She didn’t know where Rudy first heard it. Maybe his dad—our grandfather—told him, though it is also very likely he heard it later in life. The message is ageless; it probably could have been coined by any of Adam and Eve’s children. Mark Twain said something much like it, though he personalized it and made it more concise. He could have heard the concept in Italy, as he traveled there four times in four different decades. Twain worded it thusly: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
|Annette's framed version|
The meme as Annette captured it from Rudy reads like this, with my translations added:
Cosa Pensano i Figli (What the sons and daughters think)
A 3 anni: Papá sa tutto (at age 3: Dad knows everything)
A 8 anni: Papá sa quasi tutto (Dad knows almost everything)
A 12 anni: Ci sono molte cose che Papá non sa (There are many things that Dad doesn’t know)
A 15 anni: Papá non sa niente (Dad doesn’t know anything)
A 20 anni: Domanderó consiglio a Papá (I’ll ask Dad’s advice)
A 40 anni: Se avvesí ancora Papá (If only Dad were still here)
Now I find that this Italian folk wisdom is being painted onto ceramics, printed on scrolls and made into placques for sale in tourist shops. It is rarely written the same way, as people adapt it to their own levels of maturity and cognition through their childhood, adolescence and then adulthood. Twain realized his dad’s wisdom at age 21; some people take longer.
|A version found in a tourist shop|
In some versions, the 15-year-old still hasn’t realized that Dad doesn’t know everything. He doesn’t come to that realization until age 20, and then at age 30 he is only able to acknowledge that ‟Mio padre qualche volta ha ragione” (sometimes my dad is right). And then at 40, he says, ‟Ahh, se avvesí dato retta a mio padre” (if only I had listened to my dad).
I have to say, my own dad was exceptionally wise, so my own age of ignorance about him was short—though that didn’t stop me from doing stupid stuff as a teenager, things that I knew dad wouldn’t approve of. I never actually thought he was off base, but I wanted to do the stupid things anyway, so I just chose to ignore his wisdom. That’s a typical adolescent trait, and I think that deep inside, most adolescents who rage in frustration that their parents don’t know anything are aware that Dad and Mom have been around the block a few times.
|Sign seen in Frank Capra movie "It's a Wonderful Life."|