When we ran out of quantity time we came up with this idea of quality time. After raising two children and building a marriage of nearly four decades I am here to tell you it’s a bad idea.
Sing it Harry Chapin! Your words are old but your message is timeless.
“My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you, Dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”
We know how that story ends.
Quality time and the tyranny of the urgent
Any relationship suffers from the tyranny of the urgent. When the demands of work and the “necessities” of life make it impossible for you to spend time with those you love, there is payback.
Go ahead, talk to me all you want about “quality time”
The once-in-a-blue-moon visit with Grandma
The obligatory call to Mom on Sundays
The occasional father-daughter date
The monthly check-in with Dad
Date-night with the wife
Relationships are like gardens. They require water and weeding and constant attention.
So here’s an idea: structure your life around relationships that will last forever rather than routines that won’t.
This will get you started…
Settle on a purpose
I won’t assume that relationships are important to you, but if they are you begin with a statement of purpose. I have previously told the story of how I learned this lesson.
“(In my last class at seminary) we had gathered to hear a popular local pastor speak to us about ministry, expecting he would tell us how to do it. Instead he told the story of how he almost lost his marriage and his church doing the work of ‘ministry.’ It was not what we expected to hear. It was exactly what we needed to hear.
“After that class, I went back to our apartment, gave my wife a hug and promised her that I would never have to learn that lesson twice; that our marriage and our family would always come before the “work of ministry.”
“Over the years I have reminded myself that what I do as a husband, a father (and now a grandfather) matters more than most of the other things in life.”
My purpose for family life grew out of that experience and has been my North Star for the last 37 years.
Set your priorities
Only a fixed purpose will protect your priorities. Just ask Eric Liddell the inspiration for the Academy Award winning movie, Chariots of Fire. His obsession with the fourth commandment (“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”) made his decision not to run on Sunday an easy one.
“I purpose to value relationships in my life above everything else.”
There how hard was that? And how easy it will be now to make all of the decisions that relate to the lesser things of work, play and to resist the cry of life for more of you.
Our family history includes an old blue wingback chair that I named the “prayer chair.” My daughter, the early riser with me, would find me there and jump up on my lap for early morning prayer/chats.
We often took cemetery walks across from our home, studied the gravestone inscriptions and played Poohsticks from the bridge nearby. My wife and I occasionally roused the kids from bed for a surprise “pajama ride,” and when we didn’t I substituted “When I was a little boy” stories, tales from my past usually with a lesson.
My point is that being intentional doesn’t require money or props, just time.
Don’t wait to find the time, make the time. Whenever possible block it out in your schedule for the important relationships in your life. When it’s not possible consider what you can do to make it possible.
Say no to overtime
Resign your board position
Drop that second job and cut expenses
Make do with less so that relationships count for more
So before you end up singing Harry’s song, put these words to the wise into practice. They’re aimed at parents but work in any relationship:
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6.6,7)
The only real quality time is anytime.