“Child is the father of man“, is a part of a poem written by William Wordsworth.
He wrote it with regard to the experiences of the three stages of development in a man’s life- childhood, youth, and old age. It was Wordsworth’s observation that what we experience as children makes us the people we are when we are older.
Childhood is the most critical and important part in a person’s development. The Jesuits used to believe that the first seven years of a person’s life are his most absorbing years. If the right seeds are sown in these seven years the harvest would be predetermined.
By the time a child reaches the age of seven, his character is largely set and he begins to show glimpses of the man he is going to be.
A child is spontaneous and unselfish in sharing his love and it is this that makes the transition to full adulthood achievable.
Yet the intermittent chapter of adolescence often sees the tendency of the love to be overshadowed by the swift augmentation of the adolescent intellect, and this imbalance of mind and heart often is the reason for the pains of adolescence.
However the qualities of the adult that eventually surface in us are a large reflection of our earliest, unselfish, outwardly reaching love which is later fortified by our knowledge and experience. The child is the seed from which will grow forth the adult man.
There are other contexts in which this quotation is used. It can also mean that we try to teach our children all that we have learned but somewhere down the line our children teach us things that we have forgotten. They teach us to smile, to laugh, to love and to forgive; simple spontaneous things that we have forgotten leading our busy lives.
Another line of thought is that today’s children will be the fathers of tomorrow’s men. What we inculcate in our children’s minds today will be passed onto the future generations. A handful of today’s youngsters will be presidents, inventors, philosophers, scientists and they will rule the world.
This lot will make decisions that affect the lives of generations yet to come and they will be called the “fathers of men”.
The flip side of this quotation is that a man’s children are often his Achilles heel. While he may not bow to anyone else, often in the face of persuasion from his children, he will succumb leading one to believe that the child is the father of man.
Yet another flip side to this quotation is that when man grows old he begins to behave like a child. He wants to do things that the doctor hasn’t prescribed, he craves attention and often throws up tantrums like an infant making one believe that truly child is the father of man.
There are some who believe that there is a karmic intonation in this quotation. What we do in our present lives affects our future lives. Child represents our present and man represents our future lives. So the conclusion is drawn that child is the father of man meaning our present creates our future.