A Child’s Grace (poem)

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A Child’s Grace

My father was saying Grace one night.
I looked at our table, covered with food.
I was usually happy at dinnertime
but this time I fell into a serious mood.

He said, “Dear Lord, we humbly thank You
for nourishing our bodies with this meal”
but then he said “while some go without”
and I wasn’t sure just how I should feel.

“While some go without.”
The words rang in my ears.
I thought of what that meant
and my eyes filled with tears.

My mother noticed my sadness
and asked, “Honey, what’s wrong?”
But I had trouble finding words
for a feeling so strong.

Then I said, “Mama, I’m worried
I haven’t been thankful enough
for all the food on our table
and this house full of . . . stuff.”

She told me, “It’s okay, dear.
That means you have a good heart.
But to show God you’re thankful,
you just have to start.”

My father looked in my eyes,
smiled, stroked my hair,
and said, “God’s listening now.
Will you continue the prayer?”

It was a big night for a child,
moved by such a strange mood.
I wanted to show I was grateful
and for much more than food.

I said, “Thank You, dear God,
for peanut butter and jelly.
I’ve never known how it feels
to have no food for my belly.”

I said, “Thank You for my life
And for my little brother.
Thank You for my home,
and my father and mother.”

“Thank You for water.
Thank You for fish.
Thank You for the ability
to dream and to wish.”

“Thank You for my family
and all our pleasures and joys.
Thank You for my bicycle
and all my other toys.”

Thank You for fruit,
for honey and bread.
Thank You for the fantasies
that dance in my head.”

“Thank You for my books
and the adventures they hold.
Thank You for creativity
and tales yet to be told.”

“Thank You for my health
to walk, run and play.
Thank You for my parents
who show me Your way.”

My brother kept peeking,
worried I’d talk until dawn.
The list of my blessings
just went on and on!

I thanked God for the TV!
I thanked God for the phone!
I thanked God for everything
I was so lucky to own.

I just kept on thanking
and when I was done,
I’d said thank you for
everything under the sun.

For beaches and mountains,
for flowers and trees,
for dogs and dandelions,
for bunnies and bees.

For rainbows and kites,
for clouds and warm sun
for endless summer days
devoted only to fun.

For school and for teachers,
for all the lessons I’d learned.
I thought I’d covered it all
and left no stone unturned.

But I still wasn’t satisfied.
Something still wasn’t right.
We all sat in the silence
and I closed my eyes tight.

Then I found what was missing
and said one more prayer . . .
“Please, Lord, give all I have
to poorer kids everywhere.”

And with those last words,
a great peace filled the room
and a sweet scent flooded in
like a meadow in bloom.

Everyone could feel . . . something,
even my little brother.
“That was beautiful,” said father.
“I’m so proud of you,” said mother.

In giving thanks for my blessings,
I felt God’s loving embrace,
but when I wished for others
I discovered true Grace.

We were all hungry by then
and our dinners were cold
but how full and how warm
were my heart and my soul.

Mark Rickerby (c) 2015

Related story –

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/boy-5-makes-diners-cry-as-he-says-grace-with-homeless-man/story-fnq2o7hp-1227360850445

My Toddler’s First Fib – And It Is a Doozy!

My 19 month-old daughter has not only started fibbing but fibbing in the biggest way possible – blaming Mickey Mouse for damage she intentionally caused. She has a little hobby when she can’t sleep of picking the leather veneer off the backboard of the bed. Below is the video of her interrogation before being taken downtown and booked for vandalism.

https://www.facebook.com/mark.rickerby/videos/10153629711931350/?pnref=story

UPDATE: Turns out she was telling the truth! Mickey Mouse confessed, has taken a few of the seven dwarves hostage, and barricaded himself inside the whale on the Pinocchio ride at Disneyland. Fortunately, he is unable to fire a weapon because of the giant, white gloves he wears, so his only defense against the SWAT team is to throw lollipops. One officer was struck in the neck by one of those giant ones they sell at the gift shop, causing a small welt. I will keep you posted as the situation develops. I feel terrible for not believing my toddler, but who would have guessed? Mickey Mouse, a common criminal!

Upon further research, I learned that Mickey Mouse actually has a rap sheet as long as the monorail. Here are a few of his past mugshots –

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Months and Seasons (a poem for children)

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I was driving with my four year-old today and seeing if she could remember the names of the months and the order they came in. She did pretty well (with a little hinting at first letter sounds.) Then I asked her if she remembered the names and order of the seasons. She missed a few so I thought about how I could help her remember them easier. As usual, I wrote a poem. I read it to her tonight at bedtime and she seemed to enjoy it. Feel free to share it with your little ones! 🙂

Months and Seasons

In January, the year begins
and the air is crisp and cold
Winter’s snowy beard is long
and he’s starting to get old.

In February, it’s not so chilly
but Old Man Winter still holds on
for he knows the spring is coming
and when it does, he will be gone.

In March, the first signs of spring
Come with a whisper, not a shout.
Green buds begin to peek to see
if it’s safe to come back out.

In April, bright sun showers come.
The air is full of spring’s perfume
as bees and birds and butterflies
soar and glide from bloom to bloom.

In May, the sun shines brighter
on all the children as they play.
After months of cold, the flowers
Put on an exuberant display.

In June, the sun grows anxious
for its days of glory to begin.
Spring is summer’s closest friend
so we see each, and they both win.

In July, the sun is beating down.
Every creature seeks the shade,
dreaming of cooler winter months
and the flowers spring had made.

In August, the sun starts to wane.
It’s fury once again is spent.
The autumn comes to give it rest
and asks it kindly to relent.

In September, cool winds blow again
as if to warn of winter’s chill.
Days are filled with schoolyard fun
and nights are long and still.

In October, the sun is all but gone.
Leaves that were green begin to fade
to brown and yellow, red and gold.
And in dying, beauty’s made.

In November, the trees prepare
for the long, cold months ahead.
Only the heartiest flowers grow
and the trees’ leaves all are shed.

In December, the other seasons
are covered over when it snows
but winter has beauty all its own
as the year comes to a close.

So that’s the story of the months
and the seasons we love to see,
each glorious in their own ways,
each full of grace and majesty.

Mark Rickerby (c) 2015

Warning Signs of Predators for Parents

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I would love to do nothing but write about the cute things my children do and say, but the sad reality is we need to protect our kids from evil, perverted people in this world, so information like the articles below can’t be shared often enough. It seems to be all over the news these days. I was just reading this morning that Jared the Subway spokesman is up on child porn charges and plans to plead guilty. And most of us have watched To Catch a Predator and been horrified about how common it is for grown men to solicit sex from kids online.

Aside from news stories, we all know someone personally who was molested, right? I know I do. So whatever we can do to prevent it from happening to our children or the children of others is a worthwhile use of our time.

The question in the article below that connected most with me was “Does a family friend always insist on “hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child, even when the child does not want this physical contact or attention?” 

That’s a tough one. My parents had friends who were always hugging and kissing me, and none of them ever molested me. So how does a parent separate a warm, affectionate person from a perverted child molester? My wife and I err on the side of caution. Any friends who are excessively physical with our kids, even if they don’t show any signs of not wanting physical attention, never get anywhere near our kids again. And we never leave our children alone with anyone. Why take the chance? I may not cut these friends out of my life, just in case I’m wrong about them. I don’t want to accuse someone wrongly if they’re just nice, lonely people who love kids. They may see me again socially, but they’ll never see my kids again. 

I had a lifelong friend who came by one day and, within moments of being introduced to my new baby daughter, started whispering some kind of high-speed chant in her ear while she sat in his lap. It was like one of those soundtracks you hear in demonic horror movies when someone is about to get killed. I only saw this friend about once a year because we live in different countries so I had no idea what he was into. For all I knew, he could have become a Satanist or Voodoo witch doctor since last time I saw him and was putting some kind of ancient whammy on her. So I told him whatever he was doing looked creepy and weird and to knock it off. He said he was whispering to soothe the baby, but the baby was already happy and calm. Weird. He got ticked off and we haven’t spoken since. Whatever. Good riddance. I don’t think he was a molester, just weird, but again, I’m not taking any chances with my kids. I only have one chance to get this right. If any of my friends, especially friends who don’t have kids of their own, (like the excessive hugger and the curse chanter) don’t understand that, as Powers Boothe said in Tombstone, “Well . . . bye.” I’d rather have less friends I can trust than a bunch that are insensitive to my (or any parent’s) concerns. I don’t need company that badly.

I’ve always been shocked by how common child molestation is. Here’s some information from victimsofcrime.org

Child Sexual Abuse Statistics

The prevalence of child sexual abuse is difficult to determine because it is often not reported; experts agree that the incidence is far greater than what is reported to authorities. CSA is also not uniformly defined, so statistics may vary. Statistics below represent some of the research done on child sexual abuse.

  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.

According to a 2003 National Institute of Justice report, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well.

A Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows 1.6 % (sixteen out of one thousand) of children between the ages of 12-17 were victims of rape/sexual assault.

A study conducted in 1986 found that 63% of women who had suffered sexual abuse by a family member also reported a rape or attempted rape after the age of 14. Recent studies in 2000, 2002, and 2005 have all concluded similar results.

Children who had an experience of rape or attempted rape in their adolescent years were 13.7 times more likely to experience rape or attempted rape in their first year of college.

A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can become suicidal.

Children who do not live with both parents as well as children living in homes marked by parental discord, divorce, or domestic violence, have a higher risk of being sexually abused.

In the vast majority of cases where there is credible evidence that a child has been penetrated, only between 5 and 15% of those children will have genital injuries consistent with sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse is not solely restricted to physical contact; such abuse could include non contact abuse, such as exposure, voyeurism, and child pornography.

Compared to those with no history of sexual abuse, young males who were sexually abused were five times more likely to cause teen pregnancy, three times more likely to have multiple sexual partners and two times more likely to have unprotected sex, according to the study published online and in the June print issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Below is the article referenced above by Jennifer O’Neill, a writer for Yahoo Parenting. 

How can you tell if someone has ulterior motives for wanting to get closer to your child? An expert identifies three red flags you want to watch out for.

News about sexual offenders is dominating the headlines — most recently about Subway pitchman Jared Fogle, who is reportedly planning to plead guilty to child porn charges and crossing state lines to pay for sex with minors, and admitted teen molester Josh Duggar. 

But parents who assume their child could never be a victim should know that the reality is nine out of 10 children who are sexually abused are victimized by someone they know — including relatives, family friends, clergy, teachers, and babysitters, according to the National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC). 

“The offender usually uses coercion and manipulation, not physical force, to engage the child,” reports the American Academy of Pediatrics in a sexual abuse prevention tip sheet for parents. Deborah Callins, prevention director at the NCAC, tells Yahoo Parenting, “They take advantage of a child’s natural curiosity.” So how can mothers and fathers identify the close people most likely to have ulterior motives, or who might want to take advantage of your child? Here are a few simple ways to see the red flags that are often right in front of you: 

Take cues from your kids.
“Parents can protect their children by being better listeners,” she says. “Are they hearing what their child is actually meaning? If a child states he or she doesn’t want to spend time with a particular person, the parents may assume their child thinks the person is boring. But the real message the child might be trying to send is that the person makes him or her feel uncomfortable.” So stop a moment and try to really get to the heart of the matter before you insist that little Madison drive to the park with Uncle Jim to play on the swings if she’s dragging her feet. “Your children could be sending you little hints,” explains Callins. “You need to dig a little for more information.” 

Consider whether someone seems to be ‘testing’ your child’s ability to protect himself. 
Does a family friend always insist on “hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child, even when the child does not want this physical contact or attention?” asks sexual abuse prevention organization Stop It Now! in its resource sheet, Behaviors to Watch Out for When Adults are With Children. Such seemingly innocuous behaviors indicate that the adult is ignoring a child’s social, emotional and physical boundaries — and that’s a big red flag. 

Take note if a person is sexually suggestive around your kid.

If someone always tends to point out sexual images, or tells dirty or suggestive jokes in the presence of kids, take heed, suggests Stop It Now! That goes for comments about a child’s “developing body” or a teen’s dating details, too. “It may be nothing, or it may be a warning signal that the person is grooming your child,” explains Callins. He or she may be trying to figure out how curious your child is about sex, how much they know about it, and whether they may be willing to participate in it. “Perhaps the parent doesn’t even realize that it’s an issue — ‘Oh, that’s just how my cousin is,’ or ‘That’s just how he talks,’” she says. “But it could also be a test.” 

Callins advises removing your child from such a situation if it makes you or your kid uncomfortable, and then talking about it separately afterward with both the person and your child. “That way, it’s out in the air,” she says. And that way there’s no question about your boundaries — and whether you’ll be aware if somebody tries to cross them.

Link to story – https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/warning-signs-of-predators-for-parents-127261332922.html

(Photo by Corbis Images)

On Becoming a Father and Husband, and Redefining “Adventure.”

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I was talking with a friend recently about how much I miss traveling. I did a lot of it in my twenties when I was single. Nothing excited me more than waking up with a Euro-Rail ticket burning a hole in my pocket, pulling out a map, picking which ancient city I would see next, watching the European countryside whip by from the train window, arriving in the bustling train station, the launching pad for another day of adventure, and just walking, open to anything that might come along. Pure serendipity.

In response to my reveries about my free-wheeling, globe-hopping days, my friend, probably concerned that I was unhappy in my new roles of husband and father, said, “Mark, you’ve done the world traveler thing already. It’s time to do the daddy thing.” 

I married much later in life than most, and recently became the father of two girls. One of the reasons I waited so long was that I had the misfortune of witnessing a lot of loveless marriages and poor examples of parenting when I was growing up. So few were the positive examples of both, they had become the equivalent of prison in my mind. But walking around in foreign cities became less romantic and more lonely as the years passed. It became increasingly clear to me that God did not intend for us to spend our lives in solitary confinement, or as foundation-less gypsies. As Pearl S. Buck wrote, “The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.”

So I got married and became a dad, and I’m loving every minute of it, but that old version of me still makes an appearance now and then, like that gag they did in the TV show Get Smart where the face of Maxwell’s fellow agent kept popping up in unexpected and impossible places – glove compartments, mailboxes, etc. Likewise, my old self shows up now and then as if to say, “I’m still heeeere! Thought you got rid of me, didn’t ya?” And when he does, the wind that used to turn me into a gypsy for months at a time blows through me again. To scratch the itch, I sometimes watch travel videos on the Internet, which make me even more frustrated.

While watching a movie set in the Greek islands one night, my eldest daughter, then two and a half years-old, climbed onto my lap, touched my face with her tiny hands, looked me in the eyes and said, “I ruv you, daddy.” Then she wrapped her arms around my neck and rested her head on my shoulder. I held her close and inhaled her honey-scented hair, and suddenly all those “far-away places with strange-sounding names” stopped calling so loudly. Even the old version of me, the one who keeps wanting to run from responsibility and be a carefree wanderer (also known as a “bum”) took a few steps back and bowed his head in reverent silence. Little girls can do that. The greatest strength is no match for their softness. Taoism in action.

And in that moment, I realized that my memory of all those travels was making diamonds of coals a bit. I remembered the emptiness and lack of real direction that drove me to those far-flung corners of the earth. Even when I lived on a Greek island, I knew I was on an island in more ways than one. I was hiding from the emptiness I felt at home. I needed God, true purpose, and family. Faith, not just the scattered remnants of religion murdered by logic. A real direction fueled by vision. Blood, not just friendship. My own people, who would stick with me, and I with them, through thick and thin.

The road will always call, and I’ll eventually answer again, but this time I won’t be alone. Marriage and fatherhood is not the end of adventure, it’s the beginning of the greatest one. I’m going to do this right. And how much grander traveling will be when I can show my daughters, with their unbridled sense of wonder and amazement, all the things I saw in my own turbulent youth. How much more amazing they will be to me to see them all again through their eyes, without all that emptiness traveling with me. How terribly heavy it was to carry. Now I will carry them instead, my beautiful bundles of love and light, as a transformed man with a new reason for living – perhaps the highest – to make my heart as pure, happy and loving as theirs are.

A response to this post from a friend who did it all differently. (Had three sons right out of high school.) 

“The truest and greatest adventure of my life was, and still is, being the father to three amazing men. Fatherhood is the fruition of all that I am. Seeing you with your daughters warms my ever-present memory and ever-present reality of what it means to be a father. I smile inside for you my friend, because I know what’s before you and the true wealth of life that is yours as you hold on to it with both hands and all your heart. Your feet are walking the road of adventures that in your mind you never knew were there. Truly the most rewarding, meaningful, and personal fulfillment of one’s life is being a parent and father! As I travel the world, breathing in the diversity of life’s experiences, I go as a fulfilled man, not lost or wondering, but knowing exactly who I am. In the light of that fulfilled maturity will be the soul of three young men, traveling with me, who have given to me the honor of being their father. I feel blessed the opportunity is before me; blessed that its richness and diversity come to me as a complete, mature man; blessed to see it in my completeness. Yes, “I did my time” as they say, but it is time I would gladly do over and over again.

We only get one pass at the seasons of life. Making each season count is the challenge before us. We embraced life differently, at different times, yet with the same zest my friend… Not better or worse, just differently. No journey is wrong or bad. Every quest brings to the traveler what they need to be full and complete. You are, as am I, on the quest that was made specifically for ourselves. Life holds no guarantee of safe travels or of fulfilled relationships that end in perfect bliss. Risk is always a part of every quest. To not venture out with both feet and all heart on any quest regardless is to cheat oneself of all there is to be realized.

I have a favorite quote that comes from the movie 180′ South – ‘The word adventure has gotten overused. To me, adventure is when everything goes wrong. That’s when the adventure starts.’ If it’s being trapped in a third world airport and realizing the eventual escape, or being the man your daughter needs, holding her broken heart at the loss of her first love. Things go wrong, my friend, and when they do, you find the truth of who you are. That is when the quest has done its work in you. I believe that you will find you are a greater man that you ever knew yourself to be. “Honey-scented hair” is but the tip of the greatest iceberg.

And yet one more before I head out for a hike (lol) from 180′ South – ‘When I put myself out there, I always return with something new. A friend once told me the best journeys answer questions that in the beginning, you didn’t even think to ask.’ You’re out there, my friend. Embrace!”

Two Worlds (on growing up)

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When I was a child, I thought there was a wall between childhood and adulthood, a wall I would climb over one day and never look back. But there is no wall. The child I used to be keeps showing up all the time and whispering “come and play” while I’m trying to do adult things. Truth be told, I invite him in because he’s the only thing that keeps me from losing my mind entirely. I even memorized an Aldous Huxley quote so I could say it to anyone who accuses me of being immature.

“The childlike man is not a man whose development has been arrested. On the contrary, he is a man who has allowed himself to continue to develop while most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle-aged habit and convention.”

Upon hearing this, they will usually say something like, “Oh! Well, if Aldous Huxley said it, go ahead and keep being a jackass.”

I finally decided to write children’s books so I can stay a child forever, and make a few bucks like adults are supposed to do.

This fear of being an adult is probably a composite of all the unfortunate adults I met throughout my life who grew up too much, who lost the child completely, and became pale, gray, dusty, lifeless shells. Some eyes have twinkles and some don’t. Many things can put it out, mainly grief, or loss of any kind. I want to keep mine. I’ll die before I let it burn out. We’ve got to fight for our twinkles.

Playing with my daughters helps, too. Their world is so much bigger than mine. As hard as I protect my twinkle, and though I have never stopped playing with the child I was, I’ve been a grown-up for so long now, I have forgotten much. It’s inevitable. Thankfully, my children let me into their world and are always happy to show me around.

Two Worlds

Two worlds have I known along the path of this life –
one of serenity, the other of strife.

The first world I knew was a magical place
of warm smiles and laughter and kind-hearted grace.
Of meadows and tulips, wood shoes and white blouses.
Of bread trails and bonnets and gingerbread houses.
Of blind mice and windmills and Little Jack Horner.
Of Winnie and Tigger and the tree at Pooh Corner.
Of fun-loving pirates and billowing sails.
Of serpents and mermaids and friendly, blue whales.

My young eyes saw the world as a sweet, gentle place
without hatred or killing over nation or race.
There was no better or worse, only different from me
and it made life enticing, a grand mystery!

I remember gazing in wonder, unexamined and pure,
at the indigo sky. Oh, the thoughts it allured!
So many places someday I would see!
So many people to share it with me!

But the wind-spinning freedom which was my young world
grew shrouded in darkness as adult years unfurled.
And the strangest thing is I never noticed peace die.
I just knew it was gone and I didn’t know why.

Thus began the long years of searching for answers,
questioning poets, musicians and dancers,
politicians and teachers, gurus and sages,
spending my youth between dusty pages
to recapture a feeling, stolen or lost,
and hold it again, no matter the cost.

Many years have passed now. I’ve grown old and gray
and I watch the games that my grandchildren play.
I can hardly recall how my youthful heart yearned
and I won’t bore you with stories of the lessons I’ve learned.
But I will tell you this – joy isn’t somewhere “out there.”
It cannot be studied or found anywhere.
It’s something you’ll either let in or you won’t,
something you give to yourself or you don’t.

Do you hear what I’m saying? All the searching’s for naught!
All that you need, you’ve already got.
There will surely be pain. That’s life’s one guarantee.
But how much we suffer – that’s up to you, and to me.

– Mark Rickerby (c) 2004

Father Forgets (on Patience)

I first read the story below when I was in my early twenties, in the Dale Carnegie book How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s written in the first person from a father to his son after the loss of the boy’s mother. Though I wasn’t a father yet when I first read it, I was so moved by it I performed it on stage in college. Someone approached me afterward and asked, “When is that going to be on the Hallmark channel?”

It was written in the 1930’s so the language is a little outdated, but I think you’ll agree that it’s a beautiful piece of writing containing timeless wisdom for parents.

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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 stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen to 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 a mere dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called you 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 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 your interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped. You said nothing, but ran across the room 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 form 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.