Listen to this post:
Disraeli’s bitterest rival in public life was the great Gladstone. These two clashed on every debatable subject under the Empire, yet they had one thing in common; the supreme happiness of their private lives.
William and Catherine Gladstone lived together for fifty-nine years, almost three score years glorified with an abiding devotion. I like to think of Gladstone, the most dignified of England’s Prime Ministers, clasping his wife’s hand and dancing around the hearthrug with her, singing this song:
“A ragamuffin husband and a rantipoling wife,
We’ll fiddle it and scrape it through the ups and downs of life.”
Gladstone, a formidable enemy in public, never criticized at home. When he came down to breakfast in the morning, only to discover that the rest of his family was still sleeping, he had a gentle way of registering his reproach. He raised his voice and filled the house with a mysterious chant that reminded the other members that England’s busiest man was waiting downstairs for his breakfast, all alone. Diplomatic, considerate, he rigorously refrained from domestic criticism.
And so, often, did Catherine the Great. Catherine ruled one of the largest empires the world has ever known. Over millions of her subjects she held the power of life and death. Politically, she was often a cruel tyrant, waging useless wars and sentencing scores of her enemies to be cut down by firing squads. Yet if the cook burned the meat, she said nothing. She smiled and ate it with a tolerance that the average American husband would do well to emulate.
Dorothy Dix, America’s premier authority on the causes of marital unhappiness, declares that more than fifty per cent of all marriages are failures; and she knows that one of the reasons why so many romantic dreams break up on the rocks of Reno is criticism – futile, heart-breaking criticism.
So, if you want to keep your home life happy, remember Rule 3:
And if you are tempted to criticize the children… you imagine I am going to say don’t. But I am 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. We are reprinting it here with the author’s permission – reprinting it as it was condensed in the Reader’s Digest:
“Father Forgets” is 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 favourite. Since its first appearance, some fifteen years ago, “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 programmes. Oddly enough, college periodicals have used it, and high-school magazines. Sometimes a little piece seems mysteriously to ‘click.’ This one certainly did.”
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, “Good-bye, 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 boy 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 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. It 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 goodnight. 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.