Father Forgets
W. Livingston Larned
introduction and afterword by Dale Carnegie

   
Often parents are tempted to criticize their children. You would expect me to say "don't."  But I will not.  I am merely going to say, "Before you criticize them, read one of the classics of American journalism, 'Father Forgets.'"  It originally appeared as an editorial in the People's Home Journal. . . .

"Father Forgets" s one of those little pieces which--dashed off in a moment of sincere feeling--strikes an echoing chord in so many readers as to become a perennial reprint favorite.  Since its first appearance, "Father Forgets" has been reproduced, writes the author, W. Livingston Larned, "in hundreds of magazines and house organs, and in newspapers the country over.  It has been reprinted almost as extensively in many foreign languages.  I have given personal permission to thousands who wished to read it from school, church, and lecture platforms.  It has been 'on the air' on countless occasions and programs.  Oddly enough, college periodicals have used it, and high-school magazines.  Sometimes a little piece seems mysteriously to 'click.'  This one certainly did.


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.  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 in front of your friends 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 slid 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 my 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.


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."

As Dr. Johnson said:  "God himself, sir, does not propose to judge man until the end of his days."

Why should you and I?

   
  

This grandfather of all people-skills books was first published in 1937. It was an overnight hit, eventually selling 15 million copies. How to Win Friends and Influence People is just as useful today as it was when it was first published, because Dale Carnegie had an understanding of human nature that will never be outdated. Financial success, Carnegie believed, is due 15 percent to professional knowledge and 85 percent to "the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people." He teaches these skills through underlying principles of dealing with people so that they feel important and appreciated.

  
    


 
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