The Gift of Time

The spring of 1986 was filled with turmoil for the Tyler family. We had survived our first year of home schooling in spite of threats of jail and legal retaliation and were finishing our second year. We were also fighting regulations promulgated by the South Carolina State Department of Education that required home schooling parents to use only state-approved texts—no Christian material—and to have a four-year college degree. By God’s grace, we have come a long way since then!

Our sons Ty and John were seven and five at the time, and we were expecting our third child, our first little girl (Joy). I began having problems during my fifth month of pregnancy, and on March 12, Joy was born and ushered immediately into the arms of Jesus. This traumatic event was exacerbated by the fact that I came close to losing my own life during the delivery process. To make matters worse, while I was in the hospital, Joe and I got word that the state department of education had just set a date in mid-May for the first public hearing to be held on home schooling in South Carolina. Due to the time constraints, Joe and I were forced to begin planning that public hearing from my hospital room.

Because we were homeschooling, Ty and John had been very involved in making plans for the new baby. When Joy died, they were devastated. They grieved deeply over the little sister they would never know this side of heaven. God taught us many things as a family through Joy’s life and death. One of the greatest lessons we learned is that time with our children is a precious gift He gives that we should not take for granted or wish away. We knew we would have eternity to spend with Joy in heaven, but we would not have that gift of time with her here on earth. We felt that loss every day.

A year and a half after Joy’s birth and death, the Lord blessed our family with a second little girl, Elizabeth, whom the boys quickly and affectionately dubbed Lizzy. Before Lizzy was born, Ty sat me down and posed a question that had been troubling him: “Mom, how do you make a baby love you?” Ty had been anticipating the joy of having a little sister for almost two years at this point, and he wanted her to love him as much as he already loved her.

When Lizzy was just a few weeks old, Ty (then nine years old) appeared by my bedside at two o’clock in the morning, cradling her in his arms. “Mom, I heard Lizzy crying, so I changed her and rocked her, but I think she needs to nurse. And, Mom, you remember when I asked you how to make a baby love you? Now I know. You hold her and love her and help her and spend lots of time with her.” As Ty slipped quietly out of the room, I marveled at the simple but powerful wisdom God had revealed to him.

We argue a lot today over time. Our new societal mantra regarding child rearing is, “Quality time, not quantity time.” However, the old adage remains true: Children spell love “t-i-m-e.” There is really no shortcut. Quality time arises out of, not in lieu of, quantity time.

I homeschooled our three children, through high school, for a total of twenty-one years. During those years, I had the privilege of spending a great deal of time with them, individually and corporately. Much of our time together was spent in the uneventful unfolding of life—the routine of household chores, schoolwork, church, and recreation. In the midst of our most mundane days, discussions arose concerning the great issues of life. It is hard to schedule quality time. You certainly cannot mandate it with a child. Rather, quality time is something that emerges in the midst of the dailiness of life as you live it together.

The words of Deuteronomy 6:4-7 establish the standard: “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.”

These verses presuppose that we are spending a lot of time with our children. As we are engaged in the routines of life with them, we are to constantly repeat and rehearse the great truths of God with them. As we daily lay down our lives for our children, we are to teach them about Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us. This way of life infuses quality time into every second we spend with them.

Now that Ty, John, and Elizabeth are grown and gone, I can testify that the time you have with your children passes more quickly than you can ever imagine. Be good stewards of that time. Enjoy it. It is a gift and trust from God. Truly, one of the best gifts you can give your children is your time.

Portions of this article are excerpted from 7 Tools for Cultivating Your Child’s Potential and are used with permission from Apologia Press.