This timeless piece is written 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 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 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 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 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 visualised 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, yet given too little of
myself. Promise me, as I teach you to have the manners of a man, that you will remind
me how to have the loving spirit of a child.