You’ll hear other dads talk about the need for “quality time” with their kids. It’s sort of a strange phrase, if you think about it. Because it implies a kind of hierarchy of time that nobody has ever really bothered to define. There’s a judgement to it too, that maybe the time or experiences you—the busy, ordinary, doing-the-best-you-can dad—give your kids is not enough.
The comedian Jerry Seinfield, who has three kids—an 18-year-old daughter, a 16-year-old son, and a 13-year-old son—pushes back against that. Special days? Nah. Every day is special. Every minute can be quality time.
“I’m a believer in the ordinary and the mundane. These guys that talk about ‘quality time’ – I always find that a little sad when they say, ‘We have quality time.’ I don’t want quality time. I want the garbage time. That’s what I like. You just see them in their room reading a comic book and you get to kind of watch that for a minute, or [having] a bowl of Cheerios at 11 o’clock at night when they’re not even supposed to be up. The garbage, that’s what I love.”
Your job is not to entertain them. Or to curate every minute of their lives so that everything is meaningful and important and edifying. Your job is to be their dad. You job is to be there. To help them see that quality is what we make it, that it’s always within our reach if we so choose. Eating cereal together can be wonderful. Blowing off school for a fun day together can be wonderful—but so can the twenty minute drive in traffic to school. So can taking out the garbage or watching a garbage truck meander through the neighborhood.
All time with your kids is created equal. What do you with it is what makes it special.