Letter to My Son on His Fourth Birthday


This is a featured iKJ Reader Guest Post by Author S. Ogungbemi

Happy birthday son. As it’s become tradition for me to write you on your big day to share with you my thoughts and in my own way celebrate the man you are growing up to be. Lets get right into it shall we?

On my way to pick you up from school today I was listening to Dale Carnegie’s audio book and was listening to the chapter “If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive.”

In summary it discusses the predisposition of humans to criticize each other when we do not approve of a behavior by our employees, children, spouse. People do not respond to our raised voices, darting glares, disapproving looks, the way we want them to when we criticize them. As emotional creatures we hold resentment toward those who belittle us with their criticism. If they hold direct power like an employer or a parent over a child it leaves us fearful, unsure of ourselves, and can permanently damage our self-esteem. It takes character and self-control to be an understanding and forgiving person. My son, you have the potential to be great. For you to be great it depends on how you treat others around you.

Your goal in life is to build people up, make them better people than when they first met you, and not to break them down.

Sadly my son, I have not been fair to you. I ask so much of a 4 year old that a 35 year old has woefully failed to accomplish. I am ashamed, disappointed in my actions to not lead by example but instead demand the very best in you when I am not holding my part of the bargain. There is an editorial quoted by Dale Carnegie in his book, by W. Livingston titled Father Forgets. It is a letter written to a son by a father discussing the same thing we are discussing today. He expected so much of his child and when his son made any mistake he would criticize the child for acting like a child. I do not have this same problem, at least not at that level that Mr Livingston had. I enjoy you being a kid, observing your actions and responses is a learning experience for me. I do not want to take away your autonomy as a person; I want you to be you just as your grandparents allowed me to be me. You are fond of not eating your food, leaving your toys everywhere, getting into fights with your brother and Felipe. I secretly find these things amusing. I have observed how overly cautious you are for a child. You have the sense of adventure of a 60-year-old man and I will not change that for the world. I am picturing you at Jade’s house watching all the other kids jump on the trampoline and you refusing to get on like the trampoline was a ferocious dinosaur. I also remember how scared you are to be around Chuck E Cheese and justifying your fears to yourself as you explain it to me. You will get there at your own time. Be you kid. I can relate to Mr. Livingston in one way. I do want you to be better in other ways, specifically with your education but I have been too hard on you. I have made you study hours, watched tears run down your cheeks at the tender age of 3 because you do not understand how I want you to solve a homework problem. You have witnessed me throw a temper tantrum, bang on the table, throw angry glances at you, and even utter some mean things a father should never say to his son. I noticed it changed your behavior; you were no longer excited to do your homework. You looked defeated.

I decided to change my approach; I played more games with you, made it fun for you. Your enthusiasm was returning. You would wake up in the morning and get back to adding and subtracting just to make me proud. I am always proud of you son. But I do owe you an apology. I am sorry. You deserve your father to be more understanding, more supportive, and not one that kicks over the beehive when trying to gather honey.

Today you turn 4. This is a milestone. Today on your birthday you revealed something to me. I was giddy as a schoolgirl coming to pick you up from school to spend the whole day celebrating your new age. You hopped into the car and didn’t have the excited look a celebratory child should have on their birthday. I quit listening to my audio book so you could do your favorite thing, play with the annoying talking tomcat on my phone. That cheered you up a little. Once I saw a smile form on your little face I knew you were ready for our mini adventure! We visited your grandmother; she was delighted to see you. We then went to buy you a gift. From the time I was a little kid I have always been deprived of a great gift, definitely not my parents doing, we just couldn’t afford it. I want you to have memorable birthdays and if it’s a reasonable, affordable gift, I plan on not denying you these pleasures. So we splurged a bit.

We visited your mother, and then went to Chuck E Cheese for a good ol’ time, Cristian style. When we got back to the car, with a satisfied smile on your face you told me that I had done good. Your exact words, “Daddy you did good.” Hearing that from a 4 year old brought a smile to my face and I replied, ”son you did good too.”

“Hope you had a good time.” To which you nodded in response.

I didn’t think much of it until we stopped by Chic-Fil-A to have dinner. I asked you to get me a straw and like a good boy, you brought it over to me. Instead of handing it to me though, you said, “ dad can I open it for you?”

That made me pause for a second. I was proud and a little emotional. It was your little way of showing me appreciation for a good day. You truly meant it when you said daddy you did good. That image of you struggling to pull the paper off the straw is for ever embedded in my mind. I was going to help you with it, but I stopped myself, you looked determined and I did not want to take away from your moment of kindness.

You taught me a valuable lesson. You showed me you are growing up. I will no longer throw tantrums when you do not understand your homework. I will support you and encourage you. Be the best father I can. As Charles Schwab once said, “ I am yet to meet a person who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he does under a spirit of criticism.



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