Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Age Of Reason

For those of you who are looking for a reasoned and articulate discussion of the 1898 book by Thomas Paine, you are destined once again for disappointment at my hands. I would like instead to talk a little bit about parents, children, and learning...  

My children are older now, and two of them have families of their own. As well as the amusement this provides me as I watch them dealing with the problems of their own families, I find that I am learning a lot from listening to my children and that they may have truly reached the age of reason. 

Now for those of you with children who have not reached this age of reason, this statement probably seems incredible; but it is true never the less. "Tim", you have to be saying to yourself (Which is something that you shouldn't do. Talking to people who are not there is considered madness. Talking to me, whether I am there or not, is simply bad judgment.), "what possible use can it be to speak to someone 7 years old? And while I am asking, how can children so young have children of their own?" The answer is not that we are some genetic misfits (well OK I am, but you're supposed to be polite and not notice), but that obviously you don't understand the concept of the age of reason, so let me explain. 

For most children, the age of reason actually occurs not at 7 (as the Catholic Church taught me in my youth), but much later at age 25. By this time they have gone through the 5 stages of human development:
  1. Babies - those who are nothing but needy and cannot yet ask questions (which probably one of the reasons that they are considered to be so cute).
  2. Small children - those who know next to nothing and are constantly asking questions with no apparent rhyme or reason (and usually without read answers on the part of their elders) .
  3. Young children - those who know a little and only ask embarrassing questions, usually at inopportune times and in public places.
  4. Young adults - those who know everything and barely talk to you, let alone ask questions.
  5. Adults - those who having passed through childhood, are now both willing and capable of holding an intelligent conversation with you.
With all of my children having now broken through this final barrier a few years back, I find that what they have to say is quite interesting and that in fact they are now having a greater influence on my life then I probably ever was on theirs. 

* I am moved when I listen to them talk about dealing with their children and admire them for the commitment of time and love that they bring to this most important of responsibilities, something they do far better than I ever did. 

* I enjoy talking political philosophy and strategy with them, even though some lean a good bit left of my own politics. They make cogent arguments for their positions and some of their thinking causes me to re-evaluate my own. 

* I am amazed when I hear them discuss the balance in their lives between their careers and their personal lives, a talent that I was never able to master when I was their age (and still seem to be mostly incapable of)

* I am intrigued when they discuss their mastery of today's technology, from text messaging to web surfing. Whether it is my son Sean who seems to be able to build a computer with the same apparent ease with which I used to be able to build a picture frame, or my daughter Laura who puts the elements of a web page together far easier than I manage to assemble these postings; their abilities surprise and delight me. 

Maybe this is a 6th stage of human development, where the parent listens (a seemingly impossible task for me) and learns from the child. Maybe this is the part where I get to rest from providing answers that I'm not sure I ever had in the first place and let someone else take a crack at it. Maybe this is where I truly reach an Age of Reason, by realizing that I don't, and never did have a clue. 

On the other hand, this might just a brief respite for someone my age as I master he intricacies of impending senility. Whatever the reason might be however, as I listen to the things that they now have to offer in the way of wisdom, I hope that this dog is not too old to learn a few new tricks. 



kck_kat said...

Having known Tim's children all of their lives, I have to admit there was a time whether I wondered if they would live long enough to grow up. I remember one who held the title of the Tantrum Queen for quite a few years, and earned it honestly. I remember one who put screws up his nose for entertainment, and now we think he is a genius. Most of all I remember the loving father who, to this day, can't see the impact he made on his children's lives! I see the kind of relationship that we all hope to have with our own grown children and it gives me hope that someday I might have that same relationship with my own. I would settle for an intelligent conversation with one of them, but since they haven't quite yet hit 25, I will wait and hope and pray! :)

Tim Higgins said...

All good things come to those who wait...

and wait, and wait, and wait

OK, you get the picture.

kooz said...

Your children's generation only thinks they are balancing family and career. The truth of the matter is family is being drastically ignored in pursuit of careers by both parents. This is the fundamental problem that has caused "The American Family" to now be reaping the consequences.

-Parents have lost authoritive control. This has infected the public school system as well.

-Children are now being raised by grandparents, nannys, and baby-sitters, as a result...their parents only have about 1-2 hours of influence on them per day.

-Higher divorce rate

-loss of morals

-increase in "diseases" such as ADD and ADHD...which is really just an excuse these parents use to explain what is obviously a "disease" caused by gross amounts of televison watching and other entertainment, that is used to "occupy" children while their parents are off "balancing their lives."

kooz said...


I am not speaking of your children that generatin as a whole

Tim Higgins said...


I appreciate the points that you are making, and especially appreciate the clarification that you made (as dueling has fallen out of fashion, and I would probably be terrible at it anyway).

I believe that there is a real danger out there, the result of the treatment that I outlined in the previous posting: "You Are A Winner". The consequences to future generations as these pampered ones become parents themselves are exactly the points that you are making. Proper child rearing may not be good for their self-esteem.