Dad sings bal­lad of re­gret over his par­ent­ing

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - LIFE - AMY DICK­IN­SON Email: [email protected]­ Twit­ter: @ask­ingamy

Dear Amy: I am a 71-yearold man, re­tired and hap­pily mar­ried for 44 years.

We have a son, age 45, and a daugh­ter, age 43.

Do you re­mem­ber the Harry Chapin song Cat’s in the Cra­dle? That song de­scribes our re­la­tion­ship with our son per­fectly.

When I was work­ing, it was go, go, go — lots of travel, build­ing for the fu­ture.

When I was home, I thought I gave enough of my time to my son and daugh­ter, but look­ing back — maybe not.

To­day, our son is very suc­cess­ful, but, just like me, it is go, go, go — he is al­ways at work.

He and his fam­ily live 4,000 km away. We try to see them at least twice a year. In the in­terim, the only time we have with them is a once-a-month Skype ses­sion with our grand­chil­dren.

Our re­la­tion­ship with our daugh­ter and her fam­ily, who live within a three-hour drive, is much closer.

I want a closer re­la­tion­ship with our son, but I just do not know how to draw us closer. Any sug­ges­tions? — WAY­WARD DAD Dear Way­ward: Thank you for the re­minder of the Harry Chapin bal­lad, which tells the some­what heart­break­ing story of a too-busy fa­ther who raises a son who then adopts his fa­ther’s val­ues and is sub­se­quently too busy for his fa­ther.

I’d first like to sug­gest that you be the pa­tient, present and at­ten­tive grand­fa­ther that your grand­chil­dren de­serve to have. Given the ex­treme dis­tance be­tween your fam­i­lies, this would ide­ally in­volve sum­mer vis­its where the chil­dren travel to be with you. Es­tab­lish­ing fam­ily-cen­tred and low-key ri­tu­als with them might lead to more than monthly Skype calls. For now, write let­ters to both of the chil­dren reg­u­larly. In terms of your re­la­tion­ship with your son, it is hard to es­tab­lish a closer re­la­tion­ship with­out spend­ing one-onone time to­gether. Even an an­nual short hol­i­day or week­end trip with just the two of you would ad­vance your re­la­tion­ship. Ideas in­clude tra­di­tional fa­ther-son ac­tiv­i­ties like fish­ing or camp­ing, to tak­ing week­end cook­ing classes, per­form­ing a ser­vice project or at­tend­ing a week­end of TED talks to­gether. Ide­ally you would choose an ac­tiv­ity that has some open-ended and un­struc­tured time, where you two would ba­si­cally get to know one an­other. If this very-busy man wants to spend time with his fa­ther, he will pry open his sched­ule.

I also sug­gest you send him a com­pletely sin­cere let­ter stat­ing your wishes, along with the lyrics — or a link — to Chapin’s bal­lad; the idea be­ing that if you had known then what you know now you might have done things dif­fer­ently. Say that you would like to be a dif­fer­ent kind of par­ent, now — and that you hope it isn’t too late.

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