By Zan Tyler
The phone rang early one Monday morning in January. I was already at my desk, writing and working. “Too early to be a telemarketer,” I thought. So I glanced at the caller ID on my phone and saw that it was my son Ty.
As a medical device salesman, Ty rises early and is on the road in the wee hours of the morning, traveling to various hospitals in his territory. I cherish these calls from Ty when he is traveling, as it is an unhurried time to chat, fellowship, and catch up on his life and his family’s life.
I picked up the phone and immediately sensed the urgency in his voice: “Mom, have you talked to Papa this morning?” (Papa is my 90-year-old father, whom we all love dearly.)
“No, Honey, I haven’t. What’s wrong?”
Ty continued: “He called me early this morning. He has hurt his back and can hardly move because the pain is so severe. He asked me which doctor he should see and if I could get him an appointment as soon as possible. I’m working on it now and I’ll call you as soon as I have worked something out. Meanwhile you might want to go check on him. He didn’t want to bother you this early in the morning.”
Wow. I hung up the phone, and as I reflected on this call, there was so much to marvel at on so many levels.
My mind flashed back to our twenty-one years of homeschooling and all the time my children were able to spend with my parents and Joe’s parents as they were growing up. My sons are two years apart in age, and the noise and activity level they generated as little boys often drove my father to distraction. Somehow in the midst of the craziness, they forged deep relationships together. And just like the boys used to go to Papa for help and support, now he is coming to them. Role reversal.
Dad has helped Ty at many junctures in his career by arranging meetings with key people in both the medical and legal communities in South Carolina. My father is an attorney by training and served as a trustee on the Baptist Hospital board for twenty-five years. He is still a director on a long-term acute care hospital board. He knows the medical community here, and yet he was calling Ty for help and advice. Role reversal.
Ty went to work and arranged for me to take Dad to a wide range of doctor appointments quickly. On Friday, just four days later, Dad had surgery. Ty rose at 4:30 that morning to pick Dad up and take him to the hospital. (Joe and I arrived an hour later.) Ty knows the doctors, the Operating Room nurses, the procedures, and the protocols. And just like Dad used to say when he had arranged important meetings for Ty, “I want you to meet my grandson; take good care of him,” Ty was in that hospital introducing Dad to doctors, nurses, and hospital staff saying, “This is my grandfather; take good care of him.” Role reversal.
Dad had out-patient surgery. On the Saturday after his surgery, he called John, my second son, who is now an attorney. He wanted John to come visit with him and provide some legal advice about a couple of issues. Role reversal. John brought his two little boys with him—my precious active and talkative grandsons. While John visited with Dad and talked to him about his concerns, I took those two little boys downstairs to play in the same room their dad and uncle used to play in when they were rambunctious little tykes. Role reversal.
The week after his surgery, Dad had to be readmitted to the hospital. Ty, Joe, and I were out of town. My sister flew in to care for Dad. John, who is a true shepherd, rearranged his demanding work schedule to visit Dad, run errands for my sister, and provide a measure of calmness and care for them. Role reversal.
My daughter Lizzy lives five hours away and has been in her current job only for a little over a year—so she has little time off. Although she can’t visit Dad often in person, she is faithful to call. My mom used to call Lizzy “her ray of sunshine,” and she is definitely that for Dad as well. She makes him smile and, at times, laugh out loud at her stories and musings. I can picture Lizzy as a toddler, staring out our dining room window—waiting for Dad to pick her up. “Where is Papa?” she would ask impatiently. She couldn’t wait to see him. And now Dad feels the same way about Lizzy—she lights up his life in such a special way. Role reversal.
Why am I writing about this in a homeschooling column? Now that my twenty-one years of homeschooling are complete, I hope that the following five thoughts will give you a perspective that can be difficult to grasp or appreciate while you are in the trenches.
When we’re in the midst of homeschooling, we sometimes think it will never end. There is so much to do all day, every day, that it is hard to remember that your children will grow up and be on their own. Like my friends Deb Bell and Lori Lane often say, “Homeschool with the end in mind.” Remember that the goal is to raise children who grow up to love and seek the Lord and who will love and bless those around them. (And these are the two most important commandments.)
Academics are important; relationships are vital. Couch your academics in relationships as much as possible. (That’s a separate article, but I wanted to plant the seed here.)
Children benefit from relationships with people of all ages. The key ingredient in most relationships is time. Homeschooling is a double blessing here, because it provides you with the time you need to develop relationships with grandparents, neighbors, church members, etc., and it easily allows for a multigenerational approach to life.
I found that I had to be intentional over the years in making sure we saw grandparents. I would often pencil visits in my plan book and include them as part of our school day. At different times, I felt a need to prepare my children for visits with their grandparents so that meaningful conversations could occur. Sometimes we would focus on the fact that both granddads are World War II veterans, and we would draft questions at home to ask them about their experiences.
Another idea that worked well was a journal swap that Lizzy and Joe’s mom kept up for almost two years—one would write a question that the other would answer and vice versa. (If you have to document your school day, these visits for us included sociology, psychology, history, and composition.)
And finally, pray with your kids. Pray over math. Pray for their grandparents. Pray for the neighborhood kids. Pray for your church. Pray for the government. Pray in the midst of their squabbles. Pray together. Every time you pray with them, you are teaching your children to seek the Lord in every aspect of their lives—and the Lord is looking for those who seek him (Psalm 14:2, Psalm 53:2). One of the greatest gifts my grown children give to me and to their grandparents is the gift of prayer. What a blessing when they share how they have prayed with one of their grandparents. What a blessing it is to me when they sense something is wrong and ask to pray for me—on the phone or in person.
Children grow up. It tends to sneak up on you in the midst of the demands and routines of life, and all of a sudden roles begin to reverse. All four grandparents have been a significant source of blessing and help in our children’s lives. Now our children are truly a blessing to them. I am seeing the truth of Proverbs 17:6 fleshed out before my very eyes: “Children’s children are the crown of old men” (Amplified).
Sometimes I shudder to think that as a college student there were two things I said I would never do—teach or have kids. How barren my life would have been and would be without the blessing of our three children. Children are truly a gift and undeserved reward from the Lord.
P.S.: John is now 31, married to a wonderful Christian woman, has two amazing children, and is an attorney.
Zan is the Director of Apologia Press, a division of Apologia Educational Ministries; the author of 7 Tools for Cultivating Your Child’s Potential; and an international speaker. Her goal is to empower and encourage parents in the eternally significant task of homeschooling. Zan and Joe homeschooled their three children from kindergarten through high school for a total of twenty-one years.