solicits my advice about something private. Or when one of my nieces will need someone other than her parents to tell her that she’s smart and beautiful. Or when one of my siblings will flash back on an incident from our childhood that makes us laugh uncontrollably, and suddenly the cozy, happy chain of our love is cinched that much tighter.”
– Melissa Grant