Dads / Daughters / Family / Moms / Relationships / Teens

Present Absenteeism

people-texting sm2Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle has scared parents for over a generation.

I knew what this song was about even when I was very young. I just didn’t know the level of difficulty on the parent’s part to make time for his child until I became an adult.

The song starts out the son wants to paly ball but the father doesn’t have time. As the song progresses the son says, “that’s okay…I am gonna be like you dad.” By the end of the song the ageing father wants to spend time with his son, but the son is now too busy and can’t. The father then realizes that his son has grown to be just like him.

It haunted me even as a child. Now as a parent I am haunted by the words of this song in different ways and recognize that we are in the mist of an epidemic of ‘Cat’s in the Cradle Syndrome’ or better known as Present Absenteeism.

Present Absenteeism is not new to how we parent or relate to each other. Like the words in the song and through the use of TV, books, and newspapers all have been used to distract us and make it easy to not fully be plugged in to our interactions.

Our Present Absenteeism has hit a relatively new level since the birth of smart phones and social media. Take a look around you next time you are out. Count how many people are sitting at a table and at least one is looking down at their phone WHILE another person looks on and is attentive.

What is worse – we are doing this with our children.

I will admit I am enamored with my iPhone. I love it! I think that it is magic in my hand. That being said, I love my children WAY more than my phone. More than I can even express in words, in fact.  So if that is the case, why then do I, and lots like me, choose the phone over interaction with our children, family, friends and people in our public space?

This is the million-dollar question.

Have a few thoughts. One is that technology has changed so quickly that we haven’t figured out that this form of distraction is damaging.

Also, we have been conditioned to think that it is okay and socially acceptable to be this distracted checking our phones and looking away while we are in the presents of our children and interacting.

This is illogical thinking.

I am no scientist and I don’t have any statistics to back this up – yet.

We shouldn’t be doing it.

If Harry Chapin’s song, Cat’s in the Cradle, message isn’t loud and clear enough for you maybe the message of Brenda Slaby tragic loss will be enough.  I recently watched Oprah’s Life Class 23 – Slow Down. That is where I learned about Brenda’s story.

Brenda like most of us working moms was doing 101 things rushing out the door for work – only this day she forgot to drop her baby girl off at school. She left her daughter in her car all day while she went to work. Her daughter died in the heat of the car.

Try not to judge. Please watch the link provided below and try to have compassion.  I have never been in Brenda’s shoes, thus I will not judge. After you watch the link I don’t think you will either. This was a terrible tragic accident.

To give you some depth of this problem – nationwide in 2010 there were at least 49 children who died of heat related deaths while trapped in hot cars (source: meteorologist Jan Null of San Francisco Death of Children in Hot Vehicles in 2010 USA Today 1/4/2011)

The story on Oprah’s Life Class points out how easy it is for us to be unconscious to our lives. We move from point A to point B without even acknowledging we are at point A, that we are just “..trying to get to the next moment” and not being conscious in the current moment.

The other amazing point Oprah’s Life Class made was about appreciating the ordinary moments in your life. The moments where you are cooking dinner or grocery shopping with the people you love.

We talk about this on the blog all the time – about making those environments to have great and real conversations with your children. I know that a real face-to-face conversation doesn’t involve taking a text from an outside person.

We have to learn to make a commitment to our families and our loved ones to give them the respect and time they deserve when we are in their presents. It’s important that we show our children that they matter and are more important that interacting with our social media.

Put the phones and social media away until the children are asleep.

Plug into the people around you.

It is my commitment to my family and loved ones. I have been guilty. I have let my computer time take up too much of my life away from my face-to-face interaction with my children. I don’t want to be that person. I want to be a great mom – not a great Facebook’er/Tweeter or texter.

So far, it’s not hard. My little one and I have played tea party, saw a movie, and cuddled and shared stories about her back to school.

I hope that you will watch the links and make the commitment with me!

My take aways that I will be working harder to employ every day:

  • Appreciate the ordinary moments with my children
  • Slow down
  • Be here now
  • Put my phone away when in the presents of others
  • Plug into the people who are in front of me

The link to Oprah’s Life Class 23 – Slow Down:

Here is the YouTube video of Cat’s in the Cradle:

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 talkin’ ‘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 on 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 ok
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 the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on 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

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 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 on the moon
When you comin’ 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 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 comin’ home son
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, Dad
We’re gonna have a good time then

One thought on “Present Absenteeism

  1. Pingback: Teen Etiquette – More Than Just Rules | Paper Hope

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