Father Forgets

Kirk Kreikemeier |

Rather than some tax ladened post about marginal rates and Roth conversions, I thought I would share a classic poem I came across years ago.  During this time of year, the excitement and innocence of youth abounds.  But it is also present year-round.  After the holiday season passes and the grind sets in, continue to recognize this and encourage them accordingly… but without “measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.”

Father Forgets
by W. Livingston Larned

Listen, son; I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your
cheek and the blond curls sticky 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 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

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 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.


Posted by Kirk, a fee-only financial advisor who looks at your complete financial picture through the lens of a multi-disciplined, credentialed professional. www.pvwealthmgt.com