A neighbor of mine came to her front door and called to her toddler son, “What are you doing, Micky?" The little boy was sitting on the curb, watching his father clean out the car. He looked up at his mother and answered proudly, “I’m here, hanging out with my dad.”
Every kid from toddler to teen knows exactly what “hanging out” means. It could cover a great many activities, as well as none at all. I would define it as “spending time together with no particular purpose in mind, keeping someone company.”
When you’re hanging out with someone, you can talk about anything or nothing at all. Two people doing different things in proximity, one reading and the other doing a crossword puzzle, can be said to be hanging out, as well as two people together planning an adventure. Kid or grownup, the people we choose to hang out with are those whose company we enjoy.
When was the last time you and your sweetie just hung out? After dinner or weekend afternoons are usually prime hangout times for people who share a life. When I was young, I used to notice that most of the people shopping for food or getting the car washed or other weekend types of activities were couples, and I thought to myself, “I understand errands have to be run, but doesn’t one of the pair have something better to do with his or her time? Picking up the dry cleaning doesn’t require two people!”
I see now that of course keeping someone company as he or she ran errands wasn’t usually a requirement. But it was a way a busy couple could hang out together. Teenagers do that with each other all the time: “You have chores to do? Okay, I’ll keep you company. Then we can hang out together.” Of course, the keeping company while one does chores IS hanging out.
As a busy grown-up with a sweetheart or a mate, you are pressed for time — time for family, friends, work, each other, and yourself alone. All are very important, and there are only 24 hours in a day. So this is a reminder to look into ways to do with your Person Who Matters what Micky knew instinctively as a toddler. Find a way to spend time together, a way to hang out with him or her. Don’t smother. Don’t get in his or her way. You don’t necessarily need to offer to help, although such an offer is almost always appreciated. Just say, “Whatcha doing, gardening? Mind if I hang out with you while you do?”
Spending time together like that may not be quality time, but some very satisfying conversations, or even further bonding, can take place when two people are just hanging out.