“Daddy, I’m Talking to You”


“Daddy, I’m talking to you,” yelled my four-year-old son. Suddenly my conversation with my wife dwindled as I focused on my son. I don’t know how long he had been trying to get my attention. Later, I thought about the incident and for the first time I really realized that my son had more needs than eating, sleeping, and playing. I had demanded that he respect my rights as a father, but perhaps I had neglected his rights as a son.

This experience made me more aware of my son and his reactions to my example. For example, one day I asked my son to bring his toys inside the house. I was astonished when he said he was “too tired.” Too tired—a three-year-old who can run and play all day? Where did he get that poor excuse? Then a scene flashed into mind of the previous day, when my son had asked me to wrestle with him. What was my answer? I was “too tired.” Or the time he wanted me to play catch again I was “too tired.”

Admitting my guilt, I resolved to do better. Days later. I asked my son to pick up his clothes and put them away. This time he was “too busy.” I remembered the time he wanted a bedtime story, and the time he wanted me to lie down with him. I had been “too busy.” (One of my favorite television programs was just beginning.)

There it was again: another revelation of my selfishness. I had been placing my personal wants over the needs of my children. Once again I vowed to spend more time with my sons. Only hugging them, kissing them, and telling them I loved them didn’t fool them. They needed to jump, wrestle, and play with me too.

Now I participate in more of their activities. When I can’t, I explain why and promise to do it at a specific time. Then I keep my promise. I have an inner peace when I go to sleep knowing I consider the needs of my children and give them my time.

I’ve built tunnels and castles in sand piles and played with trucks. Praying and playing with them have helped me develop a wonderful relationship with them.

With anything that takes effort, a reward comes. My reward came after an especially good half hour with my son. He wrapped his arms around my neck, gave me an affectionate kiss on the cheek, and said. “I love you, Dad.”

[illustration] Illustrated by Del Parson

Dan L. Johnston, a management analyst for the Veterans Administration, is the father of three children and serves as assistant ward clerk in the Tucson Tenth Ward, Tucson Arizona East Stake.