Can you play with me?

Posted: March 8, 2010 in Batteries Not Included
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Sorry, my faithful readers (all 2 of you), that I have not been able to update much in the last month.  I had originally written this post as “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” about two weeks ago, but deleted it because it sounded too… I dunno.  Judgmental.  But back to the busy-ness – we’ve been busy.  Really busy.  So busy that I don’t have much time to play with my kids.  Especially my son.

MrE, and sometimes Ziggy, used to ask if we wanted to play with them.  The way they asked it, it was done with a sense of.. honor being bestowed on us.  They obviously considered it a gift, a privilege, to be able to play with them.  And we love our kids, and we love spending time with them, so of course we’d answer “Yes!” and play with them.

Over time, as we’ve gotten busy, though, we start begging off when offered this precious playtime.  “Sorry, Daddy is busy right now” (while surfing Facebook) or “Sorry, Daddy has to go to church and he’s already late” or “Sorry, it’s too late, bedtime!” have replaced the emphatic “Yes!” that they used to hear.  I never thought much of it, until lately, I noticed that when MrE asks me to play with him, it’s always a humble “Daddy, can you play with me?” instead of the old confident “Daddy, do you want to play with me?”  I know, it’s a subtle difference, but it’s there, even more so when you hear it in person.  Once a child confidently offering playtime has become a child begging for just a sliver of my attention.  It breaks my heart to realize that my kids understand that they’re not a high priority for me, that work (which, in my case, includes church) will always come first.  And it wouldn’t even be half as bad if it was putting God first – but it’s church work, busy-ness, and they know that it’s more important than they are.  The kids see us on the computers ALL THE TIME, many times doing things that aren’t really work, and they have to settle for the few precious minutes I can spare each quarter to sit down and do nothing but enjoy their presence.

Ziggy hasn’t quite hit the full realization yet, bless her heart.  She’ll sit there and asked repeatedly, “Do you want to play with me?” with each repetition sounding just a tad more annoyed, as if I hadn’t the brains to realize that I’m being offered playtime with The Princess (though she acts more like a queen).  But in time, she will also learn her place.

What’s become of me, as a dad?  And if I keep this up, what do I have to look forward to when my kids are grown up?

If I may, I’d like to quote one of my favorite songs, Cats 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 son
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 son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

Well, he came home 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 son
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 on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

Is this the future that I’m setting myself up for?

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