Cat’s in the Cradle

Tuesday, October 11, 2016 Permalink

I saw this meme the other day which reminded me of a blog post I’d started some time ago. For reasons I cannot recall, though laziness probably featured highly, I did nothing with it at the time – perhaps thinking there was no story ‘arc’ or point to the piece.

Regular readers will know however, I rarely let that stop me, so here I am again… pondering the notion of history repeating itself. Or karma. Or similar.

cats in the cradle

I had a conversation with a  work colleague recently. We were talking about ageing parents and she mentioned some of her regrets. (She’s older than I am and her parents are both long gone.)

She said she felt pretty close to her mother but has only now become increasing conscious of her missed opportunities. She said it’s particularly ironic because the situation is repeating itself with her own children.

She was ‘once’ close to her mother she said, but – even though they lived in close proximity – didn’t catch up much, and she often felt a little exasperated when she had to do chores for her mother given other competing priorities.

She said her (then teenage) kids still lived at home at the time and she felt relieved she had a better relationship with them than she and her mother had, so was happy that things would be different… when her time came.

Fast forward over a decade and she said she’s surprised to find herself in her mother’s position. Her kids have their own lives and own commitments and she’s often an afterthought. She feels like they see her as a burden and yet she doesn’t mean to be and doesn’t think she is.

I don’t have kids so haven’t been able to ponder on this myself. I think about my own mum who was close to her mother and even though they lived at opposite ‘sides’ of the state they wrote (at least) weekly until my grandmother passed away. I like to think she didn’t drop the ball when it came to her commitments towards her mother just because we came along or life got busy.

Regular readers – or those who follow me on social media – know my mother is very generous. My parents didn’t have a lot. Both left school by 14 or so and worked hard all of their lives to ensure my brother and I had a University education. There were no fancy holidays or dinners out, but they devoted their lives to us in many ways. But not – I think – to the detriment of their own families.

In addition to their own parents my mother and father were incredibly giving to an uncle and aunt of dad’s whose kids lived elsewhere and rarely visited. They set a wonderful example and my 72yr old mother continues to do so as she ferries the ‘oldies’ from her church and social networks around town and to appointments.

Whereas I’m a lazy SOB so am unsure I’ll be as generous to all of my elders. I’m sure I’m not as patient with my mother as I should be and don’t visit my local aunt and uncle as much as I should. As someone who will – essentially – have no one when my mother’s gone you’d think I would appreciate the importance of those few people I DO have in my life.

But my colleague’s point, I think (see, I told you there was no story arc to this piece!), is that we always think there will be more time. She was busy with her own kids – who needed to be her priority – and work and so forth. She thought she had more time. And I ‘get’ that. Regret is a big concern for me. There feels like there are a lot of things I have, or have not, done. I’m trying to rectify that but… well, time continues to tick away.

I realise Cat’s in the Cradle isn’t ‘exactly’ about this… but you’re in the mood for some Harry Chapin, here you go.

Do you think you set a good example for your kids in terms of your relationship with your family / loved ones / others? Do you think it matters?

As it’s Tuesday, I’m linking up with Kylie Purtell for IBOT.

42 Comments
  • Erin
    October 11, 2016

    Yes I do think it matters. I completely believe our children are watching and ‘what we sow we reap’ or ‘what goes around comes around’. So at times though my mother/daughter relationship can require hard work I keep at it. Also keeping in mind speaking respectfully cause kids are watching that too.
    I also think this in relation to sibling relations. I put a lot of time and effort into keeping in touch with my siblings (I have several so it takes time) and my kids are well aware of that. I want the same for them, want them to stay close to siblings as they grow and become adults.

  • Ruth Hillman-Booth
    October 11, 2016

    I’m a big believer in family of choice. Adie and the Big Boys are family, as is there extended family, so are my BFFs. Relationships work both ways too.

    My ex-inlaws (outlaws?) are family too…

    And you won’t be alone. #familyofchoice

    • Debbish
      October 11, 2016

      Ah yes, I’ve been lucky with my family though I know many aren’t as fortunate! x

  • Have A Laugh On Me
    October 11, 2016

    As my parents age I’m becoming a lot more mindful about our time together so I don’t have any regrets, something I’m familiar with from when someone I loved died in my 20s. Regret and hindsight is a horrible thing. Love this post.

    • Debbish
      October 11, 2016

      Thanks Em. Yes, regret is most definitely a horrible thing.

  • Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid
    October 11, 2016

    This is a tricky one because we don’t have kids and our parents are literally a world away. I’m a bit weird and am always conscious of how I’m going to feel when my mum’s gone, so I speak to her almost every day and try to go back to visit at least once a year. I don’t want to be hurt when it’s time for hindsight. You know the best thing about this though, is that even though we haven’t done this or haven’t done that, it’s never too late to start 🙂

    • Debbish
      October 11, 2016

      Very true Sammie. At the moment there’s still time. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when mum’s gone and I know it’s something she worries about (cos she wrote it in a mother / daughter memory book / journal thingy she gave me).

      Perhaps I’ll meet the man of my dreams before I lose mum. Or several! And won’t be drifting without an anchor when the time comes.

  • Amy @ HandbagMafia
    October 11, 2016

    I do try. My mum and I were very close and spent lots of time together but she died when I was 26, so I don’t think the kids will remember that. That song makes me so sad.

    • Debbish
      October 11, 2016

      On my FB page I mention that I wrote the post because I saw the meme a week or so ago AND because it was the ‘cool down’ song at my water aerobics class yesterday. I had another post ready for today but that made me dig it out and use today today.

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    October 11, 2016

    We are very close to both sets of parents. We take the time to see them often. Husband travels to the coast once a month to stay with his folks and my parents are regularly part of our lives. We have a spare room in our house that WILL NOT be converted to a much needed study because we value our extended family too much.
    Although I am overdue to visit my last surviving grandparent. She’s 95 and going down hill fast. I must make the time. I MUST
    Because you’e right “we always think there will be more time”. Time is actually running out for some …
    Thanks for the kick up the arse I needed Deb!

    • Debbish
      October 11, 2016

      Oh wow, a grandparent. I lost my last grandparent in the 1990s Leanne. Mum’s parents died in their 60s, my dad’s mum before I was born and his dad who lived until his 80s in the mid 1990s.

  • nicolethebuilderswife
    October 11, 2016

    Neither my husband or myself have a relationship with my Mother or his parents, likewise most of our siblings. I work hard to honestly answer my childrens questions when they are asking why we don’t have family events like other families, while also working to create our own family of friends to support them and us. We are fortunate to have a great relationship with my Father, so we do focus on that as much as we can.

    • Debbish
      October 11, 2016

      That must be hard but it’s great you’ve explained the situation to the kids so they understand.

  • Haidee@Maybe Baby Brothers
    October 11, 2016

    My mum died when I was 21 so I have always been so conscious of making sure the relationships I have with my sister, nana and aunts are nurtured because you just never know how much time you have. I’m fortunate that I had a very close relationship with my mum when I was a teenager, even though that was pretty far from many teenage girls heads so I have no regrets. #TeamIBOT

    • Debbish
      October 11, 2016

      So sorry you lost your mum early Haidee but lovely that you were close and it’s made you conscious of making the most of the time you have with family now.

  • writeofthemiddle
    October 11, 2016

    Such a great post and topic Deb. I’m very conscious of the limited time I will have left with my parents. Over recent years there have been several health scares with my Dad. He turns 86 on 1 November. My Mum is 10.5 years younger than him but at 75 is still aging and I really notice it in the way she walks now (with pain in her hips). They live on the other side of Brisbane – about a 45 minute drive. I phone once or twice a week and try and see them as often as I can but probably not regularly enough. When I am with them I soak up everything, memorizing every detail, for when I will need it. That’s how conscious I am that I won’t have them forever. My daughter moved out earlier this year and I only see her once a week now when she comes for dinner. Her life is very busy – uni, work, internship. I don’t really see it as history repeating itself (yes I was a busy bee too at her age though not as busy as her!). I see it more as life stages. If she needs me, she knows I’m always here for her and she does come to me whenever there is a problem or she is upset or needs advice. I don’t think any parent is perfect – mine weren’t and I certainly haven’t been. As long as love is there – that’s the main thing! 🙂

    • Debbish
      October 11, 2016

      Yes, I like to think my parents and I have always made time for each other and made it a priority. Obviously when I was living away it was harder and I worried a lot that my mum had a lot on her plate as dad’s carer. Important also both my brother and I saw him before he went into hospital and spent a lot of time there at the end as well. No regrets there at all.

  • Kate W
    October 11, 2016

    As a related aside, your mum is giving herself years of health by being the one ferrying others around and facilitating social events, visits etc – research now shows that one of the key factors in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia is maintaining strong social networks.

    • Debbish
      October 11, 2016

      Oh god yes and she’s a mad crossword do-er as well. She has commitments on every day and – though I know sometimes she says she’s been in and out (into town etc) 5 times, she misses her activities when they’re not on. I do wonder though who will take her to church or meetings or ‘disco’ when she’s in her 80s and beyond. There don’t seem to be a lot of people in her network a decade or so younger. Perhaps they’ll emerge when it’s time, or perhaps things have changed and future generations aren’t quite as likely to help out.

  • JodiGibson (@JFGibsonWriter)
    October 11, 2016

    We have quite a weird family situation, weird being the wrong word, but at this time I can’t think of anything more fitting. Having said that, I do try and keep in best contact with my Dad, who recently moved away and got married (at 86!), which I’m so excited about. He’s hard a hard life dedicated to his children and grandchildren and I’m so thankful now in his twilight years he can once again focus on himself. I hope my kids and I have a good relationship. I want to both be able to be there for them, but also let them have their own lives. It’s a hard balance.

  • hugzillablog
    October 11, 2016

    I am getting to this stage with my parents too, and while their health is still reasonably good I have found myself thinking of their mortality a bit too. I have a good relationship with mum and dad so they are in a different state and we don’t see each other nearly enough. Even if they wanted to, there is no way they could afford to move back to Sydney without a huge drop in lifestyle, given the property prices here. I wish we could see them more often just to hang out.

    • Debbish
      October 11, 2016

      My parents always had those thoughts about Brisbane. They couldn’t afford to move there and mum says the same thing now about moving into a retirement place etc – that she couldn’t afford it. Fortunately her house is very functional and she’s still healthy. I wanted to make sure my current place was one-level in case she’s got to stay with me a bit… (though usually I go there as she’s more comfy at her house – understandably).

  • Vanessa
    October 11, 2016

    I see my mother in law quite a bit as she lives near us. The best times are when we have a fire at her place and attempt to cook food on it. Or watch a movie on her house using the projector. We don’t do it nearly often enough, probably because she is taking care of her parents often!

    • Debbish
      October 11, 2016

      I remember living in the same town as my parents when I was in my 20s and it was nice to drop by and mum and I walked in the morning etc… I’m only half an hour away now and we do try to see each other every week. Sometimes it’s more, rarely it’s less… but since moving I’ve had a bit of stuff on so haven’t gotten to her place as much as I was. (Plus I was running away from my old apartment complex before and staying with her for a few days each week cos I hated it there so much!)

  • Hello Sydney Kids (@HelloSydneyKids)
    October 11, 2016

    Oh dear, I don’t as I live half a world away… I very much hope my mum survives a lot longer so I can go over and stay with her for months at a time… but my wee ones are only 10. I’d be so upset if mine ended up so far from me.

    • Debbish
      October 11, 2016

      Ah yes…. I lived overseas for a while in my late 20s and 30s. It’s not something I’d consider now as mum ages of course and I’ll stay close now, which is okay as I’m happy in my little part of the world.

  • Janet Camilleri
    October 11, 2016

    Oh tough subject and one I’m not really at liberty to go into here. However I will just say this – I’m finding my dad and stepmum are getting more demanding in wanting to see us as they get older (and are now both retired). And they don’t seem to understand that my kids (their grandkids) are grown and catching up with all the rellies just isn’t a priority for them right now … sigh …

    • Debbish
      October 11, 2016

      Oh yes… We used to visit my paternal grandfather (poppie) and step grandmother every second weekend or so and I’m sure I rebelled at some point (though am pretty sure I had to keep going). I was the same with dad’s aunt and uncle (I mention in the post) as we often saw them a couple of times a week and I’m sure I tried to get out of it at some point. (Of course by the time I got to Uni and later I seemingly wrote to that same great aunt from time to time and – when she was near the end – visited her on weekends with dad. Willingly.)

  • deb dane
    October 11, 2016

    This is such a hard one for me. My mom (and my whole family) lives in the states and my in laws live in France (hubby’s siblings are in England and Spain). While we love them all we rarely see them. My kids have only had 1 us thanksgiving with family and 1 Christmas with hubby’s family. The connections are stronger now than years ago but still they are aging fast (in mid 70s and health issues #1 phone topic) we are starting to prepare ourselves for the future.

  • Karin @ Calm to Conniption
    October 11, 2016

    I think I do set a good example with my parents but I know there are other branches of our family that we really should work harder at. In both directions! Such a post to get me thinking Deb! Thank goodness the in-laws are coming stay next week to put my mind at ease a little.

    • Debbish
      October 12, 2016

      Ha! Didn’t mean to give you the guilts. Mum and I have the same conversation about some other relatives: ‘Should we be in touch more?’ And then we remind ourselves it’s a two-way street etc…

  • Jo
    October 12, 2016

    As kids we lived away from both sets of grandparents- visiting them generally twice a year. I’m pretty sure I recall weekly phone calls- although that was back when long distance calls were expensive. My parents are in Sydney, so we’ve been close for the last 24 years, visiting Grant’s Mum in Canberra just a few times a year. He calls her when I remind him to.

    • Debbish
      October 12, 2016

      My maternal grandparents lived in western Queensland and we only saw them once a year, but my mum wrote at least weekly to them and talked to them weekly as well. I think – even though we knew they were far away – mum valued their relationship a lot. She was their oldest and my grandma actually had a child AFTER mum left home and married and when she was quite young mum left school to help work in their shop etc… so I think they had that parent/child relationship and whatever comes after that. (Which I think my mum and I have now. I’m 48 and try not to be too needy but she’s the one I ring / see when I’m upset or bawling etc…)

  • yinyangmother
    October 12, 2016

    I’m conscious of this – I think our kids appreciate the close relationship on my side of the family with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – it helps to have our annual holiday away together. Hubby’s side is far less close, but it isn’t something I want to force. I’m conscious of being an older mum, not so much with our daughter but with our son, so that the grandparents won’t have as much time with them. My MIL is 83, but my parents are 70/71 so there is still time, but I guess it is never enough.

    • Debbish
      October 12, 2016

      The annual holiday sounds like a good idea – if you all get along I guess! But you’re right. We always think there’s time, but that’s not always the case.

  • Rebecca Bowyer (@RebeccaBowyerAU)
    October 12, 2016

    I absolutely think it matters. Parents v children has never been an either/or for me. I was raised in a village-style atmosphere where my Nan and pop lived 10 minutes away and we saw them several times a week. Nan looked after us when we were sick and Mum worked, Mum looked after Nan, Nan looked after mum and eventually we helped look after Nan too.

    I think the whole thing falls down if one party doesn’t ‘put in’. Now my sister and I are continuing this pattern – we’re both close to Mum and our kids are happy and comfortable in any of our 3 houses.

    • Debbish
      October 14, 2016

      I completely agree that it shouldn’t be an either / or thing. I once talked to someone who talked about not having the ‘time’ for their parents (birth family) cos they had work and family of their own and I wondered at their notion of having to specifically allocate ‘time’ to them… rather than them already somehow being in their heart and mind!

  • Jess
    October 12, 2016

    I really like this post and love the song. I am behind your colleague in years but often wonder about the future. My Mum was very hands on when I was younger but now I often feel as.though I am low on her priority list.

    A friend of mine recently told me the exact words your friend said that she will be a different parent and things will be different. I like to believe the same. My Mum I am sure means well and.doesn’t.have me at the bottom of the list in her mind, she just comes across that way.

    Relationships can be so hard to manage at times and I hope I don’t look back with regret. I am old enough to have a few big regrets and realise I have made quite a few mistakes. Definitely an important message though that the time is now because time just does fly.

    • Debbish
      October 14, 2016

      Ah yes… and I was talking to someone (online) about this the other night. They’re slightly estranged from a sibling – and really can’t remember what the original thing was about (something to do with their own kids or parenting styles or something) but they were saying they worry they’ll just grow further apart and lead separate lives but are unsure they want to make the effort if their sibling’s not willing to. I think they decided they’d make the first move and see what happens… keen to keep ‘some’ relationship going.

  • Robyna May
    October 13, 2016

    My mum loves Cat Stephens, so I heard this song a A LOT growing up and it made me cry even then. Although I guess I probably sided with the son and as a I get older, I understand the dad’s point of view. My mum is so wonderful and we have a great relationship. I can’t imagine it any other way.

    • Debbish
      October 14, 2016

      Interestingly I was a ‘daddy’s girl’ growing up. In terms of personalities, my dad and I were / are more alike, whereas my brother is / was probably more like my mum. My dad also had a ‘big’ personality which people were drawn to. Although we were close, I suspect I didn’t appreciate my mother as much I should have until I was in my late teens and then into adulthood.

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