While reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” I was really moved by the essay posted below. My favorite sentence in it is: The habit of finding fault, a 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.
Now that I have been a parent for a couple of years I have continually tried to think about how I want my child to grow up and the values that I am showing her on a daily basis. It never ceases to amaze me how much you have to learn as you grow up. You literally come into this world knowing nothing, and it shows by how young children act. Ever since I read this I have become more mindful of how angry I get at my baby for the things that she does (like when she throws the cat food in the cat’s water four times in one day, haha). It really does become a habit to instantly get angry at her actions before thinking that she is really just interested in playing and trying new things out in the world. I cannot view my experience in the world and expect her to know what to do and not to do. She has many years left to learn. My wife and I will just have to keep guiding her in the right direction and hope that she turns out as a good person.
This story talks about a parent to child relationship but it goes much further than that. On an everyday basis you expect people to act like you want them to, and when they don’t you criticize and are offended by their actions and “intentions.” The problem is you can’t expect people to act like you because everyone grew up and live different experiences on a daily basis. As for intentions, you will never know what the intentions of others actions are, so why worry about it. Try to see others actions at a deeper then what you believe their intentions convey.
Please take a minute to read the story below. I hope it touches others in the same way it did to me.
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, a 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 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 tounge 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 visualised 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.