It’s Now or Never—Building Relationships

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the small windows of opportunity we have in life–especially concerning relationships. People universally want to be loved and accepted; we want to know that the people we care about care about us too. If I care about someone who doesn’t seem to care about me, the window of opportunity for that person to build a relationship with me closes quickly because I’m inclined to pull away and close up in order to avoid getting hurt. I’m not even talking about romantic relationships but friendship and family relationships too.

I see this in a lot of parent/child relationships. When kids are little and always at their parents’ heels, the parents take for granted that their children will always want their time and attention. Parents are busy people–they are often tired and running in five directions at once trying to keep up with all their responsibilities. In the hustle, kids sometimes (for long times) fall to the side. And then the kids grow up–fast–and they are gone. They grow busy with their own lives and concerns and pretty soon the tables are turned. The parents’ lives are perhaps now slowing down and they finally have the time they’ve always wanted to spend with their kids–but the kids are gone. They’re in college, or married with children of their own, or living far away and that small window of opportunity to build a lasting parent/child relationship is closed to some extent. Not that you can’t rebuild relationships, of course you can, but it will take far more time and work when you’ve pushed people away and have to re-earn their trust.

So often it’s now or never and never comes so soon.

I’m learning that if I want to have deep meaningful relationships with people, then I have to make those people a big priority in my life. I have to let people know they matter to me and they’re worth my time even if my time is limited.

I have five brothers and none of us have been very close since we all left home. The six of us are spread out from Missouri to Louisiana to Massachusetts so get-togethers are few and far apart. We go months upon months without speaking at all–no phone calls, text messages, e-mails, nothing. This is hard for me because I want to be closer to my family. I always tell myself that the lack of communication is just because they’re men and men don’t always want or need the same level of communication that women do. But the truth is, they can’t communicate with me regardless of whether they’re good communicators or not if I don’t make time for them and let them know they matter to me. They never call I say, but I never call either. Maybe I’ll call and the phone will just ring and go to voicemail and maybe they’ll never call me back–but I won’t know if I don’t try and if I don’t try my window of opportunity to stay close and build a relationship may shut sooner and longer than I think.

If I shut people out of my life when I feel like I’m not important to them, who am I to think they won’t do the same to me?

Harry Chapin’s song Cats in the Cradle reminds me of all this. I didn’t understand the meaning of the song when I was younger but I’ve always liked the way it sounds. Now I see just how true his words are and how important it is that I make people a priority in my life–before it’s too late.

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”

39 thoughts on “It’s Now or Never—Building Relationships

  1. Pingback: Woman kills herself while on Facebook « Media Snapshots by Z

  2. Agree. I am finding this is so true in my own life. I have a 19 year old daughter and she is almost gone, I look at my 5 and 7 year old and find myself making extra time for little comments and smiles, jokes and laughter. I know that memories made will be remembered for a life time. I will never get back the time that passes, and I want to make the most of it.

    I have also realized that I don’t have room for the TONS of friends I used to love to count. I mean it was always so important to me to have many friends. Now I feel like the more friends I have, the less real friends I have. I want to really invest in people, be kind to many, but have a few dear people I would do anything for, anytime, anyway.

    Thanks for sharing.


  3. Wonderfully written once again Kari! Having lost my dad and my mom-in-law within a year of each other, the lost time seems so irreplaceable right now. I love and miss you and your brothers so very, very much. Can’t wait til we can ALL get together again- may drive each other crazy but it will be a good crazy! Take care and please keep writing! Mom


  4. Great post, coming at a time when I am trying to put more of an effort into connecting with my kids before it’s too late. Young children naturally ask for time, but eventually they will tire of “not right now” and “maybe later” and quit asking.


  5. Pingback: It's Now or Never?Building Relationships ? Outside Air | Meteorology Current Events

  6. I recently subscribed to your blog and I have to say I love it! This is a great post. You mentioned many things I’ve been trying not to mention to myself, but the truth is, time goes by very quickly and my daughter is already 3, and sometimes I’m too busy to sit down and play with her. Everyday I say, it will be different tomorrow, but deep down I know it will only be different – better – if I make it different and better-. Thanks for sharing.


  7. Great insights and so true. I recently quit my job because I was always on the phone either talking, texting or responding to email. One day my 18 year old said “when do I get some of your time? I need you too you know?” That was it for me. While it hasn’t always been that way – I had only been working at that job for 2 years and before that I had always worked in jobs that weren’t as demanding but it was the moment I realized it was time to rearrange my priorities. Thanks for sharing.


  8. Before I even got through the 2nd paragraph, I was thinking of “the cats in the cradle song”. Wow that was powerful. Great blog 🙂


  9. I loved this post. I was all set to merely scan it and move on, when your words started to touch me. I had to slow down and really give this a good look. Thank you for your heartfelt opinion about relationships. 🙂 I just had to stop and leave you a comment because I enjoyed this post so much.


  10. Wonderful blog and I can totally relate to this. I’m finding it hard to be “communicator” in my family.. the one that keeps in touch and organsies all the get-together’s. Although it’s hard to reach out and not always have the same reciprocated back, I keep trying and I won’t give up.

    Cat’s and the Cradle is also one of my favourite Harry Chapin songs!

    I look forward to your next post and will re-blog this one! 🙂


  11. I was thinking of that song before I got to that part in your blog! I always loved it, but when you get in the midst of the kids and the day-to-day life (which can often feel like drudgery), it’s so hard to remember how fleeting your kids’ time with you is. Mine are now 19, 17, and soon-to-be 13. Even though I have pretty good relationships with them, I still wish I could go back and REALLY treasure the moments – even the challenging times, knowing what I do now. Also, I definitely relate to this with my brother. Guess I know who I need to call once I get off work today… :o) So glad I found your blog!


  12. Another great post! This is something I’ve struggled with too. I have a physical disability which my whole life caused me to put walls up around me because I thought no one could understand what it was like to be in my situation, so I never got as close to people as I could or really let them in because I was afraid of getting hurt or being a burden. This past year I’ve realized we are all a lot more the same than we are different and whether it be with blogging or just being outgoing, when you let yourself be more vulnerable, people really respond! You’re such a great writer…look forward to the next post!


  13. Reading this I realized we are on a somewhat similar wavelength. I recently posted “The Initiator” which runs in the same vein, anyway while growing up “The Cats and the Cradle” usually left me feeling melancoly because of the similarities I saw between my Dad and I and the song lyrics.

    On another note perhaps you would be interested in my blog experiment, if you read my post from last friday it goes into more detail, and let me know your thoughts 🙂


  14. Great post – I’m the last of 15 kids. Same mom, same dad. Grew up in a little green shack. Only 10 of us left. We were a really close family. Then life got in the way and we too are spread across the country. We try to stay in touch but it’s difficult. I’d love to go back to the way things were but I know that’s not possible. After reading your post I will try to make more of an effort to contact them. If it’s reciprocated that will be great. If not, at least I will have tried my best.

    Thanks for the eye opener.



  15. As I was growing up, I watched my parents having little to do with their brothers and sisters. They each come from a family of six, so my “family” is huge. It’s no surprise to me that as I have grown up that I too have little to do with my sister and brother. Of course I love them but yet we never really had that connection as children that I hear and see so many other people have and talk about.

    My three children are now grown and I am sorry to say they too do not have much to do with each other. I wanted things to be different but the problem was because I wasn’t taught, how could I know how to teach them?

    Two words…..Generational sin. I now am trying to be different with my children so they can be better with their siblings and I pray that my daughter can teach her daughters to be close. So far I can see the love that Jayden (my granddaughter) has for her newborn baby sister. My prayers is that for that sin to be broken.

    I pray your calls get answered and you get your hearts desire.


  16. Kari: What a wonderful posting and so very heartfelt and introspective. Our families can certainly be a mixed bag of individuals even though we all grew up in the same family. Now that you are all adults, you can give your childhood a perspective that might be new and exciting for all of you. What a wonderful journey you will take as you all get to know each other better as adults and friends. Be sure to share it with us all! Thank you for being so open here on universal issues!


  17. Loving your post this morning – somedays I feel like my brother and me are complete opposites and other times we just get each other. Lately I feel like a “brillo pad” with the female friendships in my life – ha! Have a Great Day!


  18. couldnt agree more with you … love this post and what I have read so far on your blog. Everything you write about hits close to home. i have a stepson and sometimes i am too busy to hear about EVERYTHING he has to say. (He’s five so all he does is talk) but after reading your blog, I am realizing that I need to give him even more time. Before I know it he is going to be a teenager and is not going to want to be around us as much. 😦


  19. You are so right – the phone goes both ways! If we don’t pick it up and call, then we have no one to blame but ourselves for missed opportunities (relationships and otherwise).

    I enjoyed revisiting “Cat’s in the Cradle” with you – lots to think about…


  20. As you will discover, a lot of this has to do with expectations one has in life – and chasing after expectations leads to ignoring who we really are and what is really important to us. And we discover that some relationships just aren’t meant to be. We also discover that some people need some space to learn to be comfortable with themselves.


  21. Awesome. Totally brought a tear to my eye. Even though I am so very mindfull of my little boys and know they are going to grow up fast….I hope the values I am instilling in them will bring them on back home when I am old and gray. I sometimes worry since I have all boys and as you touched upon, the whole man + communication thingy. Yet, I will stalk them if I have too! LOL! Yet, I replay that old saying in my head all the time…
    “A son is a son till he takes a wife, a daughter’s a daughter the rest of her life”
    I am convinced, I will reinvent this saying! Thanks for sharing and hope you get QT (quality time) with your family soon!


  22. Heart felt and very true. Made me have a deep reflection about my own relationships. I had even talked about something related in my last post but this is an excellent way of putting it…keep it up…your blogs are inspirational


  23. I have three brothers and I know how difficult it can be to stay in touch (and I really do believe it’s a guy thing). But as the only girl, I do make it my priority to make the first move – call, text, voicemail, Facebook, whatever – even if I don’t always get a response back. At least I know that I tried, I can’t beat myself up for not reaching out. It’s a 2-way street.


  24. This is so true, totally resonates with what I’m feeling now. :)) But not many people get this simply for the same reason – being too busy with their lives and taking this for granted. Just like the parent-child relationship you mentioned, parents also think that they are working hard and earning money for their child, so it’s self-justified for them to be busy. 😦


  25. As I was reading was thinking … “this is just what ‘Cats in the Cradle’ is all about”, was going to make that comment and then Voila!!! … yep, so so true and something we should all remember. Sadly I see too many aged people who did go that extra mile, for their children, and end up so sadly neglected… Great blog!


  26. Oh, this post came right on time…. It is like something hard hit me in the stomach…. The few past days I have been thinking about the important people in my life and also how isolated I have become. Thanks for sharing your thoughts… I needed a wake up call.


  27. Wonderful insight, Kari. I have two young boys (with a third on the way) and make it a point to build a relationship with each of them individually. They say they want to be like me so I constantly self-assess to be sure I want to be like me!


  28. I am so glad I found your blog. Growing up my father, a big fan of Harry Chapin music (named me after one of his songs), would play this song talking about how he didn’t want me to end up like him. Spending so much time working, not enough with family. I always thought my Dad was a great father, still is. He, however, had some sort of guilt. Which now, as an adult, I’m finding a similar guilt about my inability or unwillingness to go the extra mile to make my relationships stronger. I’m not sure what I’m trying to get at here – just that I can really relate to this post, and that this year one of my goals it to mend relationships that I’ve let dangle dangerously or drift away. Thank you for this post.


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