Pretty much everyone has heard the song “Cat’s In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin. It’s an old song but quite relevant, especially today.
I always had a different take on the end of the song than many people do. “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..”
I beg to differ. Notice the line where he mentions his kids having the flu? That indicates to me that his son is taking an active role in the raising of his children. The father, who was always selfish, wants his son to leave his family to come visit the father. Does the father offer to come help with the sick children, his own grandchildren? No. He sits and feels sorry for himself in his arrogance and selfishness. The father is too arrogant to see the truth while the son is telling him he will not neglect his family for the man who neglected him.
Chapin’s song was prophetic and it was meant to be. It came out with perfect timing but the people who heard it failed to actually listen to the warning. Since the song was published, we have had multiple generations grow up in exactly those conditions. At first with the Boomers, who focused on wealth above family. Since them, each generation has spiraled downward, struggling to gain not wealth but first hold onto the American Dream. Then simple basic security. Now down to merely surviving from day to day.
Boomers make frequent jokes about blowing their children’s inheritance money. Great, so they spent years ignoring their children while chasing money and now, the final legacy that can benefit their children they will spend on themselves. BUT they want their families to drop everything and pay attention to them.
Over the same generations, there has been a social and spiritual evolution going on. Boomers are blind to it. Fathers have become more likely to be active parents, cooks, teachers, caregivers, taking part in maintaining the house. Okay, I said it has become MORE common. It is FAR more common for men to fight for greater custody of children in a divorce than it was in the 70’s. More men cook, do laundry and much more.
Today young people are getting married later. having children later or not having children at all. Boomers like to call this selfish behavior but in fact it is more responsible. It’s not because they don’t care, it’s because they do care. They do not want to have children that they cannot provide for without giving up valuable time.
The song talks about the importance of togetherness. Playing balls, talking, etc. Children and significant others who truly love you care less for the money than your ear, your shoulder, your presence. Your arm around them, being in the stands at a game or recital, helping with homework, just listening.
Boomers attack Millennials for their cell phones. They don’t get the point. Listening IS the point of cell phones. It is their constant connection to their social support systems, which can span the globe. Cell phones are also a source of information, so they are less likely to fall for BS. They will reference information in a heartbeat and call you out on lies. They will take your picture or video to document your words so you cannot deny it later. You want to go viral? Lie to a Millennial. Threaten them. I dare you.
With those references and connections, being raised in near isolation with inadequate guidance, it will always be harder to pin them down to the cult thinking so important to political parties and capitalism.
Yes, they want something, someone to believe in. Yet each generation after Boomers have watched their parents disappointed, lied to, have dreams destroyed and keep working even harder, even longer while getting less and less for it. They have experienced the same things or are beginning to. They are not loyal to corporations or a government that is not loyal to them.
The rising threats to Social Security and Medicare is the first real threat of true insecurity many Boomers have ever known. For the younger generations, they can all look at Boomers with compassion but also say, “Welcome to the world YOU have made us live in our entire lives. Get used to it. Sure, we’ll take care of you. How much are you going to pay me?”
So, is it any surprise that each successively younger generation is increasingly drawn to some form of Socialism? The idea of society caring for society instead of the rich? Asking what is in it for them? The idea of not bombing countries where they may actually have friends in, online or in real life?
They hear the numbers rattled off like nothing. They understand what is behind those numbers. They understand those numbers keep going one direction, away from them and out of their pockets and futures.
So, “Cat’s In The Cradle” is in reality the story of how older generations have neglected their responsibilities for their own selfishness and made younger generations pay increasingly more as time marched on. The debt rising so high economically, financially and emotionally that it will never be repaid.
“When you coming home, dad?/ I don’t know when/ But we’ll have a good time then/ We’re gonna have a good time then..”