HONG KONG – It’s one thing for my parents to chide me about deserting three young children for a six-week stretch in Hong Kong.
But my Chinese students, too? I mentioned it to them today, to explain why I’m not teaching an entire semester here, like last fall. Now that was too long away from the kids. Didn’t matter to my students.
“Unimaginable,” said one, flashing impressive vocabulary. “They’ll grow so much, you won’t recognize them,” lamented a second. “Different values,” sighed a third.
Ouch. That one stung.
It already gnaws at me that my sons describe watching their 20-month-old sister wander our Bratislava apartment calling out for me. Maybe the reality has hit her: He’s not here.
As for my boys, how will they cope with Saturday morning football practices, when all the other fathers are watching, but not theirs? Will toys and treats from Hong Kong be enough to assuage them? Will this be one of their future grievances against me, while reclining on a therapist’s couch?
Pre-emptively, then, I create a paper-trail of apology: Forgive me, please.
Of course, I keep justifying that this time away isn’t a simple act of selfishness, that career doesn’t come ahead of family. Instead, that it’ll all prove worthwhile in the end. And that, as my supportive wife says, “The time will pass quickly.”