Father’s Day reminder
Livingston Larned, is one of the classics of American journalism. On this Father’s Day weekend I would like to share it with fathers everywhere.
“Listen, son; I am saying this as you lie asleep. I have stolen into your room alone. Guiltily, I came to your bedside. I scolded you as you dressed for school. You gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I called out angrily when you dropped 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. As you started off to play you called, ‘Goodbye, Dad!’ I frowned and said, ‘Hold your shoulders back!’
“When I came home from work I found you on your knees playing marbles. Your jeans were dirty. I humiliated you in front of your friends by marching you in the house ahead of me. ‘ Jeans are expensive,’ I said, ‘If you had to buy them you would be more careful!’ Imagine that, son, from a father!”
“Later, as I was reading in the living room, you came in timidly with a sort of hurt look in your eyes. I glanced up, impatient at the interruption. You said nothing, but ran and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me. Then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.
“What has been happening to me? The habit of faultfinding, of criticizing—this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I didn’t love you; it was that I expected too much of youth.
“Your little heart is as big as the dawn over the wide hills. Nothing else matters tonight, Son, I have come to your bedside in the darkness and knelt here, ashamed. It is feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you.
“But tomorrow I will be a real Daddy! I will chum with you, suffer when you suffer and laugh with you when you laugh. And when impatient words come I will bite my tongue. I will remember to say to myself, ‘He is just a little boy, nothing but a little boy!’”
The poet was speaking directly to fathers when he wrote:
“I am your son.
You hold in your hand my destiny,
You determine, largely, whether I shall succeed or fail.
Give me those things that make for happiness.
Train me, so I may be a blessing to the world.”
Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years before retiring. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.