Every single day the first thing my eldest son tells me when I come home from work is: “I missed you!”
He says it just like that, with an exclamation point. He says it like he hasn’t seen me in years.
As endearing and loving as this sincere gesture of my son is to me, it’s probably the hardest part of my day.
Right now I am writing my column for the week, only minutes before its deadline, and I am dreading arriving home to my little house.
I am dreading the loving embrace of my family, and the sweet tenders of their affection.
Of course, my apprehension is not due to some absurd loathing of my precious ones but due to the inevitable question that arises when I realize that I have been away from them for nearly ten hours: “Why am I doing this?”
You see, despite how cheery my countenance whenever I’m gallivanting about town or exchanging witty ripostes with my co-workers, there’s somewhere I’d much rather be. When I’m ensconced in some musty pressbox on a Friday night or yawning my way through another tedious meeting of some sort, there is yet a better place for me. Though I am polite and courteous with the various denizens of the county to whom I am obliged to interact with on a given day, it is to my own minor tribe whom I yearn to be near.
When my son reminds me how much he misses me, even though he says it with bright eyes and a wide smile, it cuts me to the quick.
So why am I doing this? Why do I deliberately “avoid” the people I cherish most, for the largest portion of my day during the workweek?
From a purely pragmatic perspective I could say that if I don’t have a job I won’t have any money, and without money I cannot survive. But this assumes that “survival” is analogous to what is more accurately described as merely my own standard of living. Though I’m certainly on the lower-tier of the “middle class” (or is it the upper-tier of the lower class?), I am far from being truly poverty-stricken. Besides, with the many ways and means of welfare and government assistance in this country, I am quite sure I could make a perfectly adequate living by simply staying home all day.
One might argue that “this is just the way it is” and that for a man to leave his family to spend most of his day engaged in some manner of gainful enterprise is simply inherent to life. Well, aside from being a logical fallacy, a fact of human tradition is hardly an objective benchmark for me to hinge my way of life upon. Over the course of human existence there have certainly been any number of traditions that, though followed in their day, soon relegated to the footnotes of history.
No, there must be more than this. Though I am still too young to be a philosopher, I am far too old to be a dilettante.
I do this because, as it is written by King Solomon in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing better for a man than that he should find enjoyment in his toil and that a man skillful in his work will stand before kings. It is also in what Apostle Paul wrote in his letters to the early churches, not only that a man should labor to be well-respected amongst his fellow citizens but so he is able to bless others who are in dire need.
Being a man who desires to raise his children well, it is not enough for me to espouse some vague platitudes and then live a life wholly in contradiction to what I claim to believe. No, I must practice what I preach, put my money where my mouth is, and all that jazz.
I shall depart when the Sun has not yet peaked its blinding eye over the eastern horizon and return as it leaves its golden trail across the western sky, gladly will I do so and without regret.
Because I love my son, I must also miss him sometimes.