I know why the vintage song, The Cat’s In The Cradle by Harry Chapin always makes me cry–even still to this day.
I grew up with a dad who wasn’t there. He and mom split before I was born, so growing up, I knew him, but he was never around. So I
would hear that song about a dad who had no time for his boy, who eventually grows up to offer the same non-relationship that he had experienced.
“I’m Gonna Be Like You, Dad. You know I’m Gonna Be Like You”
Listen here (*You may want to have a tissue handy)
Overly sentiment or not, it is a fact that kids will often mirror the relationship they experienced from their parents, especially from their dads. I know that I struggled with what kind of dad I would be and I’m so thankful to my wife and accountability from mentors who have encouraged me to be true to my marriage vows and the mission of being a dad who depends on grace and the Holy Spirit to love more deeply than I could ever naturally.
Here’s how that song entered my head this week… I was sitting in a restaurant alone eating lunch and reading a book. I looked across the dining room and saw a scene that I’ve now observed far too many times: a parent—this time a dad—sitting with his children but totally focused on his mobile phone.
This particular time, the dad was sitting with his two sons who were very young—Probably 3 and 2. I was especially connected to this moment because our two oldest sons are very close in age and I used to spend Fridays with them when I was off from seminary classes. We’d call it our “Boys in the House Day.”
Now for most of this lunch meal, his boys ate sweetly and would often try to get his attention with occasional comments and wild gestures. The dad would look up for a second, correct them, and then drift back down to this phone. Once he said, “Are you going to eat your lunch or what?” Then went back down to his phone. After a while of watching his dad flicking on his little device, I saw the 3-year-old look at his hands in a way that I imagined to be, “I can’t wait to get one of those toys too.”
That’s when the Cat’s song entered my head. One day, maybe those boys will grow up and they’ll want to be just like their dad, having the ability to disconnect with those who they’re around so they can scroll through Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram or whatever ironically “social” media is available then.
“It’s been sure nice talking to you Dad. It’s been sure nice talking to you.”
If a child grows up always having to compete with electronic devices for their parent’s attention, it’s right to assume that they will learn that this is the way family relationships work—it’s okay to be distracted and focus more on virtual experiences than real relationships. It’s okay to ignore those who are right in front of you to pay attention to your electronic devices.
And someday, when the dad is the one is longing for a relationship with his sons, they give him what they experienced and will be distracted and disconnected.
In my head, I starting yelling, “Excuse me, friend! Don’t you realize that this moment—this hour with your boys sitting here with your boys, who are ready to hang on your every word, it disappears when it’s over! And you’ll never have it back again. Look… your sons want so badly to to see your eyes. They want to hear your voice—Talk to them! Start building up now a relationship with them that will last. So that one day in a future that comes faster than you think, you’re going to desire a real relationship with your boys… and you might ask yourself, ‘Why don’t my boys ever look at me?'”
“And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me, he’d grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.”
Dads, ask yourself, please, the same questions I ask myself on a regular basis:
- How often do I give my kids my full attention?
- Do I make them compete with my electronic devices?
- How many times to I check my phone when we’re having a conversation?
- Do I ever make eye contact with them?
- Is how I’m relating to my kids building up or shutting out?
- If they also have electronic devices, when are we ever really talking together?
It’s important and ironic that the promise of the Story includes the promise of a face-to-face relationship with our Father, who, if ever had an excuse to multi-task, being God would certainly be a good one. Yet the promise is that we will know him so intimately that we’ll be able to see the details on face. And we’ll be forever illuminated by the light of his presence.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle viagra online of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.
They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. [Rev. 22:1-5]
Parents, and especially you dads… May we let dim the glow of our electronic devices and let the light of our faces shine upon our children, so that we would reflect the glory of God the Father, who loves us and is always eager for us to know Him face-to-face.