Cats in the Cradle

Phone.jpgDo you remember the song Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin? It tells the story of a father who is too busy to spend time with his son and when his son gets older he becomes just like his dad. He becomes too busy to spend time with his father.

I was reminded of that song while I was at the movies with Emily and James on the weekend. We went to see Monsters vs Aliens. A great animated flick.

A guy with a son aged around 6 or 7 sat next to us. While it was nice to see that he was taking him to the movies on a Saturday morning it was disheartening to see that he was on the phone at least three times during the movie. Admittedly he kept his voice very low and wasn’t really disturbing those around him but it made me so sad to think that he couldn’t switch his phone off for just a couple of hours to totally enter into spending time with his boy.

I wonder what kind of message that was giving the boy. Dad’s willing to take him to the movies but he’s not really interested in the things that interest his son. Dad will sit next to his son but he’d rather be talking to someone else.

The shocking truth is that I’m not the perfect parent. In fact I’m nowhere near being the perfect parent but some things are fairly obvious. If we want our children to feel loved and accepted we need to spend time with them. We need to give them our undivided attention. We need them to know that they are vitally important to us and that there are few things that are more important than spending time focussed on building relationship.

Just as in the song, a day will come when we want to know that we’re important to our children. When that day comes they’re likely to treat us as we’ve treated them. That’s either a frightening or comforting thought depending on the messages we give our children when they’re young.

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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist, blogger and podcaster from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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  • It’s not unusual to see two people walking around Lake Monger together, but with one talking at length (socially, not an urgent call) on their mobile to a different friend while ignoring the one at their side. The ignored person surely wouldn’t feel very special, and could be excused for wondering why he or she had bothered making the effort to walk “with” the other.

    I used to walk around that lake with a friend, and wouldn’t have dreamed of interrupting the valuable half hour of the other’s company by gasbagging on the phone to someone I could easily phone later. But maybe I’m old fashioned, having grown up before mobile phone addiction became an epidemic.

  • I loved that song. It was Harry Chapin by the way.

    It was a song and ethos I wanted to live up to. It became a song that has dogged me as I became sick and it affected my relationship with my sons. Though always present, I could not offer a good role model to my sons and now the song haunts me.
    My 19 year old has been gone from the house and living in Melbourne in happilly there for 12 months.

  • I wish my husband understood this.

    He thinks spending time with his son equals simply sitting next to him–being physically close. But they’re both doing two totally different things. My son plays a video game. My husband does work on his computer.

    Now my son and I do this quite often. We’ve been in the same room for the last hour or so. He’s been on his computer and I’ve been on mine. The difference is we’re together pretty much all day and everyday. It is nice to be just near each other. I like having him “just around” BUT I don’t count this as our time together. I make sure each day, we spend QUALITY time together. This means we actually share an activity. Or we sit down and eat together. We talk.

    I think this is so important.

    If a parent has quantity time with their child (which I do) then I don’t think all of it needs to be quality time. But if a parent DOESN’T have quantity time with their child…if they’re working long hours, then they need to make sure the little time they have is quality time.

    Who knows? Maybe the guy at the movie does have quantity time with his kids. Maybe he spent the whole weekend having fun with them and this was the one time he could use to catch up on his work.

  • I saw a similar thing in a cafe last week – a dad out with his young daughter & her milkshake arrives with a sparkler blazing away!!

    He’s on the phone!!

    He tries to engage with his daughter’s bright eyed amazement but the phone wins


    Prayer for all us dads … help us do it right

  • I agree that cell phones and the Internet are just tools that can either bring us all closer together or further divide us. The breathless pace of technological development has been so fast that social development is lagging behind. I don’t think we can point to a particular person and blame them for what is a far, far greater issue that we all struggle with (e.g., trying to drive while all other drivers on talking on their cell phones!) I believe these are only growing pains, however, and we will master our technology before it masters us. Thank you for your post!

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