“The child is father of the man.” Wordsworth, an English poet, wrote that line, meaning what a child experiences and feels, in his early years, will determine what kind of man he will be in later life. In my case, I’ll have to modify the poet’s statement. Granted, the child is father of the man, but in later life the grown child often becomes the father of his dad, who has by now become a child.
Confusing, isn’t it?
It won’t be when I further explain. The other evening my wife and I were watching a show on TV where a father held his little son in his arms. The angelic look on the child’s face was disarming, as was the apparent love of the father for his son. The little boy’s face glowed with innocence and a total lack of knowledge of the ways of the world–bullying, politics, science and logic. What could he know of these things? Nothing.
Seeing the father lovingly gaze at his son reminded me of times long past when I held my own baby boy, especially that memorable first time. For he lacked knowledge.
Now, fast forward thirty years, or more. The child has grown and earned a double major at MIT of math and physics and, with additional advanced courses, holds a PhD. in theoretical physics. As his father, I was a mere high school English teacher.
He wrote a paper for a science journal and e-mailed it to me to proofread for grammar and spelling. When I sent it back to him in Berlin, Germany, it was perfect. What was the paper about? What did it say? To be honest, I hadn’t a clue–something about the theory of matter in relation to Einstein’s theory that totally flew over my head.
Now do you understand what it means when I say Wordsworth was only half right when he said, “The child is father of the man?” The truth is, as in my case, this grown-up child is father of his father, who, to him, is childlike in his field of expertise. For the grown child has knowledge the father never possessed, because this world had progressed at such a rapid rate, In terms of know-how, the child is now the smarter one.
But that is the way it’s always been, and no doubt will always be. We can learn a lot from our children, if we only pay attention.
–Calvin Davis is also the author of The Phantom Lady of Paris.W