Monday, January 11, 2010

Cats in the Cradle

There are times when that song from my childhood, Cats in the Cradle, just streams through my head:

Cats in the Cradle and a Silver Spoon,
Little Boy Blue and the Man in the Moon,
When're you coming home Dad, I don't know when,
But we'll get together then son,
you know we'll have a good time then....

I suppose in many ways I'm living my life accordingly. Sensitive to the theme of this song, that the father who prioritized his work and had little time for his son, reaps his just rewards in that his son has little time for him in his old age, and hoping to avoid its message in my own family entourage.

Life is a cycle, or at least, I believe it is so. What goes around comes around. What we put into motion ever so unconsciously, can come back to catch us.

I felt this cycle in a strange way during these holidays. I went for a walk with my mother, and for the first time perhaps ever, she walked more slowly than I, frightened of slipping and falling in the icy snow. Mostly, I was able to slow down and walk at her speed, but I felt myself resisting, frustrated, and yes, a bit resentful. Why?

Scenes of my childhood when she was always in a hurry, out the door before me, honking the car, ahead of me by a few yards, urging impatiently for me to catch up, rarely waiting till I was actually ready... No, it wasn't all the time, but enough that the impression has stuck.

I see as well my grandmother ten yards (or ten minutes) ahead of my grandfather, abandoning him as she strode strongly along while he trailed behind hobbled by weak legs. Was it so important to arrive minutes before the other?

I want to stop this. I don't want to be the impatient mom always urging her kids along.

And yet, I have been thus. I remember countless times zooming across Arles with Leo in tow -- thankfully, he was able to keep up most of the time, especially with his hand in mine. But when we had a friend of his with us, one who was far more dreamy and slow, inspecting every crack in the sidewalk, every piece of paper on the ground (no matter the cars that nearly toppled him over!), I would go, admittedly, rather batty. I have even thanked the stars that I've a son like Leo who can keep up. If I'd had a child like his poor friend no doubt it would have been torture for us both.

And so, how to stop this? Well, I'm trying. I'm making moves in this direction. We walk hand in hand, or if not, I look back when they dawdle, and stop when I sense they've fallen behind. Then simply, during those precious times when the clock isn't weighing upon me, I stand and smile as I wait for them to catch up -- rather than urging and berating and tapping a foot, or worse, heading off alone expecting them to keep up ...

It will come.


Sharyn Ekbergh said...

Olof's father who is 81 comes skiing with us. We do a loop together (he was on the Swedish ski team in the 40's so he moves right along). Then he waits and we do another loop and we all go home together.
It's a good message. They won't always be with us.

Madeleine Vedel said...

my dear you are quick! I've finally gotten a couple posts done and bingo, a lovely note from you. I'm sure you'd be amused by the icy roads out my door as well! no ploughs in my tiny neighborhood, no snow shovels, no blowers... just patient folk slipping about hoping for it all to melt... (it's been 4 days now)

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

Hi Madeleine,
That means I spend too much time on my powerbook where I was on line much of the day doing emails for the camera business and (I shouldn't admit this) playing Farmville and IMing my mom and our friends who also play. Today I should be writing scripts in the studio.
Ice is no good anywhere but in snow we'd just get out the skies and get out there.
The best part of a long marriage to a Swede, snow means skiing!

Anonymous said...

Last fall while staying in a hotel on the beach in Venture, I "ran" the beach for an hour every morning. And each morning was a young mother walking her 7 year old to school, along the beach. They'd walk out from one of the enclaves of small old beach houses adjecent to the beach, him carring his oversized backback, down to the water. Then along the water for about 500m before bending back to the neighborhood school about a block in from the beach. Sometimes they'd stop to watch the crash of the surf sparkling in the low morning sun. Sometimes it was a lone fisherman in the surf casting threw the spray of the curling wave. Sometimes the churp of the shore birds, or a rock, or a few interesting strips of kelp. What struck me was their ability to take this time to be in the moment together, no rushing, no "hurry up"'s, "no "for heavens sake keep up." Just quiet time together before the rush of the day. It reminded me of the same song, as I thought of our childern and grandchildren living in Paris and in Hamberg. Our busy separate lives teach only busy separate lives. Thanks for reminding me again.

Madeleine Vedel said...

what a lovely image! thank you!! Being slow to rise in the morning I'm afraid our pre-school routine is far from so zen and in the moment, but I can dream and wonder at such a possibility... and manage it in the evening and on weekends. Take care!