"Daddy, will you play with me?" A simple request probably one that all fathers have heard. It seems, however, that this seemingly small request always comes just when Dad walks in the front door, exhausted after a hard day's work or when he has turned on the evening news. The response, of course, is usually a weary, "Not now, I'm too tired." Or, "Keep quiet, can't you see I'm watching the news?" or the all-time favorite put-off, "In a minute, son." More often than not, the father's response reflects little more than a stall, a tactic unconsciously employed in hopes that his child will soon become occupied with some other interest. The words of Harry Chapin's ballad, "Cat's in the Cradle," come to mind. The ballad depicts the life experiences of a man whose father was always too busy to spend time with him. But he loved and worshiped his father and always promised that, as the song says, he would be "just like you Dad — gonna be just like you." Inevitably he does become the kind of "too-busy" father that his own father had been, and ultimately, as he becomes a grandfather and is neglected by his own son, he realizes that his life has been one of unfulfilled, unrewarding relationships between fathers and sons. This song, though somewhat popular, never did become a best-selling record. It seems songs with a message seldom make it to the top people are too concerned with rhythm to give much thought to message. Yet, for fathers who care, there is probably no song that carries a greater message. Much has been written recently about the influence television has on children. I have come to realize children are inclined to learn from television (good or bad) because it's never too busy to talk to them. It never brushes them aside while it does household chores. Television wants their attention at any time and goes to considerable lengths to attract it. I also read a most disturbing statistic — one that reveals that most fathers spend an average of less than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period in direct contact with their children. Sad. So sad. Kids want parental interest — but they want genuine interest. And none spot insincerity as quickly as the young. One 16 year old said: "My father is big on visibility. He likes to be seen being a good parent, so he shows up at functions so people will see him. He'll come to a game if one of us is playing, but he's never tossed a ball with us in the yard." Fortunately, his mother is different. "She shows up at actual stuff, too, but not just to be seen. She's interested in us, whether anyone's watching or not." Do you want to become involved in your children's activities, but feel a little helpless about how to begin? If you've been negligent involving yourself with children, changing that habit won't be accomplished overnight, but with diligence and patience it can be done. A friend of mine told me parents, although not members of God's Church, gained the respect and admiration of his friends. The key element, he told me, was the time his parents spent with their children. Like most fathers, his dad was employed full time. But my friend could count on both hands the numbers of times his parents were absent from activities he participated in. These parents' active interest in what their children were doing made a lasting impression on their youngsters. My friend told me his parents watched countless basketball games, that by the time he got into the game, there were more players than fans in the stadium. And the team won only three games, and lost 17. Where were you when your son's YOU team played its last game? Or when your daughter's cheerleading squad won the first place trophy? Maybe your son sits on the bench, or the team hasn't won in years. Or maybe basketball just isn't your sport. Or were you just too busy? Was the extra money earned by working overtime that important? Did you really have to clean the oven? A few less dollars and a few specks of dirt at home, is a small price to pay toward an investment in one of your greatest treasures — your children. Kids are asked to give up a lot when their parents come into God's Church. I don't know about you, but I'm mighty proud of our young people. In many ways the have to give up as much as their parents do. And the kids aren't converted. Giving up football, cross country or other sports or not going to the prom with that special guy are bitter pills to swallow, even when you know they are the right decisions. Most of us have been faced with similar situations. Take an active interest your children's activities and friends. Take time in play with your kids. This helps to reduce the distance between the generations since it demonstrates your acceptance of your children's world. We should talk to our children, especially to our teens and their friends, read about things that interest them, listen to their music with them — all with an open mind. Give your teens a chance to express their points of view. It's a great opportunity to teach and learn from and about your children. When you differ, why not confess: "I guess we do differ about this, son; maybe if I understood more about it I might change my mind. Is there anything I can read about the subject?" Open up more lines of communication between yourself and your children. Give the youngsters time to be with their friends and make them welcome when they come to visit. They very much want parents to be interested and if we can do this without engulfing them or seeming to want to control them. May we be daily reminded that it is a wise father who knows his own children and "like father, like son."