‘Father Forgets’

by Paul Goodchild on October 7, 2009

Attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/atcevik/140493231/I started re-reading today, probably one of the biggest books of the 20th century, namely How to win friends and influence people, by Dale Carnegie. It’s a great book, there’s little disputing that, and I’m going to share just one aspect from the first principle which is, incidently:

Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain

I could go into that principle further, but you’re better of just getting hold of the book, and it’s fairly self-explanatory anyway.  But there is a section that takes the Readers Digest of a piece of writing called “Father Forgets”, by Dr. Livingston Larned, that really is very moving.  I’ve reproduced the text here, since by my understanding there is little issue with copyright in this case.  Take just a moment to relax and savour the feelings that you get as you read this.  See if you can apply your thoughts to any aspects of your life and relationships you may have right now…

Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp 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 the 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 out 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, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and 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 you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive – and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine 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, impatient 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 threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, 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 afterwards that my paper slipped 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 was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not 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 itself 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 bed-side in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a 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 bite 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!”

I 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.

As Dale Carnegie suggested, we would do well to try to understand people, instead of first condemning them; to figure out why they do what they do – “… it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness.

I hope that’s at least thought-provoking start/end to your day.

Comments are welcome below, as is sharing this with others using the links.  Thank you.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ems October 8, 2009 at 14:26

Thanks for the reminder! I have to say I was sitting in the living room the other day feeding the baby, as alfie (2) started to removed the big basket beside the fireplace and his sisters toy mat and place them right in the middle of the floor. I had no idea why he was “making such a mess” and “playing with things that weren’t his toys when he had a room full of other things to occupy him” so i told him to leave the basket etc alone and stop mucking about. In my own frustration I watched on as he blanked my comments and continued hisown little project going back into the corner to pull out a whole lot of his wee books that had fallen down the side of the sofa. He happily picked them up and then placed everything else back where he had got it! I was filled with an overwhelming sense of guilt for tellinghim off thinking he was trying to get attention from me while I was feeding but in actually fact he was just getting his wee books so i could read him some stories.

At that moment I put the baby down lifted him in my arms gave him a massive big hug apologised for scolding him and smothered him in kisses.

Everything he was doing made sense in his head but he couldn’t explain it to me, especially when I was so quick to jump to my own conclusions anyway there was no point in him trying to explain!!


Paul Goodchild October 12, 2009 at 15:00

Yea, that’s exactly it… everything everyone does makes sense in their own heads, we just don’t understand it necessarily. Best to sit back and watch as it unfolds before stamping our opinions over it because “we know better” 🙂


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