This is a special song if only for the fact that its arrangement consists of just Simon (sorry, Landis) and his semi-acoustic guitar. It's also a thoughtful rumination on adolescence.
George Carlin said that he resented being told to "Have a nice day." It put pressure on him, he fumed: "Now I've got to go out and somehow manage to have a good time!"
Our speaker feels the same sort of pressure to go find a party or something. "People all say, 'Laugh and be gay!/ Youth is the time for fun and pleasure.'" The adults around him wish to live vicariously through his winsome exploits, no doubt. But his mind is on more serious (ahem) matters.
Then another adult, one in more immediate authority, tells him to only focus other serious matters. "Dad tells me we can't go steady." His father tells him to limit his attention to schoolwork... and not to get too involved too young: "Don't try your wings before you're ready."
Faced with this intractable fate, our speaker does resigns himself, and breaks up with his girlfriend. "Now you and I must say goodbye/ There's nothing else we can do."
However, there is still a longing-- "How can I ever live without you?"-- and with it comes a resistance to his father's ironclad rule.
After all, time is on his side. While "long are the growing-up years," on the one hand, they will eventually result in his... actually growing up. And "strong is the ache in my heart." This convinces him to play the long game, and consider the break-up a temporary status, one to be reconciled once he reaches adulthood. "...when we're grown, you'll be my own," he vows, "Never, no never to part."
Now, we adults know that this is unlikely. Yes, there are cases in which high-school sweethearts wed. But in general, once college keeps two young adults in separate time zones for four years, such passions cool. Since they can't be with the one they love, as the CSN song goes, they love the one they're with.
"Youth is wasted on the young," sighed Shaw, sounding like one of the adults in the song urging teens to sow their wild oats. But this teen doesn't even have time for that. He's making some very grown-up commitments that he can't even keep because of his schooling.
It's a shame that his father can't see that his goal-- preparing his son for adult life-- is being done in a limited way. Yes, part of being an adult is getting a degree, finding a job, and making a living.
But another major part is making a life! The relationship he's being deprived of would mature him in other, equally important ways.
Chances are good that his serious young man will seriously pursue the young woman he is so serious about, once he gets the freedom to do so. This might be one of the times high-school sweethearts weather the storms of college and do end up together.
For now, maybe he should have his dad talk to his mom. She'd set the old man straight.
Next Song: I Can Feel It Happening to Me