I've always had a thing for Harry Chapin's classic song, "Cat's in the Cradle," mostly because my Dad and I used to sing it (and every other Chapin song) together during long rides in his truck. But since becoming a mom, the song about a dad who never has time for his son has taken on new meaning for me. I don't want to be that parent. And when my kid grows up, I don't want her to be like the son who never has time for his dad.
Chapin once said the song scares him to death.
I think it scares us all, scares us so much that China recently passed a law requiring children to visit or keep in touch with their elderly parents.
Imagine that, just for a second? Would you want it to come to that?
Would you want your kid to be forced to come spend time with you?
I know I wouldn't!
I would like to think that the kid I'm raising would want to come hang out with me ... just because. Not to get money. Not to keep a lawsuit at bay. Not to keep the government happy. Just to eat my chocolate chip cookies, chill on my couch, and chat with me about shuffleboard or Bingo or Gertie with the blue hair rinse down the lane (wait, not Gertie ... Jennifer, Amy?), whatever it is I'll be interested in chatting about in the future.
But I'm not going to just sit around hoping the lure of my cookies and my sparkling personality will be enough to make her pick up the phone and call her dear old mother.
It takes work that we have to put in now, while our kids are still in the house.
It takes stepping back and remembering that we only get our kids for about 18 years, so we might as well make the most of those 18 years, go to dance recitals, kick a soccer ball around the backyard, drive them to the mall just because ...
It takes recognizing that we chose to become their parents, not the other way around, and we need to give them the best childhoods possible because that's what they deserve out of us.
I can't help but worry that one day my daughter will be like the kid in the Harry Chapin song or like one of those kids in China being forced to call dear old mom and dad. Still, worrying about it has forced me to look at the difference between parents who are close to their adult children and those who are not.
I've noticed the latter group tends to act like everything they did in raising their kids created debts that now need to be repaid. You know the type. You've heard them say something like this:
"I was in labor with you for 28 hours, so I don't really care if you're doing your homework right now. The least you could do is make me a cup of coffee!"
"I let you get a driver's license, young man, so you HAVE to drive me to my cardiologist appointment every Thursday afternoon at 3 o'clock and to hell with your boss who can't understand why you have to leave in the middle of your work day. I'm your MOTHER!"
Would you want to hang out with a woman like that? Me neither.
I vow never ever to say anything like that to my kid. Ever. Ever.
And if I do, she can stop calling. I promise not to sue.
Do you worry about your kids not wanting to spend time with you when they're grown? What are you doing about it now?
Image via John Starnes/Flickr