A Father Forgets…and so do I

Sometimes I forget.  I forget how little they are.  I spend my days caught up in the midst of raising them and I forget to see them just as they are.  Instead I see the potential they have and I push them to be their best.  I spend my days correcting them.  Guiding them.  Leading them.  The problem is that I don’t always do it patiently. 

Then something happens.  I am given just enough grace to see them just as they are.  Not as I perceive them.  Not as I desire them to be.  Just as they are.  Full of love and trust.  Vulnerable.  So eager to please.  I suddenly see a little boy standing before me, with knobby knees, feet that he still needs to grow into, and eyes filled with love…and faith.  Faith in me.  Faith that I am treating him by the golden rule.  Faith that I am showing him what it means to be a loving parent.  And I am faced with the realization that I fall short of what it is that I am called to show him. 

I lie awake many nights replaying the day over and over again.  Only this time when I relive the events of the day, it is not my children I am correcting.  It is me.  No longer do I bark commands, but instead I listen.  No longer do I rush them to hurry along, but instead I realize that the process is more important than the product.  As I replay the day, I am quick to smile, slow to anger.  I promise myself that tomorrow will be a better day.  Tomorrow I will remember what it means to be little and I will respect that.               

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.

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 yourface 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 wereholes 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.

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