The Day the Child Realizes That All Adults Are Imperfect He Becomes an Adolescent

Alden Nowlan? John Robert Colombo? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Young children often view adults with awe. Even disobedient ones fear the deity-like powers of adults. Yet, over time the cracks in the façade of authority grow. Some author has stated:

The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect he becomes an adolescent.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1971 the prominent Canadian poet Alden Nowlan published the collection “Between Tears and Laughter” containing the work “Scratchings”. The fourth stanza described a mental voyage. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself he becomes wise.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

The passage above was noticed by editor and author John Robert Colombo who placed it into his 1974 reference “Colombo’s Canadian Quotations”. Colombo also highlighted other distinctive lines from Nowlan such as this: 2

Men and women are not equal; each is superior to the other.

In 1997 “Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes: Wit and Wisdom for All Occasions” included an entry for the quotation with the following correct ascription: 3

—ALDEN NOWLAN
Between Tears and Laughter

In 2004 a newspaper columnist in “The Star Press” of Muncie, Indiana employed the text as an epigraph under the title “Sage advice”. The last name specified for the poet was slightly inaccurate. The paper printed “Aldren” instead of “Alden”: 4

The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise.”
— Aldren Nowlan

In conclusion, Alden Nowlan deserves credit for the poem “Scratchings” containing the quotation which was published in 1971.

Image Notes: Illustration of parent scolding a child from OpenClipart-Vectors at Pixabay.

(Great thanks to Paul Brown whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Thanks also to a kind librarian at Middleton Library of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana who verified the 1971 citation.)

Notes:

  1. 1971, Between Tears and Laughter by Alden Nowlan, Poem: Scratchings, Start Page 102, Quote Page 102, Clarke Irwin, Toronto, Canada. (Verified with scans; thanks to Middleton Library, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
  2. 1974, Colombo’s Canadian Quotations, Edited by John Robert Colombo, Entry: Alden Nowlan, Quote Page 451, Column 1, Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1997, Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes: Wit and Wisdom for All Occasions, Quote Page 25, Column 1, Published by Reader’s Digest Association, Pleasantville, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)
  4. 2004 February 17, The Star Press, Coach’s Corner by Gloria Swardenski, Quote Page 2C, Column 5, Muncie, Indiana. (Newspapers_com)