Sunday, June 18, 2006

The cats in the cradle on father's day

My wife had to work today and my daughter spent the night at a friends house, so it was my son and I at church this morning. Fathers Day is not a big day most churches, and the congregation was a bit smaller than usual. Too bad. They missed a great message about fathers, children and parenting. Dan, one of our associate Pastors spoke about his children who are grown now and have families of their own now. But the part that really got to me was his looking back on a sermon he wrote years ago while his children were still at home.

He read about a special day where the whole family enjoyed being together, laughing and playing and having a wonderful time. Later that night as the children were in bed sleeping, he peeked inside his son's room. His son was a few weeks away from his 13th birthday and while he watched his son sleep he noticed that his room was a mess. His clothes, shoes and tennis racquets were all over the floor and the peaceful feeling he had was slowly replaced by one of growing anger. He said that he caught himself before he became too upset and realized that the wonderful day he had shared with his son was more valuable than the condition of his room.

My son will soon turn 13 and the condition of his room seems to be a constant battle between us. I am not willing to write off the prospect of a clean room, but the story did give me some perspective. Our children are growing up so fast, and while I believe there is a definite value in teaching them the responsibility of keeping their rooms clean and doing their chores, I don't want to ruin a day or a week's worth of connecting and learning by loosing my temper and driving a wedge between us. Patience is a virtue that I need to work on.

The topper of the service was the worship team was asked by Dan to play 'Cats in the Cradle' by Harry Chapin. Keith and the music team did a wonderful job. That song gets to me every time I hear it.

A child arrived just the other day,
He came to the world in the usual way.
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay.
He learned to walk while I was away.
And he was talking 'fore I knew it, and as he grew,
He'd say, "I'm gonna be like you, dad.
You know I'm gonna be like you."

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, dad?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then.
You know we'll have a good time then."

My son turned ten just the other day.
He said, "Thanks for the ball, dad, come on let's play.
Can you teach me to throw?" I said, "Not today,
I got a lot to do." He said, "That's ok."
And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed,
Said, "I'm gonna be like him, yeah.
You know I'm gonna be like him."

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, dad?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then.
You know we'll have a good time then."

Well, he came from college just the other day,
So much like a man I just had to say,
"Son, I'm proud of you. Can you sit for a while?"
He shook his head, and he said with a smile,
"What I'd really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys.
See you later. Can I have them please?"

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, son?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then, dad.
You know we'll have a good time then."

I've long since retired and my son's moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind."
He said, "I'd love to, dad, if I could find the time.
You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kid's got the flu,
But it's sure nice talking to you, dad.
It's been sure nice talking to you."
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me,
He'd grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, son?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then, dad.
You know we'll have a good time then."

The boy was just like me. A powerful image.
We are teaching our children how to interact with the world every day. Through our anger, our relationships, our love and the way we spend our most precious resource, our time.
I look back in disappointment when I think about the times I told my son I was too busy or too tired to play ball or just to watch a movie together. He doesn't ask me as often and I am sure that as he grows older, those opportunities will become fewer until they don't come at all.

When the service was over we sat down outside to have a cookie, our church has really good cookies, and I struck up a conversation with a woman. She told me how the sermon reminded her of how fast her children grew up. She pointed out a your woman in crowd and said that it was her daughter. She had just graduated from UC Davis on Friday and they had a big party for her the night before. I wondered as I ate my cookie, how fast will the next five years go by for our son?

Will I be sitting on that same bench looking at young man who will be entering college, or will I be sitting without him?

Will we have grown apart? Will he think of me a pain in his side that he won't have to deal with much longer?

I guess those questions will be answered in the next five years.

I hope am up to the task.

2 comments:

fetching jen said...

Beautiful. That you even bother to ask yourself those questions means that you're doing a good job being a dad. And that your 13-year old son goes to church with you is also a pretty good sign. Keep him close and teach him to be the man you are.

Joan said...

You are an amazing dad. and yes, boys watch their dads closely - and you will watch your son with your expressions, your mannerisms. I am watching my grandson now -- walks and talks and laughs like his dad and his granddad. I love every minute of watching all 3 of them! Just know he is copying everything you do and say.
Sad is the boy with a dad who does not care -- and my theory is that most of those boys without dads who care are the ones who end up in trouble. Boys need a dad!