I was blown away by this Reader’s Digest piece called “FATHER FORGETS” by W. Livingston Larned which was printed a long time ago. It’s the type of thing that would go viral today had it come out now. The kind of thing that everyone shares in emails before the social interwebs came on the scene.
As a father of three and under a great deal of pressure juggling many things at once, I have been guilty of forgetting what’s most important in life on occasion. I will use this as a reminder to stop myself from ever getting upset with my children and never lose sight of the fact that they will only be this young and precious for a brief time in my life. I don’t want to miss any moments and I don’t want to every make them feel bad for being kids and doing what comes naturally. Of course it doesn’t mean we should let them run wild and do whatever they want. We should always step in and guide them when they get into trouble. I just know that MOST of the time we don’t have to get as upset as we do and MOST of the time we should stop what we are doing and appreciate them more and tell them how we feel too.
Anyway, I think this is so good. I first came across it in a book by Dale Carnegie. Here’s the audio book version of the passage.
I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumbled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your dump forehead.
I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me.
Guiltily, I came to your bedside. There are things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel, I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called you angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor, at breakfast I found fault, too.
You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Good-bye Daddy!” and I frowned, and I said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back!”.
Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road, I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stocking Were Expensive -and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Image that, son, from a father!
Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, inpatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want” I snapped.
You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and through you arms around my neck and kissed, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone pattering up the stairs.
Well, Son, it was shortly afterwords that my paper slept from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding – this way my reward for being a boy.
It wasn’t that I didn’t love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.
And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn it self over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good-night.
Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your beside in the darkness, and I have knelt there ashamed!
It is feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bight my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing but a boy – a little boy!” am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.