Father forgets, originally appeared as an editorial in People’s Home Journal and showcased in Dale Carniegie’s “How to win friends and influence people”, is a classical and evergreen poem by W. Livingston Larned. The following is the original poem.
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
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
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,
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.
Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness. “To know all is to forgive all.”
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