By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong. – Charles Wadsworth
What does that mean?
I can imagine this being said with a bit of a wry smile. While my parents were fairly old when they had me, and I waited even longer before starting my family, it still rings true. My teenage boy will take the better part of a decade to get completely straightened out. And that’s what the quote is about.
The quote is about the way that people learn and adapt. It’s about how teens and twenty-somethings often believe they know it all, or at least know better about whatever it is you are talking to them about.
And by the time they’re old enough to start to figure out that their old man wasn’t really as dumb as they thought, they’re dealing with their own little know-it-all kids.
It’s kind of humorous, for those who have survived the worst of it. It can be kind of scary for those who haven’t yet reached that point. But it is the cycle of life, the repetition, and the ‘I told you so’ from Grandpa that can help you laugh with it, instead of cry.
Why is listening to your elders important?
Who am I kidding? Who would waste their time listening to a bunch of people who have no idea about how tough life is in the modern world. Why, when they were kids, the internet and cell phones were in their infancy. Sound like anyone you know? Perhaps it sounds like you?
I firmly believe that humans have a lifespan which continues on well past the ability to bear and raise kids for one purpose, to teach. By the twilight of our lives, we have learned (one hopes) quite a lot of useful information. While the world moves faster than it used to, there are some things that don’t really change.
The dances may be different, and the cars may have changed, but courtship is courtship, and has been since days when the ‘cars’ were drawn by horses. Yes, we may not be up on the details of the latest technology, some of us helped design it, and know the guts far better than the kids.
How many people read the great philosophers to find wisdom from 3000 years ago, or even more? There is much to be learned from the older folks, it’s up to the kids to put the wisdom in their modern context. But taking time to think, consider, and examine will always be a wise course of action.
Where can I apply this in my life?
That depends on which of the three men depicted in the quote you happen to be. My daughter is too young to be at that point yet, and I had no sisters, so I’m guessing that for the ladies, it’s similar, but different. At least that’s what I’ve observed from afar.
To the old folks, I would ask that you try not to laugh too loudly as the know-it-all son you raised comes to you for advice on how to deal with his know-it-all son. Spread you knowledge and experience as far as you can, and help all who are willing to learn.
To the guy in the middle, I would ask that you try to be humble when asking your old man for help, and merciful when dealing with your son. Remember that at one time you were in his position, and just as obnoxious as you were to your father.
To the young man, eager to make his mark, try to find a little humility and give some weight to what your elders have to say. Yes, they may not understand the details of your situation, but may not understand the larger picture. They’ve been there and done that, albeit in a covered wagon.
For the ladies, I don’t really have much experience. Ask me again in another two or three years, as my daughter hits her teens. In the mean time, the comments on experience and trying to stay calm still apply. How well it works, that is up to you.
When I was young, one of the things my mother would say when I got obnoxious was that her revenge would come from my kids. I didn’t understand at the time, but I do now. Smile, and try to keep a level head. This stage will pass. Eventually. If you don’t kill each-other first. Keep smiling, and try to be understanding.
Think of how it feels to be right. Think of how it feels to be wrong. Now think of how much worse it feels to have someone saying “I told you so!” while you’re hurting. Be kind to each other, and keep the bonds strong.