In our desire to provide for our children it is easy to lose sight of what they need from us. We work to give them a stable household, to ensure that they do not lack basic needs like food, shelter, clothing. We work to afford houses in good school districts (or pay private school tuition to send them to “good schools”). We fill their time with laudable extracurricular activities, sports, arts, music lessons, language tutors, etc., all of which cost money, which requires that we work more. We indulge them with more luxurious comforts, the latest must-have toys, iGadgets in different sizes and colors and the apps that go with them, cable TV, bicycles, summer camps, cars, and trips to Europe.
Here on the Main Line, the pressure on parents to provide for their children is intense. Parents work incredibly long hours. Even when they aren’t traveling for business, one parent is typically absent for much of the day and will work late into the night even at home, usually in some home office. I suspect the experience here is not unique.
We do such things out of love for our children, or what we justify as love for our children. But have we ever stopped and asked our children what they want from us? How often have we asked them what they need from us? And how often do we take them seriously when they answer?
Listening to Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” this morning, I am reminded of how easy it is to mistake our needs and wants for our children’s needs and wants. They don’t want us to buy them another ball. They just want us to teach them to throw.
Like Chapin, “Frankly this song scares me to death.”