A Lesson in Fatherhood AND Motherhood

I’m reading an amazing book by Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends and Influence People. It’s an oldie but a thought provoking read on personal development. Within the very first pages I found something that had me reevaluating my existing parenting techniques.  The book shares a short story called “Father Forgets” and it really resonated with me. Now, I’m sharing this for mothers and fathers because the scenario can easily be seen from both perspectives, not just one or the other.

Far too often I find myself criticizing my daughter for not doing things as I think she should. Not going fast enough, asking too many questions, or not cleaning up her mess. I read this and immediately knew I was wrong for my criticisms. My expectations of perfection are unrealistic. I have many faults and I should not be holding my children to higher standards than I hold myself. She’s a child and I should encourage her to be a child. Pushing her to do adult things will push her to grow up too fast, something I certainly do NOT want. So from my heart to yours, I hope you enjoy and feel the inspiration that I felt as I read this.

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.

There are 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 you 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, form 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 your 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 tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing buy 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.


photo credit: conorwithonen and makepocketpussy via photopin cc


  1. Renae C. says:

    I think I have made my son think he needs to be perfect by being overly critical sometimes. I am now working to let him know that it is okay to fail, that he should try again. and not give up on himself. It is a difficult road to walk!

  2. paula huie says:

    great perspective, being a parent at times it’s hard not to be judgmental, i think there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. I want my kids to be better and more successful than i was i want them to go further and do more. I totally agree they are only small for such a short time, let them enjoy being a child :)

  3. Powerful stuff… And very timely for me, as I was guilty of this very thing just yesterday with my oldest. Thanks for sharing it!

  4. LisaLisa says:

    Great post! I find myself being judgmental too but I do agree with Paula there really is no wrong or right way to do it. Let them enjoy being a child everything will fall into place when the time is right…I just pray that mine too will become more successful.

  5. Michele says:

    I don’t know why parents do this to their children–it was and still is done to me (I am 62)–never praise–always criticism-

  6. This is such an amazing post, and I know I can relate to it. I bet most parents can, and it was a pleasure to read it.

  7. Beautifully written post. Thanks for sharing!

  8. great post. We all need to remember to slow down and focus on our kids. We can all relate i’m sure!

  9. miranda leigh says:

    theres my tear jerker for the day <3

  10. Pixie Dust Savings (@PixieDustSaving) says:

    I think this applies to everyone in our life, not just kids. :)

  11. Shannon Gregory says:

    What a great post, really makes you think. I think I am way to critical of my children sometimes, or anyone really. Sometimes expectations are set to high and I have to remind myself that they are just kids. thanks again for the great post

  12. Billie @ Rowell Reviews says:

    It is very hard to remember that a child is a child and not hold them to the standards we hold ourselves to.

  13. Definitely a great post – I try to remember to step back and focus on the kids but occasionally life does get the best of me. Awesome perspective.

  14. Reesa L says:

    What a wonderful, beautiful post!

  15. Great post! I can totally relate. I find myself the hardest on my oldest child. After I get mad at him for something, I realize he’s only 7! I expect far too much of him! I am working on changing this! I think twice before yelling and try to think…he’s 7 is this a reasonable expectation?

  16. Corinne says:

    I thought I was so careful when I had my son by watching my words, only to belie them with my actions! As I was telling him what a great job he did making his bed, I was straightening the comforter and fluffing the pillow. Actions really do speak louder than words so make sure the two are aligned!

  17. Holly @ Woman Tribune says:

    I have heard a lot about “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and it is one of those books that I had always meant to pick up and read but never did. I’m regretting that right about now. This book is definitely on my must-read list! That story was an amazing read by itself.

  18. Christy Maurer says:

    Love this post! You have it right. They grow up much too fast. It seems it was only yesterday I was getting frustrated over temper tantrums and now they are teenagers!

  19. Melinda Dunne says:

    Great post! I am not a perfect mother by any means but I do try to be aware of what I say. I really encourage my son to be his own person and I think he really respects that about me. We are very close but I let him be who he is. My husband would like him to be more athletic etc but that really isn’t who he is. He likes books and computers.

  20. Amy Gramelspacher says:

    Thanks for the great post. Parenthood is hard!

  21. Mama o 5 blessings says:

    Hat a convicting post, I do the same with my kids unrealistic, than k ou :)

  22. LaVonne says:

    I am guilty of saying “no” more than yes, raising my voice too often, and not praising and loving enough. I am working on it though. Your post is exactly what I am dealing with and trying to correct as well. Thanks for the great reminder too. Blessings!

  23. Amanda Joy says:

    Every time I read this story I reevaluate. I needed this right now for my Miss Opinionated Just Like Her Mommy, Abbie :)

  24. Loreina says:

    I think we’re probably all guilty of this a lot more than we’d like to admit! Maybe not everyone, but I know I am. What a great reminder! Sometimes, we just need to sit back, be thankful, and relax. It really isn’t that big of a deal! :)

  25. Lexie Lane says:

    I think good parents are the ones who can get perspectives like you just did. There are parents who are in complete denial of everything and think they do everything right and their kids are wrong. Sometimes we have to admit when we are. Thanks for such a thought provoking post.

  26. That’s a beautiful, heartwarming book and i think a must read for any parent. I am happy to have stopped by. I need new bedside read and will put this on my list. I really like those author that affirm life’s positivity and how accepting we should be at all times

  27. Jennifer @ Money Aches says:

    Great post! It is a wonderful reminder to let kids be kids and not expect to much from them all of the time.

  28. MzBaker @ Daleville Alabama Kitchens says:

    I’m far from perfect but I always try to make my sweet boy feel good about everything even if he doesn’t think he was successful at something! He has autism and so I just remember he’s not exactly like me as far as understanding. He’s my Baby even though’ he’ll be 10 next month!

  29. Awesome perspective on this! I find myself being tough on my girls and have to remind myself to take a step back – they are only kids, afterall!

  30. Rebecca at Love2EncourageYou says:

    It’s amazing to know how much of an impact our words and actions affect our children isn’t it? My father made me read that book as a teen years ago and I am thankful for his wisdom in sharing it. There are a lot of wonderful parts to it that can be applied throughout our years and stages in life. Thanks for inspiring others by sharing parts of a super book. :)

  31. Lena Blair says:

    I think I needed to read this, I am pretty hard on my kids a lot, my son possibly has ADHD and ODD and I haven’t quite learned how to deal with him the right way and my daughter is turning into the typical teenager so its pretty hard sometimes

  32. SABRINA dIX says:

    Great post! We have to remember the important things in life.

  33. Lisa Ladrido says:

    Loved this post and thank you! How many times did I do just that? Sadly many. Now that the boys are all gone the silence in this house is deafening. Thank you for this reminder.

  34. Safiyyah says:

    I believe this applies to everyone. This is a great topic.

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