Like my father before me, I can be grumpy critical bastard at times, especially with my kids. LoudBoy gets his nickname for a reason and he literally bounces off the walls and couches at times. Birdsnest is like an extra seven year old mom half the time, sent here to boss around and nag her brother.
I like order in my house and though we don’t have too many rules, it seems like the handful of household rules are just too much to handle and there are frequent voice raisings and time-outs and such to try and achieve this order. Though Holly does her part to establish order as well, she also counter-balances it much more than me with snuggle time and sweetness and a high amount of emotional bonding. She strokes LoudBoy (literally and figuratively) and is sensitive to his hurts and fears since LoudBoy is a really sensitive guy. I have my moments with them, as I helped my son learn to ride his bike over the weekend (quick study) and love to sit next to both kids on the couch and read together or just hang under the covers and watch a movie, but am certainly more prickly than my wife, and often more prickly than I intend to be. Upon reflecting, I am often not happy with how I behave and try to resolve to do better, but it sometimes seem like I have a single button and they just know how to push it.
I’m not one to live in the past, so I resolve to get better, even in micrometers each day. I ran across an excerpt out of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. This story by W. Livingston Larned was included in the book. It hit a nerve with me, sort of like that song Cats in the Cradle.
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 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, 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.