Southern Families

It was, to say the least, a shock when I found out my daughter thought I was a deadbeat.

And in the process of being told I was a worthless husband and provider and that if it wasn’t for mom we would be all living in a cardboard box, I learned a valuable lesson about perception.

In his book, In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters makes the point “perception is all there is.” It’s an old observation. Around our house when I was getting older (“growing up” is a different concept altogether,) I heard “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Also true.

To me, a child’s view of the world … their take on issues … is a source of constant entertainment. There are many lessons to be learned when you see things from a 4-year-old’s point of view.

About the deadbeat observation:

When Joanna was 4, Rebecca had to spend a couple of days in the hospital. Nothing serious. I knew why she was there. Joanna knew she was in the hospital, and that’s where sick people were. Rebecca and I had patiently explained that the hospital stay was routine and that Mom was not on death’s door. But, as is often painfully true, there is a broad difference between what is said and what is heard.

I had recently escaped from the advertising agency business and was working from home as a freelance writer. Most of my clients were people I had worked for before. Many came by the house and were no stranger to Joanna.

Joanna and I were driving home after a hospital visit. Joanna was quiet for a long time and then she started sobbing.

Quickly becoming the understanding and caring father I said “Honey, don’t worry. Everything is fine. Mom will be home tomorrow.”

She shot back: “I know that!”

“Then what’s wrong?”

Angry and accusatory: “What are we going to do about the money?”

Me, confused: “The money?”

Frustrated that I was such an idiot: “The money! If Mom doesn’t work she won’t get paid!  That means we won’t eat and be able to buy stuff!!”

Patiently, lovingly: “Sweetheart, I work.”

The truth comes out: “No you don’t! You just go downstairs and write stories for your friends!!”

There you have it. My daughter no doubt was telling everybody that I was staying at home goofing off with a bunch of buddies while Mom slaved to put food on the table. Not only that, Mom was stuck on the lowest rung of the economic ladder in an hourly job with no benefits. Joanna had decided we were barely above the poverty level.

It was a struggle not to go to her school, wave a fistful of currency, and point out that my daughter was mistaken about our current economic situation. But the reality was that my audience of 4 year olds would side with Joanna.

The trauma of impending economic ruin passed quickly, and, by the time we got near home, Joanna wanted to stop so I could buy her a cookie. I didn’t point out that 15 minutes earlier she thought I was broke.

Heaven knows what she had said about my business trips.

“Joanna, where is your dad?”

“He’s gone to Greenville to see a woman.”

“Oh. That’s nice.

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Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson is a professional mentalist and mind reader who presents his unique and unforgettable program to conventions, college and universities, sales meetings, private parties, business and civic clubs and more. He has also appeared at the Punchline Comedy Club in Atlanta and produces, along with Jerry Farber and Joe M. Turner, Atlanta Magic Night at the Red Light Cafe in Midtown. He is a member of the Psychic Entertainers Association, the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the Georgia Magic Club,Buckhead Rotary Club and Friends of Jim The Wonder Dog. You can learn more at He is the author of three books: "Living The Dream," the story of the first ten years of FedEx; "Superman, Hairspray, and the Greatest Goat On Earth," a collection of mostly true stories;, and "Yes Ma'am, You're Right: The Essential Rules For Living With A Woman."  Mark's day job is as a freelance writer and communications and marketing consultant. Mark has traveled around the world twice but has never been to Burlington, Vermont. He does not eat beets or chicken livers, and he has never read "Gone With The Wind." He is the only person he knows who was once a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists. He is a fifth generation Atlantan,  the father of three, and the grandfather of five. All offspring are demonstrably perfect. He lives in Smyrna with his wife Rebecca (aka The Goddess) and two dogs: Ferguson, an arrogant Scottish terrier; and, Lola, a Siberian husky who is still trying to figure out what the hell she's doing in Cobb County.