“He’d Grown Up Just Like Me”

“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.” [1]

  • Thus began the relationship between the baby boy and his father.  But you expect that this is just a coincidence of events that kept the father from missing key events in his young son’s life.

{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.”}

  • The young boy admired his father, and started saying that he wanted to grow up just like his father.

“When you coming home, dad?”  The father replied as he was leaving “I don’t know when.  But we’ll get together then.  You know we’ll have a good time then.”

  • This is beginning to sound like a routine.


{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?”}  The father replied “Not today.  I got a lot to do.”  The boy surprisingly 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.”}

  • The boy still admired his father and still wanted to grow up just like his father.

As the boy grew, the boy asked again {“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.”}

  • This was now no longer a coincident, but a frequently repeating routine that was imprinted in the boy’s mind.

{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.”}

  • One of the rare times that the father wants to spend some time with his son, who is now a young man in college.  But the son doesn’t have time to spend with his father.

{“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.”}

  • Those words sound familiar to the father, because they were the exact words he said to his son many years earlier.

{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.”}

  • Circumstances have reversed.  The father now has time in his hands, and to allay his loneliness, he wants to spend some time with his son.  But the son is now acting just like his father many years ago.  He has his own priorities, and spending time with his father is not one of his high priority items.

{As I hung up the phone, it occurred to me, he’d grown up just like me.  My boy was just like me.}

  • Most likely the father now wished that he could turn the clock back, and relive his life again.  However, time is a one-dimensional arrow, and the clock cannot be turned back.

{“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 first heard this song “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Sandy & Harry Chapin more than 25 years ago when I was attending a “Time-Management” training course while working at Bell Laboratories.  It made a great and lasting impression on me even though unlike the father in the song, I did spend time with my sons.  But the song always makes me wonder whether I had my priorities right and whether I should have spent even more time with my sons.

To read the lyrics of this song, click on lyrics.  To hear the song sung by Harry Chapin, click on song.

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[1]  This article contains many quotes from the song “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Sandy & Harry Chapin.  Since the song contains a lot of quotes, in order to distinguish quotes within quotes,  the inside quotes are placed between “…”, and the outside quotes are placed between {…}.

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3 Responses to ““He’d Grown Up Just Like Me””

  1. Tim Zebo says:

    Hi Don,

    I’ve always liked this song so thanks for posting the lyrics. About your comment, “…the song always makes me wonder whether I had my priorities right…”…
    I once heard a Tony Robbin’s video lecture in which he suggested, “All humans have 6 basic needs: certainty, variety, significance, growth, connection & contribution.” I doubt if it’s ever possible for any parent to simultaneously satisfy all of these needs either for themselves or for their children! BTW, I’d personally add two more needs to Tony’s list: health (both physical & mental) and autonomy.

    Thanks again,

    Tim

  2. David Chai says:

    Don,
    Thanks for reminding me [us] how we devoted our times between home front and our job in Bell Labs. I have often reflected the “battle” that the Asian Americans fought for advancement that did not come our way. We challenged the Management for our share of the higher positions, with statistics and Affirmative Action [and later the concept of diversity] arguments to no avail, with management using the pretense that we did not communicate well or that we did not have the “leadership” quality, what ever that meant! It is quite ironic that I can become the Mayor of Holmdel; but not a Dept. Head or Director of Bell Labs [although the title of Director became “cheap” under Bellcore/Telcodia].

    Anyway, the unintended consequence of not being promoted in Bell Labs was the additional time that I had to devote to my family and children. I did not have much span of responsibility or have to travel much; hence I was able to “play” with my kids while they were young. Yes, They’d Grown Up Just Like Me. They are playing with their children, Just Like Me, and I am now playing with their children, Just Like Me.

  3. John S Rous says:

    I first heard The “Cat’s In The Cradle” when I was about 5 and I remember my father and I always making time for each other and I’ve made it a priority of mine to spend time with my son who is quite like the boy in the song.

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