My idea of quality time with my children is going on one-on-one dates (especially when they involve donuts). It’s pushing them on swings and helping them cross monkey bars at the park. It’s exploring and taking family walks in the woods. It’s snuggling and reading books on the couch. It’s bedtimes spent discussing their days, deepest questions, and dreams.

But my idea of quality time, and my kids’ idea of a quality time, is a little bit different. They certainly enjoy all the activities mentioned—they love dates and park visits and family walks. But what they enjoy, more than anything else, is when I let loose and enter into their “weird”.

It’s when I adopt the thick accent of a Hell’s Kitchen cook or the dramatic flair of a Parisian pastry chef while we play with their toy kitchen.

It’s when I tell wacky stories with glaring plot holes that include potty humor—the more profuse the poop, the better.

It’s when we have dance parties where I don’t just sway and spin but act like I may have lost my sanity.

It’s when we yell at the top of our lungs for stop lights to turn green and pretend we’re in utter peril while we wait.

It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it involves being weird together.

But even though I know this makes them feel understood, enjoyed, and loved, I still don’t do it enough. I get so caught up in the daily responsibilities of parenting that I forget to connect with them in the ways they want it most. I crave quiet, so I shush their childishness rather than entering and enjoying it with them. I am so focused on prioritizing “heart-to-heart” discussions that I get frustrated when they are too restless and wild to have them.

If I can lay down my ideas of “quality time” to embrace theirs, it will only serve to strengthen our relationship in the future. When they see me joyfully get down on their level today, they’ll be more inclined to share their interests tomorrow. When they experience a love that embraces their weird now, they’ll feel safety to share vulnerability later.

Children who know their mom isn’t too serious to be silly will become teens who know their mom isn’t just a rule-giver and boundary-builder, but a friend.

So moms, don’t overthink it. You have plenty of time to model maturity. You have plenty of time to share deep discussions about life. You have plenty of time to teach your children the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You have plenty of time to train them to be hard-working, trustworthy, compassionate, and bold. I am not knocking the importance of intentional parenting.

But sometimes, what your kids need more than anything else, is for you to put the agenda aside and enter into their weird.

Amy Dimarcangelo

Amy is a wife, mom of three, and taco enthusiast from New Jersey. She co-leads mercy ministry outreach at her church and works part-time teaching children diagnosed with autism. You can find more of her writing on her blog or follow her on Facebook.