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.
These 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 yelled 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." I frowned
and said in reply, "Hold your shoulders back!"
Then it began all over again in the afternoon. As I came up
the road, I saw you, down on your knees playing marbles.
There were holes in your socks. I humiliated you in front
of your friends by marching you ahead of me to the house.
Socks were expensive - and if you had to buy them you
would be more careful! Imagine that son, from your 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,
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 my neglect could not
wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the steps.
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 from you. I was measuring you by a
yardstick of my own years.
And there was so much that is good and fine in your
character. The little heart of yours 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
bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt here, ashamed.
It is a feeble atonement, I know. 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 to myself,
"He is just 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 bed, 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 of you, way too much.
Reprinted from The Reader's Digest, and How to Win
Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, 1936.
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