C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man:
Hitherto the plans of educationalists have achieved very little of what they attempted and indeed, when we read them — how Plato would have every infant “a bastard nursed in a bureau”, and Elyot would have the boys see no men before the age of seven and, after that, no women, and how Locke wants children to have leaky shoes and no turn for poetry — we may well thank the beneficent obstinacy of real mothers, real nurses, and (above all) real children for preserving the human race in such sanity as it still possesses.
“I am sorry I cannot explain the thing to you,” he answered; “but there is no provision in you for understanding it. Not merely, therefore, is the phenomenon inexplicable to you, but the very nature of it is inapprehensible by you. Indeed I but partially apprehend it myself. At the same time you are constantly experiencing things which you not only do not, but cannot understand. You think you understand them, but your understanding of them is only your being used to them, and therefore not surprised at them. You accept them, not because you understand them, but because you must accept them: they are there, and have unavoidable relations with you! The fact is, no man understands anything; when he knows he does not understand, that is his first tottering step—not toward understanding, but toward the capability of one day understanding. To such things as these you are not used, therefore you do not fancy you understand them.”
…Those children are the greatest wonder I have found in this world of wonders.
…I was like a child, constantly wondering, and surprised at nothing.
George MacDonald (Lilith)
That is how life goes—we send our children into the wilderness. Some of them on the day they are born, it seems, for all the help we can give them. Some of them seem to be a kind of wilderness unto themselves. But there must be angels there, too, and springs of water. Even that wilderness, the very habitation of jackals, is the Lord’s. I need to bear this in mind.
From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (119), reflecting on the story of Hagar and Ishmael.
Two complimentary passages from The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman:
I tried to pull the dream that had upset me so to the front of my mind, but it would not come. There had been betrayal in it, I knew, and loss, and time. The dream had left me scared to go back to sleep.
…Then I walked to the window and looked out. …I was almost certain it was Old Mrs. Hempstock, although it was hard to see her face properly–walking up and down. She had a big long stick she was leaning on as she walked, like a staff. She reminded me of the soldiers I had seen on a trip to London, outside Buckingham Palace, as they marched backwards and forwards on parade.
I watched her, and I was comforted.
“…Oh, monsters are scared,” said Lettie. “That’s why they’re monsters. And as for grown-ups…. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” She thought for a moment. Then she smiled. “Except for Granny, of course.”
Long have we tended our beasts and our fields, built our houses, wrought our tools, or ridden away to help in the wars of Minas Tirith. And that we called the life of Men, the way of the world. We cared little for what lay beyond the borders of our land. Songs we have to tell of these things, but we are forgetting them, teaching them only to children as a careless custom. And now the songs have come down to us out of strange places, and walk visible under the Sun.
J.R.R. Tolkien in The Two Towers.
One can tell a child everything, anything. I have often been struck by the fact that parents know their children so little. They should not conceal so much from them. How well even little children understand that their parents conceal things from them, because they consider them too young to understand! Children are capable of giving advice in the most important matters. How can one deceive these dear little birds, when they look at one so sweetly and confidingly? I call them birds because there is nothing in the world better than birds!
…Later, when everyone—even Schneider—was angry with me for hiding nothing from the children, I pointed out how foolish it was, for they always knew things, only they learnt them in a way that soiled their minds but not so from me. One has only to remember one’s own childhood to admit the truth of this. But nobody was convinced… It was two weeks before her mother died that I had kissed Marie; and when the clergyman preached that sermon the children were all on my side. “When I told them what a shame it was of the parson to talk as he had done, and explained my reason, they were so angry that some of them went and broke his windows with stones. Of course I stopped them, for that was not right, but all the village heard of it, and how I caught it for spoiling the children! Everyone discovered now that the little ones had taken to being fond of Marie, and their parents were terribly alarmed; but Marie was so happy. The children were forbidden to meet her; but they used to run out of the village to the herd and take her food and things; and sometimes just ran off there and kissed her, and said, ‘Je vous aime, Marie!’ and then trotted back again. They imagined that I was in love with Marie, and this was the only point on which I did not undeceive them, for they got such enjoyment out of it. And what delicacy and tenderness they showed!
From The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
It will be enough if you take care to instruct your children in the fear of God…. The good that you sow in the hearts of your children while they are young will blossom forth in their hearts when they come to full maturity, and after enduring the bitter trials of school and contemporary life, which often break off the branches of a good Christian upbringing in the home.
St. Ambrose quoted in Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina (published 2005 by the Holy Trinity monastery in Jordanville, NY).
George Sayer, in his essay “Recollections of J.R.R. Tolkien” from the book “Tolkien: A Celebration” (edited by Joseph Pearce):
In the pew in front of us there were two or three children who were trying to follow the service in a simple picture-book missal. [Tolkien] seemed to be more interested in them than in events at the altar. He lent over and helped them. When we came out of the church we found he was not with us. I went back and found him kneeling in front of the Lady Altar with the young children and their mother, talking happily and I think telling stories about Our Lady. I knew the mother and found out later that the children were enthralled. This again was typical; he loved children and had the gift of getting on well with them. “Mummy, can we always go to church with that nice man?” The story also illustrates one of the most important things about him, his great devotion to Our Lady. He wrote me years later a letter in which he stated that he attributed anything that was good or beautiful in his writing to the influence of Our Lady, “the greatest influence in my life”. He meant it. An obvious example is the character of Galadriel.
A character in Bernhard Schlink’s Homecoming muses, “Children hope against hope that what is good is true and beautiful and what is evil is false and ugly.”
From Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed: Educating for the Virtues in the Twenty-First Century by Howard Gardner.
According to Christianity, we were indeed the survivors of a wreck, the crew of a golden ship that had gone down before the beginning of the world.
…The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. The knowledge found out and illuminated forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy. I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant, and why I could feel homesick at home.
From chapter V “The Flag of the World” in Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton.