“Daddy, Why Do You Have to Go to Work?”

“Dada, I don’t want you to go back to work. I want you to be here with me.”

That’s what Will said to me last week in the middle of a rare 11-day vacation during which I got to spend a bunch of time with him. It was really fun being there when he wakes up in the morning, cuddling with him, sleeping in and then watching movies and playing games all day. For more than a week we didn’t have a care in the world as we went out to breakfast, took the train into Boston and had ourselves a great time.

But justifiably, a 3.5-year-old’s mind wants to know why it can’t be like that all the time.

“I miss you Dada, you never take me anywhere.”

Nothing pulls at a working parent’s heartstrings like the feeling you’re not spending enough time with your kids. And with my extended commute and long hours of late, I certainly fall into that camp. So while I was on vacation I tried to make up for lost time. We visited relatives, saw Disney on Ice and took far too many trips to Friendly’s for ice cream sundaes.

But he continued to basically tell me he felt neglected and that we don’t do enough.

I was really stressing about it and feeling like a dick. Meanwhile MJ just stood there with a smirk on her face, wearing the all-too-familiar look that tells me she knows something I don’t. As you can imagine, it’s a look I’m well accustomed to at this point. When I asked her what her deal was, she hit me with something completely unexpected.

“He’s playing you,” she said.

What? My sweet boy? My angelic little man?? No way. No friggin way. The kid missed me. He missed his dad and he’s craving some father/son time. I promptly told my wife she doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about, because I know my son and I’d be able to tell if he’s screwing with me.

Then I marched into Will’s room with my chest puffed out and decided I was going to make a late bid for Best Father Ever. I asked him if he wanted to go to the library, one of his favorite places. He said no. I offered to take him to the playground. He declined. I told him we could go for a walk. No dice. Disappointed but undaunted, I asked him what I could do for him to make him happy and feel loved.

“Can you take me to the toy store and buy me a toy?”

Honestly, I would’ve. But I couldn’t because I was financially tapped from buying Christmas presents and paying bills, and I wasn’t getting paid til the next week. So I told Will I couldn’t take him right now because I didn’t have the money.

“Oh,” he said with a look of contempt. “Then you should go back to work so they can pay you and you can buy me a toy.”

Dammit.

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