Thursday, March 04, 2004

The Child is the Father of the Man

Kids are born every day. They grow up get married and have kids of their own. The cycle continues. So what is the big deal about marriage and parenthood? Everyone does it. People have been getting married and having kids for ever. Why then do we associate so much importance with marriage and children? Answer - Just because people have been getting married and having kids since time immemorial doesn’t make marriage and parenthood simple. In fact both of them are very complex and no two are alike. Never take advice from anyone about your married life or about raising your kids. Everyone’s experience is their own and distinct from the experience of others. What works for some might not work for others (actually it will definitely not work for others). These are deep un-chartered waters but all of us still get ourselves wet in them. We learn as we go along but the lessons we learn are only meant for us. All those books about marriage and parenthood are useless. They do make for some really interesting readings though.

So why am I talking about marriage and parenthood? My dad also asked me the same question a few days back when he was in town and I was picking his brain about his experience as a married man and as a father. He just put the question in a much better way - “You are inviting your mom and me for your marriage. Aren’t you? And when is that kid of yours dew?” “Seven years and three months”, I promptly answered. The discussion which followed gave me a new insight to my dad - his maturing from a boy to a man. He told me how marriage had a calming effect on him and helped him stabilize; how fatherhood turned a Yezdi (an old bike very similar to Enfield, much bigger and noisier) driving guy, who preferred living in the fast lane and on the edge, to become a warm, caring and excessively careful man. How the earlier years of his marriage and parenthood were some of the best times he ever had. How he and mom relived their childhood when I was growing up - learning new tricks (like walking, talking, writing and eventually typing) every day. His eyes were almost misty for a few seconds as he was remembering the old days when he was a young man with a lot of dreams for himself and his family. It dawned upon me at that moment that in those misty eyes could be countless hidden unfulfilled dreams that he and mom had seen when they were young and probably they now see those same dreams for me. Those eyes made a subtle demand on the blood that moves in my veins. A demand which in my heart I decided there and then will have to be fulfilled. I will make my proud parents even prouder and happier. Just how I don’t know? “Just follow your heart instead of your mind”, said my dad smiling at me.

‘The child is father to the man.’
How can he be? The words are wild.
Suck any sense from that who can:
‘The child is father to the man.’
No; what the poet did write ran,
‘The man is father to the child.’
‘The child is father to the man!’
How can he be? The words are wild.

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

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