The Child is Father of the Man

A line has stuck with me over the last couple years. “The child is father of the man.”

I don’t remember exactly who it was that said it, and it doesn’t really matter. Yes, I could just look it up, but so could you. I think it was one of the English Romantic poets.

The first point about the line is that it’s obviously wrong — it’s not the child who is father of the man, but vice versa.

On a deeper level, we notice that the full-grown man is sort of derived from the younger child he was earlier in his life, and so we notice how the obviously false statement is actually also true, in a way. So far, so good.

For me, though, recently there is another level of truth that has been standing out for me in the phrase. I’ve been thinking about how my children are changing me. They’re helping me to become someone different, or maybe not different, maybe to become more myself.

Several things I’ve wanted to do before, to learn, to accomplish, to become, I am finally making a real effort at. I started studying languages again a few months before my eldest was born, and I have kept up the habit on my own without any external pressure to do so, for the first time in my life. I started again a daily habit of reading the Bible a few months before my daughter was born, and I have kept that up too. I’m healthier, stronger, more knowledgeable. I’m so much closer to being the person who, ten or fifteen years ago, I could only have helplessly dreamed of being.

It feels strange to see that change coming about in me because of my children. I want to be that person for them. I want to know those things so I can pass them on, if my children happen to desire some of the same things that I have desired. I want to be able to show them that these things are possible, attainable, even if they don’t come naturally to a person. These children have given me the motivation to find a way to make it happen.

I want to be a good father to them throughout their lives, to form them as well as I can. But for now, they’re doing a pretty good job of forming me.

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