Quality Time

When my great-grandson, Isaiah, was four months old, his dad, my grandson, was working at Walmart stocking shelves and was there until at least six in the evening.  His mom got a job at a local grocery store starting at four in the afternoon.  They were living with my daughter who worked until five in the afternoon.  My daughter’s husband and my wife, Hazel, were both working for our oldest daughter’s husband who has a very successful construction business.  I happened to be employed as the pastor of a small church in rural Georgia.  Therefore, I was home most of the time.  So, I was glad to help out.  The plan was that Isaiah’s mom would drop him off at our house just before four o’clock and my daughter would pick him up a little after five after she got off from work.  I would have about an hour with him each day and I was looking forward to spending time with my little red-headed buddy.

All went as planned the first week but the following week, the mom showed up at noon and told me she had been called into work early and could I go ahead and take Isaiah.  When I walked out to the car to get him, I noticed several other people in the car.  I gave the mom a funny look and she quickly said, “These are my cousins.  I am dropping them off before I go to work.”  I took Isaiah knowing she was lying to me but I wanted to keep him safe.  This happened every day after that and every day I willing took Isaiah into my arms because this gave me an opportunity to have quality time with him.

Lunch was fun because he always took his bottle without any fuss and I would just hold him and talk to him the whole time.  His eyes would just twinkle as he drank his bottle and fixed his eyes on me.  After lunch was more pallet time.  But now I was down there with him.

I soon settled into a comfortable routine.  I would first change his diaper because it was always needed.  Then I would lay him on a pallet I made from a quilted bedspread with some toys while I made his lunch which consisted of formula in a bottle (and eventually, I started adding rice cereal because he needed the extra nourishment).  Lunch was fun because he always took his bottle without any fuss and I would just hold him and talk to him the whole time.  His eyes would just twinkle as he drank his bottle and fixed his eyes on me.  After lunch was more pallet time.  But now I was down there with him.  I would pick up a toy and say its name or its color.  I would get out his books and read to him – pointing to each word as I went along.  I would sing little songs to him and help him do the motions to “patty cake”.  We just had fun and I remember thinking that it was so neat to see the world through the eyes of Isaiah as he began discovering more and more about the world around him.

After playtime, it was time for another diaper change and then my favorite time was upon us.  Nap time.  Isaiah’s mom had given me strict instruction not to “spoil him by holding him when he took his nap.”  Well then, she should not have dropped him off with a great-grandfather.  Because that is exactly what I did.  I took him in my arms, sat down in my favorite rocking recliner, and rocked him to sleep.  And I would just watch him.  Every so often, he would open his eyes and look at me.  He smiled and went right back to sleep.  With each smile, my heart would melt and I would just love him more and more.  During this special time, I came to understand what Paul meant when he wrote about “…the peace that surpasses all understanding…”

I can’t remember when or why my babysitting time came to an end but it truly was a sad day for me.  As the years rolled by, many more changes would come into Isaiah’s life.  His dad and mom would divorce and his dad would gain custody of him.  Then when he was six years old, his dad would die due to an aortic aneurysm that was undetected.  My daughter and her husband would go to court and gain custody of him because his mother had problems with alcohol and drugs.  Today, as he is about to become twelve years old, he has begun middle school and lucky for me, I am once again able to help my daughter.  Each day after school, he rides the bus to our house.  Hazel fixes him a snack and a drink and I sit down and help him with his homework.  Once homework is done, the three of us play cards until our daughter comes to pick him up.  We laugh, we pick at Hazel together, we make faces at each other, we are buddies.  The bond he and I built so many years ago continues to this day.  And I pray every day that he and I will always have that bond with him because it gives him a safe place to come as he grows older and faces the challenges that come from teenage years, girl problems, more difficult school assignments, and growing into the man he will someday be.

I do this for two simple reasons.  First, I love him dearly – and that is enough reason to do what I do.  Second, I remember a conversation I had with my grandson.  I knew I was hard on him as he was growing up and asked him about it.  He told me that he understood that I wanted him to grow up to be a good man and that he finally realized I must really love him a lot to invest in him like that.  Then he said, “And Pa, I want you to ensure my son grows into a good man, too.”  I made a commitment to my grandson that I would and I will not let him down.

If you are going to be an exceptional leader, you must invest quality time in the people with whom you are working.  This means helping them grow, holding them responsible, nurturing them to be true to themselves, teaching them skills that lead to success, allowing them to fail and then picking them up, and most of all, caring for them.  Do this and you will beam with pride every time they succeed – every time they gain a promotion – every time they look at you and say thanks.  Be an exceptional leader.


Len Bernat
Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.

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  1. While I admit I may not be as astute as yourself, Dear Len Sir, I would go to any length ‘to nip the evil in the bud,’ as the saying goes. I do have a few similar experiences in my own life that may not fit the decorum of these groups if explained. However, suffice it to say, I have always been forthright in my dealings with others, and maintained decency to not burn the bridges unless absolutely paramount (yes, it’s true). No wonder, my family life and social life never collide at any stage.

    Coming back to “Quality Time,” yes, I salute you for the precious investment in little Isaiah, that shall bear plenty of fruit for all of you to share throughout your life.

    • Bharat – Yes, if she had been my daughter, I would have gone to any length to correct the problem. But one must always be careful when dealing with the wife of a relative – family relations must be handled with great skill. So, I had to allow my grandson to take the lead so she did not have the excuse that “your grandfather just doesn’t want to help us” or “your grandfather never did like me.” I hope you can see my point. Best regards, my Friend.

  2. As always, this article of yours, Dear Len Sir, makes an interesting, as well as instructional read. I can relate to almost every single word other than two instances. First, I do not have the pleasure of taking care of my great-grandchild, not even a grandchild yet, as our only child, our son refuses to get married while growing his business. I hope the day comes sooner than later. Where we have the similarities is that I left no stone unturned to connect with my son at every stage of his growing up, so much so that we have become best friends. The second point relates to a very surprising narration of yours. I am a little anxious relating to your willful neglect of the downward slide of Isaiah’s mother’s lifestyle. Perhaps, you should have checked it the very first day when you noticed she was lying. If you could correct someone on your team lying on his leave application, and then make him admit his folly with your leadership skills, I wonder what failed you here. Continued…

    • Bharat – Thank you for your comment. Be assured, I did not allow Isaiah’s mother to get away with her behavior. I took appropriate action by discussing this with my grandson – it was his wife and his responsibility to find out if my suspicions were true . This was one of the many reasons they ended up divorced. But the focus of my article was on the nurturing of Isaiah and I was willing to take him early whenever she showed up with him because he was not safe with her. Thank you, my friend for holding me accountable for my actions.

      • I have always admired your magnanimity, Len Sir, and this instance is no exception. It was not my intention to hold you ‘accountable.’ Far from it, I was more curious than anything else to know why you as the head of the family and also the prime witness to the commencement of the downslide did not confront her in any fashion at all. Perhaps, even a gentle nudge in the form of a corrective note at the right time would have made her aware not to take your kind gesture as her license to do whatever she wanted. Remember the age-old saying, ‘a stitch in time saves nine?’ Taking a look back would you consider inviting both your grandson and his ‘wife’ to address this highly unexpected behavior so things could start to heal rather than rupture? I guess that would have been another very important utilization of both your time as well as leadership skills.

        P.S. Kindly allow me to consider our ongoing friendship as impervious to minor discussions like the one above.

        Warm Regards

  3. I am struck by your willingness to be vulnerable in sharing this touching story to illustrate an important message, Len. But, I am not surprised by your compassion and commitment to another human being. I suspect the story would be very similar had this been a neighbor’s child or a stranger wandering down the street. You, my friend, are an example of values in action. Thank you for reminding all of us that these values have no boundaries and should be applied at work, at home, and everywhere we encounter other human beings.

    • Christine – Your kind words truly touched my heart. Wouldn’t this be a nicer world if we all strived to show kindness to others every day? We can – by letting kindness guide our own action – for kindness is contagious. Thank you for your kind words. You have made my day.

  4. This is beautiful, touching and warms my heart that there are still people in this world that spend quality time with children. Read with them. Interact with them. Thank you! Side note, I have a son who joined the Marines after high school. I have the utmost of respect for the service you provided our country. Thank you for your service.

    • Raissa – Investing time with our children teaches us so much and creates a lifetime of trust. These lessons can then carry into our leadership roles. Thank you for your kind comments and tell your son I said “Semper Fi”.