No Child Left Behind?

Are we raising our kids and grandkids any differently or any better than we were raised?  I was watching “Leave It to Beaver” recently when the subject of listening to our kids came up between Ward and June.  In 1960, Ward said he wondered if they were doing a good job of listening to their kids.  I don’t think times have changed much. 

We still question whether or not we’re doing a good job of listening.

I believe we ask the same questions from generation to generation.  It is easy to overlook the things our children and grandchildren say to us.  Parents struggle with real grown-up issues—paying bills, health problems, a difficult boss, job loss, troubles in the community, noisy neighbors, how to get the car fixed, what to do about the furnace, and a host of other concerns that consume us.  These troubling thoughts tend to bleed over into a child’s emotions especially if there’s a lot of conflict going on.

I don’t think times have changed much since we were young.  My relationship with my stepfather was never close though I loved him very much. I never had his acceptance despite my best efforts. Parenthood just wasn’t his thing. He was the result of his tough upbringing in Kansas City during the Great Depression and so it went. The way he raised me was all he knew.

I never felt like my stepfather – my dad – was listening when I was growing up. I think he had a lot on his mind.  Raising children wasn’t one of those concerns.  His priorities included watching the ball game and reading his James Michener novels.  Anytime I thought my dad might be listening to me was the occasional glance over the top of his glasses and his books along with a grunt. 

What was on my mind just wasn’t important to him.

A parent’s actions tend to speak volumes over their words. My dad was a man of few words. Few were positive. My mother, on the other hand, was a good listener if she wasn’t interrupting you.  Her mind worked faster than a speeding bullet and she was always one step ahead of me in conversation. 

I figure if you’re talking—you’re not listening. 

I spend time talking to my son, Jacob, when I need to be talking with my son.  When you’re talking to your kid, this means you probably aren’t listening.  Talking with your child indicates a two-way conversation where you’re both listening and sharing. Something we all could be working on because they grow up fast.

This leads me back to the importance of listening to our children and embracing their imaginations. Although I remember being a child, I get caught up in my own dance as an adult and forget to embrace what my son is trying to tell me. I tend to avoid Harry Potter and Marvel movies because they don’t interest me. Yet where is my sense of adventure – that element that kept me staring out a frosty bedroom window a lifetime ago?

Things important to a child haven’t been important to us in a long time because priorities change.  This is where we have to work at listening more and talking less.  As we grow older, we’re probably chatting more with our grandchildren than we are our children. 

Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s In The Cradle” hit from the 1970s sums up this dynamic completely. It still brings tears to my eyes.

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 ‘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”

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

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-a, not today
I got a lot to do, he said, that’s okay
And he, he walked away, but his smile never dimmed
It said, I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him

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

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 they said with a smile
What I’d really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?

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

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 kids have 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

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
We’re gonna have a good time then

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Harry F. Chapin / Sandy Chapin

Cat’s in the Cradle lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

3 thoughts on “No Child Left Behind?”

  1. Remember those Balsawood airplanes you could buy, Unsnap the pieces from the stamped sheet of wood, poke out the channels where the wings would slip into the fuselage piece. A little metal clip on the front to give it some weight. They had the painted graphics of the wing tops on those pieces. You just simply put the pieces in and suddenly you got an aircraft that would provide hours of fun. Six simple components.

    The next generation would be similar, except they would have some plastic components. You added metal wire bracket with two tiny plastic wheels for landing gear. Inside the plastic fuselage and or wood and you had the metal pins that would hold the long rubber band to drive the propeller on the front nose. Now you had powered flight. Those things provided more hours of fun, after you graduated from the simple Balsawood glider.

    Today, those simple toys have been replaced with made in China electronics with plastic enclosure for some kind of video game cartridge that became the parent replacement for that child. In my opinion, yes things have drastically changed in the parenting roles.

    Sent from the road

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  2. There’s way more “stuff” in kids’ lives these days. From too many toys, too much input, too much working parent guilt swamped in materialism. But I find a walk to the park with grandkids, like my daughter, a walk full of random twigs and branches, bugs, ground funk, the creek, the slobbery dogs in tow… That’s where the magic of maybe no conversation, or where, outside of the walls one of them will open up, tell a story. About someone you don’t know, a video game you could care less about, a movie you know was made as a license to print money. But you let them talk because you remember the look over books, your mother’s questions and ideas way out in front of her, so you listen and say “Flash can really do that?” or “So it was that easy to fix Nana’s fingernails?” or “Just tell your piano teacher how you feel about not having the music in front of you and see what she says. Last I looked no music at a recital wasn’t a law. And remember the tall guy? He had somebody turn the pages for him.” And they skip off and get dizzy or get too close to the creek or get fascinated by a pile of dog poop or want to play Pooh sticks off the bridge. Time is the best thing you can give any kid. Whether you really give a damn about Flash or the rest of it, being a sounding board is all that matters.

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