This morning we had “Books and Breakfast” at Yawlin’s school.  I got a sub for my morning crossing so that I could join my son for muffins, milk, and bananas.  The PTA hosts “Books and Breakfast” so that parents can enjoy a breakfast with their kids and read with them at the same time. 

We got our food and found a spot at one of the lunch tables in the cafeteria.  Between bites Yawlin read to me from his chosen book, “Wall-E.”  I munched on my poppy seed muffin and listened to him read.  While I listened I looked around at the others who had chosen to participate in “Books and Breakfast” too.  The room was full of moms and dads enjoying breakfast with their kids.  Some were reading to their young kids from picture books, those with older kids were listening while their kids read to them.  Some chose not to read but were laughing and talking with their kids, calling their friends over and interacting with them.

I watched a dad who was sitting across from us point to pictures of animals in a picture book and tell his son a little about each animal.  Then I noticed a dad and son sitting further down on the same bench we were sitting on.  The dad was engrossed in a thick book, reading silently, not eating.  The son had finished his muffin and banana and was sitting watching his dad read.  Every once in awhile the son would glance at a sports watch he was wearing on his wrist then look around the room.  He was clearly bored.  The book the dad was reading was obviously an adult book and would have held no interest for the son.  The dad just sat and read the entire time. 

Just before the first bell was to ring the dad looked up at the clock on the wall and said, “It’s time to go.”  The dad and son rose from the bench and I saw that there was a daughter who had been sitting on the other side of the dad.  The angle from where we sat had hidden her from me.  She too had just been sitting and waiting for her dad to finish reading.  The dad tucked his thick book under his arm and walked toward the garbage cans so that his kids could throw their plates and cups away.  No words were spoken.

Somehow this dad had missed the point of “Books and Breakfast.”  He missed out on an opportunity to enjoy the company of his kids.  He could have learned what books his kids like to read.  He could have discussed plot and ideas and characters.  He could have met some of his kids’ friends.  Or he could have simply visited with his kids and strengthened the relationship.  

Russell M. Nelson witnessed a similar incident between a husband and wife.  His account is found in the May 2006 Ensign:  

“On a recent flight, I sat behind a husband and wife. She obviously loved her husband. As she stroked the back of his neck I could see her wedding ring. She would nestle close to him and rest her head upon his shoulder, seeking his companionship.

In contrast, he seemed totally oblivious to her presence. He was focused solely upon an electronic game player. During the entire flight, his attention was riveted upon that device. Not once did he look at her, speak to her, or acknowledge her yearning for affection.

His inattention made me feel like shouting: “Open your eyes, man! Can’t you see? Pay attention! Your wife loves you! She needs you!”

I feel sad for the missed opportunities that the dad this morning and the husband in Elder Nelson’s story experienced.  And they aren’t even aware that they missed opportunities to strengthen the relationships they have with loved ones!  But, rather than judge, I reflect instead on my own life.  How many times have I been too engrossed in a tv show or in reading the newspaper to really listen to what my kids are saying to me?  How many times have they heard me mumble, “Mmmhmm,” as I’ve continued with whatever is holding my attention, instead of stopping what I am doing and really listening?  Have there been times that I haven’t given Hub the attention he might be craving?

What I witnessed this morning has served as a gentle reminder for me to not let opportunities for building on a relationship pass by.  It has reminded me to pay attention!  

When Yawlin and I finished eating he continued to read to me from “Wall-E” because he wanted to finish the chapter.  When he was done I told him that he’s a great reader.  He smiled.  We threw our trash away and hugged, then he went out onto the playground to await the first bell and I went to the parking lot to get my car.  I knew I had a topic for today’s post.

A reminder for me.  A reminder for all of us.