Earlier this week, my seven-year old informed me that I wasn’t spending enough quality time with him, and I realized he was right. It’s not that I wasn’t there, but the time we were spending together had to do with everyday things: meals, homework, bedtime, getting ready for school. It had been awhile since we took the time to do something just because. I decided to take advantage of their day off school yesterday. Even though my district still had class, I was able to take a little personal time to spend with my kids. And I made them a promise: for the duration of our ‘quality time’ my phone would be just a phone. No email, texting, Facebook, or Twitter.
We took off a little before noon and headed to the Milwaukee Public Museum to see the Cleopatra Exhibit. We were there well before our scheduled entry time, so we each picked a favorite place in the museum to start. S picked the live butterfly exhibit. No matter how often we go, that is still her favorite. C picked the dinosaurs. I picked the section about Egypt, the one with the Rosetta Stone replica and the mummy. Those three areas easily filled our time. Before we knew it, it was time to enter the Cleopatra Exhibit. The artifacts, especially the statues were impressive. They suggest an hour to go through, and we took every minute of it. S had taken a summer class called Art Around the World two years ago, and I loved seeing her make connections to the artwork; even explaining how to read a cartouche to one of the security guards. An audio guide was included, and C listened to each section closely, and then explored the area. I can’t remember how many questions I fielded, but it was a learning experience for all of us. Best question of the day? If the Egyptians believed in the afterlife, why did they remove all the organs from the body before mummification?
We then took in the Streets of Old Milwaukee before seeing The Mysteries of Egypt in the Humphrey IMAX Theater. Anything IMAX is worth the time, but this one was exceptional. We felt like we were actually walking among the pyramids.
A trip to Milwaukee almost always includes dinner out, and this day was no exception. The kids agreed on The Cheesecake Factory because, as C says, they like the atmosphere (and the cheesecake is a pretty big draw as well!). Our dinner conversation was mainly about the museum, but then it turned to books and which books we had at home about Egypt. That made S realize we were pretty close to Half-Priced Books, so she asked if we could go, and, of course, I said yes. S found the Lion Boy book she wanted and a copy of the one Series of Unfortunate Events books I was missing. C discovered a series called Dragonbreath, a combination comic book panels and text. They had the first three in the series, and we bought them all.
The hour drive home was pretty quiet; both of them immersed in their books. The only sound was an occasional comment from C as he explained about Danny, the only mythical creature at a school for reptiles and amphibians. And the reading continued when we got home. The TV never came on, and C finished the first book, all 148 pages before bed.
After I tucked them in and said goodnight, I finally turned technology back on. I stared at the emails, most of which were insignificant. Then I opened the file with the ten research articles I still needed to read and remembered the 4-page paper that needed to be revised and proofed. I knew that sleep would be in short supply for the next few nights, but that was okay. The nine technology-free hours of quality time were worth it.
I’m reminded of the Dr. Steven Covey story about putting rocks in a jar. The rocks represent the important things in your life. If you don’t put them in first, the everyday things will take over and you won’t find time for the things that matter most.
When my kids grow up, I don’t want them to remember me always glued to my phone or too busy cleaning the house. I want them to have memories of times when it really was just about them, and for them to know they are what really matters.