Pointers for Parents:

“Daddy, Are You Going to Talk with Me?”

By Gary J. Coleman

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    Monday night at our home is special, not only because Dad and Mom are always there, but also because that occasion each week is a sacred, binding experience for our whole family.

    When the family home evening lesson or activity is completed, prayers are said, and our four little ones are ready for bed, we begin a special time that in priesthood language is called personal interview.

    In children’s language, though, it is phrased as a question: “Daddy, are you going to talk with me?”

    In these quiet moments before eyelids grow heavy with peaceful sleep, there is heartfelt communication between me and my children that evokes mutual feelings of love, security, and sincere concern. As each child asks to be first, I have that feeling that this Monday night assignment is again going to be a choice one. After spending a few moments with the baby who lies in her crib, I move away from her happy laughs and cooing to the boys’ room and into the top bunk alongside my four-year-old, now at rest from his constant wiggling. There we talk, father to son, as he entreats, “Can we talk about me tonight?”

    “Yes, son, we can talk about you.” Four-year-olds talk about interesting things, but they don’t stay on one subject very long. After five or ten minutes of real communication, the little fellow suggests that it’s time for Dad to go see someone else now; and after a kiss and a tight hug, I bail out of the top bunk to nestle beside an older son on the bottom bunk.

    This six-year-old has thoughts about going on a mission; of helping his mother; of happenings at school; of ball games and catching up with exciting heroes. Once or twice the little head above peeks over to see how we are doing, but soon it is quiet up there.

    I tell our oldest son of my experiences as a boy, about preparation for life’s tasks, and again that special communication flows. A loving and concerned father always keeps the lines of communication open to his children. There is yet another Father who seeks to have his children share their lives with him. I am sure he gives his blessings to these quiet moments of life sharing. Our seven-year-old daughter has been waiting patiently through these eternally long minutes and calls from her room, “Daddy, is it my turn yet?” Giving parting words of love and encouragement to our oldest son, I roll out of his bunk and, in passing, see the peacefully sleeping form of our littlest son in the top bed. This is the only night of the week that he falls asleep so quickly, as though the few special moments with Dad have erased all his worries and cares.

    As I settle down on my little daughter’s bed, she really bubbles over. She has so many things to talk about: school, friends, church, many questions about life, and at least two or three full-length stories from her favorite books.

    A little gentle counsel about modest dress length is given to her, and a word of encouragement about living gospel principles. Then I tell her to be sure to tell her mother every day that she loves her, and I share my testimony with her about our living prophet. Finally we go over the questions again that the bishop will ask her in a few short months at baptism time.

    This “personal interview” is filled with bond-building communication. It is among the greatest of teaching moments and a thrilling learning experience for me too. Again I express words of love and appreciation for her good life. Then I give her a hug and a kiss, and another child slips off to the land of dreams.

    By now the baby is asleep and the oldest son too. Peace prevails in our home, where once again our family has grown in love and understanding for each other.

    As I come into the quiet living room, I have some quiet conversation with my loving wife, the wonderful mother of our children. We hope that by following this pattern, we never get out of touch with our children or each other.

    Within the walls of our home, the priesthood pattern of communication is surely a sacred experience to renew and cherish each week.

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    • Brother Coleman teaches at the Spokane (Washington) Institute of Religion and serves as high councilor in the Spokane East Stake.