Officer Dave Johnson, a twenty-year veteran of the San Jose police force, describes in his book, The Light Behind the Star, responding to the suicide of a young man named Mark. The boy’s father ran onto the scene asking, “Is it Mark? Is it my son? Where is he? Where’s my son?”
Dave set the father in his patrol car. The man began to tell him that his 24-year-old son had left the house the night before and had not returned. He and his son hadn’t gotten along very well through the years. Then the man said, “I guess we never did have a very good family life.”
No family starts out wanting a bad family. Yet somewhere down the road something goes wrong. Actually, it usually is not a single event, but a series of mistakes and misfortunes that cause the family to venture off on a side road of despair and disappointment.
Often the missing ingredient in a family gone bad is time spent with each other. Spending time with each other is how families overcome their separateness. It is fundamental to understanding. And, it is prerequisite for love.
Connection is essentially linked to time. Time is like oxygen—there’s a minimum amount that’s necessary for survival. And it takes quantity as well as quality to develop warm and caring relationships. Kids don’t always have their problems on parent’s quality time. The fact remains that if one gives quantity time with their family they will get quality time in return.
The number of hours spent at work has increased dramatically in recent years. And, who loses? Time with the family, of course. Parents spend 40 percent less time with their children than they did 25 years ago, according to an analysis by the Family Research Council. In the mid-60’s, an average parent spent about 30 hours per week with a child. Today, the average parent spends only 17 hours. This means no time for cheering on a daughter’s soccer game, hearing about Junior’s fourth grade teacher over dinner, or strolling through the neighborhood on a twilight walk.
A man worked for a television studio, but, unlike so many in the TV industry who seldom watch television themselves, was addicted to it. He spent little or no time with his two children or his wife. In fact, his kids hardly knew they had a dad. All they knew was that someone living there watched TV all the time.
Needless to say, his marriage was hurting. For some reason, however, he and his wife decided to attend a Marriage Enrichment Conference, and that weekend literally changed his life. He realized his priorities were totally wrong and that he was setting a bad example for his children.
When he got home following the conference, the first thing he did was take the television from the family room and store it in the garage. Then he took a family portrait he had stuffed away in a closet and hung it on the wall where the television used to be.
Next, he called his wife and two children into the family room for a family council meeting. As he shared with them his new set of priorities and asked for their forgiveness, his 12-year-old son interrupted him and said, “Dad, now that there is a picture of our family where the television used to be, does this mean we are going to be a family now?”
This husband and father had made a giant step, from spending night after night doing nothing of value, to deciding to be a dad who cared about his family and did something tangible about it.
We must be diligent to screen out any attacks—vicious or otherwise—that would rob us from spending time with our family. Spending time with our family is our right. Frank Minirth, M.D., states, “A child’s birthright is the right to spend time with his family.” And every other member of the family has that right, too.
Let not your family be another victim that says, “I guess we never did have a very good family life.”
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