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The Fleeting Intelligence of Parents

We have noticed a strange and puzzling phenomenon regarding the intelligence of parents, especially of parents having growing children. When the youngsters are young, possibly during the ages that coincide with grade school and earlier, parents are virtually perfect. Every decision they make is the absolutely perfect one, every opinion is very fact indeed, and certainly no sinworthy or sinful thought ever passes through their minds.

Although the exact moment of this loss of intelligence varies with each individual, the loss is usually noticed most prominently when a son or daughter enters junior high grades and continues until this same child is married.

Suddenly parents lose all sense of judgment. Their thinking becomes out of tune with the date, their judgments become based on archaic or at best, extremely old fashioned ideas; their former concern for the child’s welfare becomes offensive “nosyness,” and they spend long hours lecturing their off-spring on subjects regarding which the latter already knows far more than the parent can ever hope to know.

Or do they?

Let’s look more closely at this supposedly fleeting of parental intelligence. It seems that the same parent can be in both stages of intelligence at the same time depending on the ages of their children. Now that’s odd, isn’t it?

Or is it?

Let’s face it. When we were youngsters, Dad and Mother stood for all that was righteous and good in our minds.

“My Daddy is stronger than your Daddy” was the challenge that we used to tell the world that our parents were richer, smarter, and in general far superior to any other parents in the world now or in the future.

But what happend? What brought on this sudden change that causes us to feel that “the old man ain’t hep”; that Dad and Mother have lost contact with today; that their decisions are based on ideas that should have been discarded with Dobbin, the surrey, and the kerosene lamps?

Regretfully, it seems to be a part of every person’s growing up since it lasts only a few years. For when teenagers become adults and begin to establish homes of their own, suddenly the parents regain the intelligence. Very strange indeed!

But let us return for a moment to this

period when teenagers are forced to tolerate their dull parents. As we evolve from children into teenagers, our education broadens and many hidden things become plainer to us. Basking in the light of a few newly for us discovered ideas, we find with mild surprise and not so mild pride, that two and two not only make four but also make twenty-two. Other facts of life which until now had been the almost sacred possession of our parents are revealed to us. Presently we expect to graduate from school and then we’ll have the whole world by the tail. Why should we listen to Mother and Dad who perhaps haven’t gotten past the eighth grade?

Here’s why!

Because, although they may have grown up before the days of twin carburetors and fin tailed ears, the basics of Christian living haven’t changed! The powerful strength of

temptations, the weakening effects of excesses, and the certainty of being burned when playing with fire are just as true as when they were teenagers themselves. Not only is life basically the same as in your parents’ youth, but they have the added advantage of experience and years of observing life around them.

For example, when we are warned against driving at excessive speeds, Dad isn’t just talking because of general good driving principles he once read on a safe driving poster; he’s speaking as one who has either seen or perhaps even experienced the effect of such carelessness.

Or a stronger example. When we are warned by our parents against taking part in questionable activities, they are not simply reading a little speech out of an antiquated rule book. They are warning out of experience of having seen friends’ lives marred or even ruined by indulgences such as confront every one of us daily. Perhaps these friends were once as close to them as your best friend is to you. So when your parents counsel you, and warn you, they are most likely just as right now as you thought they were when you were six years old.

In a few years you will be establishing homes and possibly raising families of your own. Between now and that time you expect to gain much knowledge both through education and experience. Doesn’t it make sense that your parents also learned much during the same period in their own lives?

Why not listen to them now, and give them credit for having the intelligence you expect to have by the time you are their age?

Originally published in:

Vol. 18 No. 1 February 1958