Father’s Day & that Chapin Song

Father’s Day always makes me think of that Harry Chapin song, “Cat’s in the Cradle” – More so now that the kids are getting noticeably older.

As the kids get older, I get older, so maybe it is just me getting old and sentimental but Chapin’s Cradle seems to have more resonance now. It’s like a friend once told me about reading Hesse’s Steppenwolf.  He said it was a totally different book read at 30 than it was read at 20.

I joke with friends that I am still my children’s hero and that I want to milk it for all its worth. One day I’ll find myself clumsy and out of step with my children – unable to understand their language or appreciate their logic. Where once my children were proud and hungry for my attention, they’ll let their voicemail pick up and find me meddlesome. But until then I want to spend every moment I can with them. I want to see them grow despite knowing that one day they’ll grow out of me.

That said – there are those “other moments.”

Those “other moments” when I am not a father enamored of his children. Those “other moments” when the choir of their pleas becomes a din – a drone – a whine – an annoying buzz of insect wings silenced with the wave of a hand only to reappear as soon as you begin to believe the pest is gone.

It is not a secret that if you told me ten years ago that I would be the father of two today, I would have simply have dismissed the comment. A decade ago, children were not part of my life’s plan. However, as a friend put it once about her own children (I’m paraphrasing and taking some poetic license but her sincerity and the truthfulness of the statement remain unchanged): Before kids it was hard to imagine life with them, now (with kids) it is hard to imagine life without them.

Like the father in Chapin’s song, my father and grandfather worked long hours to afford me the luxury of “teaching my children how to throw.” I don’t remember if I wanted to be like my father though I do remember (regretfully) hating my father. There was a lot of going on then and my father represented yet another entanglement I believed was keeping me from soaring towards my goals. I realize now that he was just trying to keep me from falling over the edge of this flat earth.

As an adult, my sister once told me that my father “does not understand me.” The comment took me aback. It had never occurred to me that he “didn’t understand me.” I just thought we disagreed. I mean he and I are peers now, right? We are both adults. We are both fathers.

Sadly, at some point in time I am certain my children and I will not understand each other. I am hopeful we’ll get over it like my father and I did (at least we’ve become better at feigning a shared perception).

I don’t encourage my children to “grow up just like me.” I want them to be better – just like my father wanted for me. So maybe someday my children will hate me for wanting so much but hopefully someday they will forgive me as such.

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