Perhaps its not quality time that brings us closer - Argus Friday 15th July 2016

Posted Monday 18th July 2016   By Ericka Waller

How much quality time do you spend with your family? According to a recent survey, almost half of British families spend just five hours a week together, and modern life is to blame. Long working hours, housework and social media are stopping us from enjoying valuable family bonding time. What qualifies as quality time? I have three young children. By the time I’ve cleaned up from their dinner, lured them in from the garden, washed the day’s grime away, got them in bedclothes and forced them to practise reading, we are all exhausted, and sick of the sight of one-another.

Is quality time when we go swimming, and I shout at them to NOT DROP their towels on the shower floor, run near the edge of the pool, splash people with small babies or try and drown one another playing shark? Is it being wedged in a tiny cubicle with them, screaming because they have shampoo in their eyes and the water is too hot, or cold, or wet?

Is it going out for a family meal, where they order food they don’t eat, spill their drinks within the first five minutes, pile onto my lap so I can’t eat my food and then climb under the table to sulk when told to ‘sit nicely’?

It seems the harder I plan for us to have a nice time, the worse a time we have of it.

Quality time to me is the first five minutes after school when we collapse on the sofa in a sweaty heap and pant on one-another. It’s the journey back from swimming, when sleepy-heads knock together in the back of the car and a song I love comes on the radio. It’s all looking for the missing dog lead together, again, when we are already late to leave the house. It’s the sound of five cups of morning tea being gulped down.

As kids, my brothers and I were forced to wait for the picture of a girl playing noughts and crosses with a clown to be replaced with kids morning TV. There was nothing else to do but bicker, which looking back, was us bonding. We grew up elbowing one-another in baths, the back of cars, pub gardens and sleeping bags on rainy camping-holidays. We were forced to walk to school together, catch one another’s chicken-pox, chest infections and head-lice.

That time I weed on my brother because I was too scared to go outside in the dark on that trip to the Cotswolds bought us closer than ever. We spent a quality morning together, scrubbing our sleeping bags. 

Feeding Seagulls chipolatas doused in a Molotov cocktail of Tabasco sauce and mustard to get them back for stealing our breakfast was another unifying moment. None of us will forget my dad juggling sizzling sausages in his Y-fronts hollering “Come on then, come and get them, you greedy, beaky, beady…” (um, let’s just say dad really didn’t like Seagulls.)

These are the stories we go back to, the bits that jut out in our minds. These are our ‘quality moments’. 

It wasn’t all ‘jolly-hockey sticks’ and treacle tart with lashings of custard, or ginger-pop on sunny days, but whenever I have five minutes’ spare on the way back from school run, the first people I ring are my brothers. Just to tell them I watched Gremlins last night, or do they remember the name of the man who used to own the paper shop, or what did they have for dinner?

All those rows, shared baths, bundles and boredom built something between us, a relationship I will never share with anyone else. Maybe it is not quality time that keeps us together, but mundaneness.

And finally

40 is the age to stop wearing a bikini, 47 is the cut-off for skinny jeans and turning 43 means no more lycra, according to etiquette expert William Hanson. 

A survey of 2,000 Brits agreed the cut-off age for women wearing bikinis should be 46, but Hanson firmly believes it should be 40, adding 'the stomach is such an unappealing part'.

Having long hair after the age of 40, using hair products after the age of 38, and wearing trainers after turning 29 were more no-no’s.

The balding chino-wearing chump claimed hot-tubs, patio-heaters, coasters and alphabet fridge magnets are the worst things you can possibly have in your house.

I disagree. Odious nit-pickers like William are the worst things you can have in your home. Anyone who believe wearing hats after 6pm is disgusting, buying black wallets only and not serving anything that requires a bowl is not for me.

What would he make of the fact I write my column in a Onesie and drink my kid’s leftover cereal milk *out the plastic bowl* for breakfast I wonder?