Come on let’s play

You yearn for a few moments of peace each night when your kids are little.

When you have teenagers the nights feel a little too quiet. You kinda miss being pestered.

I’ve been having a “Cat’s in the Cradle” moment about it.

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you comin’ 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 okay”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”

And then the final crushing verse:

I’ve long since retired, 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 can 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

I’ve been wondering if I was too busy for my kids when they wanted me around and now I’ve missed my chance.

I see them briefly for dinner each night before they retreat behind their bedroom doors. It’s a particularly lonely scenario when you’re a single parent because there’s no partner to curl up with on the couch instead.

There’s just the dogs barking at the freaking possums and me screeching at them to shut up as I pack the dishwasher.

You never know when it’s the “last” time.

The last time your child holds your hand.

The last time they beg you to play tip.

The last time they ask you to help them build a sandcastle.

The last time they won’t let go when you hug them goodnight.

Quite a few last times have been racing past with the youngest. The latest is that I’m no longer automatically welcome in her bedroom. She has a fit about me entering without permission. Previously her life was an open book, but it’s closing.

I yearn to enclose my children’s little hands in mine, to chase them as they giggle in the park, to build another damn sandcastle, to feel their arms tightly wrapped around my neck.

But the clock doesn’t wind back, so I’m left with the memories and regret that I was churlish about playing the childhood games and digging in the sand.

I remind myself that they still need me, just in different ways. And I always do my best to never let them down.

Song of the day: Harry Chaplin “Cat’s in the cradle”

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