Cats in the cradle
The growth of responsibilities and expectations should not take over the grown relationship of fathers and sons
A few days ago I came across a song on YouTube that I haven’t listened to since I was a kid: “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin, released in 1974.
For those of you who have never heard it, it tells the story of a father watching his son grow up. In all the busyness of daily life, the struggles of his job and the countless expectations of adulthood, the father has separated himself from his son’s life, watching from afar.
As Chapin sings during the first verse, “There were planes to catch and bills to pay, he learned to walk when I was away.”
Despite all this, the growing boy always looked up to his father, shown through the lyrics, “I’m gonna be like you dad, you know I’m gonna be like you.” This part is repeated as the intro to the chorus.
Towards the end of the song, the father encounters his son visiting from college. At this point, the father’s attention shifts entirely: “Son I’m proud of you can you sit for a while?” To which the son replies: “What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow your car keys. See you later, can I have them please?”
The roles have been switched. The son has become like his father.
At this point in the song I realized what I myself am guilty of.
My relationship with my father is something I will always cherish. I look up to him, much like the boy in the song does for his own father.
Unlike the relationship demonstrated in the lyrics, my father has always made time for me.
He has been there for all the big moments in my life, waiting with a shaking camera in hand. He has driven me to the end of the world and back for hockey tournaments, he taught me how to ride a bike, drive a car and how to respect people.
He is always ready to drop everything to come see me and has always been a dedicated father.
A few days ago he came up to visit me at school and I realized that I sometimes go several days, even full weeks, without talking to him on the phone.
In the scurry of schoolwork, friends and my job with The Cord, sometimes I am not able to give my family the attention they deserve. But, sometimes, my father is guilty of this too.
For the first 10 minutes of us sitting at a restaurant table for lunch, my father looked down at his phone and shot away emails to his business colleagues.
I don’t blame him at all. He’s a busy man and he works hard at his job for his loved ones. I respect his work ethic.
But something in our family had recently happened that quickly snapped him out of this state: my cousin, his nephew, welcomed a baby boy born.
While talking about this, my father looked at me with a twinkle in his eye.
At one point he jumped out of his seat to call his sister and brother-in-law, the grandparents of the newborn.
For the rest of the afternoon, he was done talking to clients and worrying about his job.
I put everything aside, too.
It was some good old-fashion father and son bonding.
We gave each other the attention one another deserved — the attention that makes a father and son relationship so profound.
At the end of the song, the father calls his son, who has long since moved out and had started a family of his own. The lyrics go like this: “I said, ‘I’d like to see you if you don’t mind,’ he said ‘I’d love to dad, if I can find the time.’”
No matter what the expectations are that seem to consume our lives, it’s mandatory that we make the time to be with the people we care about.
Struggles may continue, but we can’t let them stop us from pursuing what matters.
A father is a role model that instills values in his children. He teaches his kids about hard work, but more importantly, about being there when it matters most.
As a son, it’s my job to return the favour, and eventually carry on those virtues when I have a child of my own.
As the end of the chorus goes: “We’ll get together then, son, you know we’ll have a good time then.”