I’m writing this to you the day before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. I wrote a little about Yom Kippur in my last blog post but something else happened this week for which I have to apologize before the “holiday”1 starts tonight.
You and I eat breakfast together almost every morning. I wake up, come out of the bedroom to shower and start getting ready for work, and you usually wake up just as I’m finishing getting dressed. Your eyes squint as they adjust to the light in the kitchen and you half-walk/half-stagger over to me. You look up and ask, “Daddy bowl hereal?” I smile and ask what you would like for breakfast. Your usual choices are cereal or the frozen mini pancakes that I can pop in the microwave, though sometimes you also have the option of French toast. You chose cereal on this particular morning, though, so you helped me pour the Honey Nut Cheerios into your bowl, we added the milk and I gave you two spoons.2 We sat down together at your little red table and started eating.
One of my favorite things about this time is that it gives us a chance to talk. I don’t get chances like this often; either you’re playing or I’m at work or we’re doing something that has to get done by a certain time so we end up focusing on other things. When it’s first thing in the morning, though, when it’s just you and me, I can ask you questions and get a glimpse into your unique perspective of the world around you. And, instead of having to read you your Miranda rights before getting information, you’re at the age where you can almost hold a real conversation.
We talked, that morning, about a number of things. You told me about preschool, about your teachers and the friends you’ve made. You reminded me that Mommy goes to the gym while you’re in school but that she “always comes back” to pick you up afterwards. Then, randomly, you said the name of our neighborhood. My eyebrows rose and I laughed, since I’d never heard you say it before. I asked you who lives in that neighborhood and you said, happily, “Eitan!” I laughed again and asked who else lives there. You replied, with a sheepish smile, “Mommy.” I smiled back and asked if anyone else lives there. You seemed to be thinking for a minute so I asked you where Daddy lives.
“Daddy lives work.”
I felt like the world had come to a screeching halt. I could feel disappointment whitewash over the enjoyment that had lit up my face a moment earlier. You weren’t looking at me when you said it, which I’m thankful for, because I would hate for you to think that my expression changed because I was angry or upset because of you.3 I was upset, to be sure, but not because of you. You were simply calling it how you saw it, expressing your viewpoint with the brutal honesty that children possess.
And so, Eitan, I owe you an apology. I am sorry that I work so much. I do work a lot. When you wake up in the morning and see me getting dressed, you know that the odds say I’m getting ready to leave for work because I do it six, and sometimes seven, days each week. It’s not always for the whole day, as I only work in the mornings on the weekend, but it still means I’m spending a lot of time away from you. You ask/tell me most mornings, “Daddy no go work,” and it breaks my heart every time when I tell you, “Yes, Daddy has to go to work today.” Sometimes you persist and say, “No! Daddy no go work!” Usually I can console you by distracting you and reminding you that you’re going to school that morning or that you’re going to see people during the day or that I’m going to see you later. But you still ask for your “one more kiss” every day and you and Mommy call me while I’m leaving the building and we blow kisses to each other while you’re looking down from the window. It makes me miss you, even though I can still see you, but I love it.
I’m sorry that I work so much. I’m sorry that we don’t get to spend as much time together as we would like. My hope is that, by the time you’re older, you’ll understand that the reason I work so much is so that your mom and I can take care of you in the best way possible. My other hope is that we’ll eventually reach a point where I won’t have to work quite as much and I’ll be able to spend more time with you.4 In the meantime, though, I hope you’ll accept my apology and that you’ll forgive me for not always being around. I know that it will be different someday and that we’ll be able to make up for it together.
1. I put holiday in quotation marks because that word suggests a festival. Yom Kippur is a holiday in the sense that it’s meant to be separate from all of the other days of the year, but it’s more about introspection, forgiveness and repentance than it is about celebration.↩
3. I had just listened to a great podcast from the City Dads Group about parenting children in middle school and it included a reference to a study about how kids interpret adults’ facial expressions. I strongly recommend listening, especially if you have kids or work with kids. ↩