My Friends with Young Families, Remember: The Cat’s in the Cradle

The Cat’s in the Cradle

When our kids were small, some well-meaning sage would comment to us, “Well, enjoy them now because before you know it, they’ll be gone!” We’d patronizingly nod our assent, realizing that what they said was, in fact, true. But while recalling some of our children's recent memorable antics, it seemed to be in the far distant, if not welcome, future. In retrospect those years are now almost a blur.

And sure enough, people were right. From an infant to being two, to the lunchpail-carrying first-grader, on to academy, friends, dates, college, grad school, marriage, and even our first grandbaby, all in such an incredibly condensed and compressed period of time.

Now it’s 2004. After 18 consecutive years of having a teenager in our family, our “little girl” is closing that chapter of our life as well. When we dropped her off at college a few months ago and hugged her goodbye, we realized another final chapter was being written.

The words of a popular, old song, “The Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin, came to mind:

My 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 'for I knew it, and as he grew,

He’d say, “I’m gonna be like you, dad."

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.”

The song goes on to talk about when his son turned 10 and wanted him to play ball, but again the dad was too busy. It was the same when he came home from college—dad was too busy.

The song concludes:

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."

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."

Later this month, Sue and I will drive over to Walla Walla to wish Carissa happy birthday number 20. The e-mails and phone calls and committees can wait. They’ll still be there when we get back. But some things in life don’t. Before long some young man will be wanting to take her out to celebrate her birthdays, as well it should be.

So to all my friends with young families, let me pass it along again, “Enjoy them while you have them because soon they’ll be gone.”

February 01, 2004 / Editorial