What Fathers Can Learn on Their Day
Today is Father's Day across much of the world. It is a day set aside to honor dads, which is nice. However, this article is not so much about fathers but about their young children. The children can help fathers and all of us to live life to the fullest in spite of many problems that we face as adults.
I have written many essays on having to memorize poetry and prose while in high school over a half century ago. While I hated the reciting of these lines back then, I cherish them today. Case in point, George Eliot wrote a novella entitled Silas Marner, which Eliot wrote exactly a century before I graduated from high school and went off to college.
Silas Marner was a crotchety and miserly old weaver who came to life late in life. The instrument of his rebirth was a little girl named Eppie. George Eliot wrote of his situation.
While I stood in front of Mrs. Davis and recited this paragraph, I understood Eliot's message at the minimalist level. However, a half century later, I get Eliot's meaning in my gut. Prior to this present time in my life, I did not fully comprehend Eliot's meaning of Silas Marner.
Our society has issues related to various social problem like sexism, racism, and a long list of other –isms. Our problems were very much like that of Victorian England in the 19th century. The author of Silas Marner was Mary Ann Evans not George Eliot. Evans wanted readers to take her prose seriously and not write it off as fluff, as they did with female writers of the time.
That being said, Eliot's short novel addresses ageism. We have a tendency to see adults as wiser and more in tune with the world. Those with many years behind them are therefore better qualified to address the problems facing the world than young children. Again, at one level, that is true. However, at a deeper level, Eliot and I have a profound disagreement with that notion. Children help adults. As Eliot wrote, "...a hand is put into theirs (adults), which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child's."
This essay is about you and me. Even though I memorized Eliot's words, I did not get the essence of them until late in my life. Okay, I am a slow learner...along with the rest of us. I have three adult children and a granddaughter in college. I loved them, cared for them, and would do anything for them. Nonetheless, I did not fully understand Eliot's message until the last handful of years.
The obvious question is how did I learn Eliot's message, which I had memorized over a half century before I finally fathomed it? Jack and Owen. In a couple of weeks, Jack and Owen will be five and three. The social issue of ageism was something that I thought I comprehended. So I thought until Jack and Owen taught me.
For example, I love teaching art history at the college level and have for a couple decades. I would not have even thought about teaching Jack. Art history, I thought, was beyond the ability of a three year old. You know, children cannot understand all that romanticism and impressionism stuff. Ageism informs us that as adults, we are the ones that are qualified and know the important things of life. Well, at three, Jack wanted to know about a painting. That single question resulted in his taking an art history class at three. This was his first class.
Now, two years later, Jack knows several dozen paintings and painters, because he wanted to learn. A hand was put into mine...and it was a little child's.
Owen, who at the time was two and a half, wanted to ride my back as if I was a horse, just like Jack. Both Jack and he took turns having me be a horse to ride around their playroom, which I gladly did for a half hour. When it was time for lunch, Jack ran upstairs telling me to hurry up. Under my breath, I said something about I was coming, but I was an old man. It took me bit longer to get up after Owen got off my back. When I got to the stairs, Owen was waiting and reached out his hand to help me. I will never forget that act of love and concern. A hand was put into mine...and it was a little child's.
These are merely two clear examples that Eliot was correct.
Therefore, this Father's Day, I told Jack and Owen that we are going to create a gift for their father. On Mother's Day, they made an artificial flower arrangement for their mother, because they love her. It also proved Pablo Picasso correct when he said, "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."
I run off several of the picture with Eliot's prose and their picture so that I knew the area that Jack and Owen had to use for their signatures. That rough draft with a line at the bottom of the page to indicate not to go below. However, Jack wants to practice to make it perfect before starting.
Owen waits patiently for Jack's signature.
Owen starts to add his signature.
Jack and Owen signed a picture of them along with Eliot's prose. They were thrilled by making something for their mother; they were equally fascinated about their framing a picture of them for their father.
A week later, they wrapped that frame for their father. Then, having completed the framing, they went about making a batch of snickerdoodle cookies for him.
They are working on the wrapping of the picture for their dad.
Jack has gotten use to using my camera. He understands it and took this photo of me working on the bow. If I am going to take photos of Owen and him, he wants to take pictures of me.
Jack is making a Father's Day card for their gift.
Visit the "The Hand May Be a Little Child's" page to read more about this topic.