Father forgets

As I was reviewing my 2011 imperatives – the 11 things I wanted to do in 2011, I realized that one of my imperatives ‘Read one book per month’ was not going to happen since I had read only 6. So I got into panic mode because not only do I establish objectives or imperatives but I intend on reaching them. I found a gem… a book that I had not read since 2004. I mean that counts right? That could contribute to my ‘Read one book per month’ imperative?

What I found was not a book but an experience? It’s called ‘How to win friends and influence people ‘ by Dale Carnegie. This is a classic; it was originally written in 1936 but before you write it off by saying ‘yeah but it’s an old book’ what I have learned from personal optimization and peak performance is that no matter how old classics are, we really haven’t changed as people. I mean you won’t find references to Blackberries and Facebook but the way we interact with people has not changed. You read a book in the next twenty years from now about human interactions you will see commonalities as to how people felt in the early 1900’s.

Dale Carnegie suggests to not only read the book but to re-read each chapter, to think about how to apply some of his concepts and practice it – sounds like another imperative for 2011!

I want to share with you a passage that Carnegie found and re-printed in his book. Carnegie wanted to emphasize the point of how parents criticize their children and before they criticize them again, they should read a passage of American journalism that was written by another author,  W. Livingston Larned, called ‘Father forgets ‘.

Criticism brings about guilt. Guilt will haunt you. Guilt is only good if you recognize it and as per Carnegie, you learn from it as this passage adequately illustrates.

This passage refers to what a father says to his sleeping son but it applies to mothers too and really anybody that is dear to you. The passage struck me. Read then re-read to get the full effect on why criticism should be avoided.


Father Forgets
W. Livingston Larned

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 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. 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 said in reply, ’Hold your shoulders back!’

Then it began all over in the late afternoon. As I came up to 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 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, or 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 fears.

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 bedside 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.


  1. Olivier Renaud December 5, 2011at22:02

    Quite the blog post dad,
    It reminds me of an incredible movie I have watched not too long ago. “The Tree of Life”…

    1. Paul December 6, 2011at05:41

      Glad you enjoyed it buddy. The book is excellent – only 15 millions copies sold since the time it was written!


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