Sitting in my favourite armchair, I was lost in thoughts about the day's work when my young son, his eyes wide with that familiar spark of curiosity, came up to me.
"Dad, can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked, his voice tinged with a seriousness that seemed too mature for his age.
"Of course, buddy," I replied, putting aside the day's weariness. I expected him to ask about something trivial, as children often do.
"Dad, how much money do you earn in an hour?" he asked, looking up at me with those earnest eyes. The question caught me off guard, and a mix of surprise and slight irritation washed over me.
"Why do you need to know that?" I questioned, trying to mask my annoyance. But he persisted, his voice soft yet insistent. "I'm just super-curious, Dad. Could you please tell me?"
Reluctantly, I answered, revealing my hourly wage that it was Rs. 1000/-, thinking that would satisfy his curiosity. But what followed was a request that stopped me in my tracks. "Dad, could I possibly borrow Rs. 500/- from you?"
His question ignited a flash of anger in me. "You're asking for money now? Is this why you wanted to know about my earnings?" I exclaimed, the frustration of a long day fueling my words. I lectured him about the value of money and hard work, perhaps a bit too harshly.
He retreated to his room, his steps heavy and slow. As he closed his door, I sat there, stewing in my thoughts, my anger simmering. "How could he be so insensitive?" I thought to myself.
An hour passed, and my anger cooled, replaced by a nagging sense of guilt. "Maybe he had a genuine reason for asking," I thought, my paternal instincts kicking in. With a heavy heart, I went to his room and gently opened the door.
"Hey buddy, are you awake?" I asked, peeking inside.
"Yeah, Dad, I'm up," he replied, his voice small.
Taking a deep breath, I apologized for my earlier outburst and handed him the 500 Rupees, hoping to mend the rift. But what happened next was a revelation. He pulled out some crumpled bills from under his pillow and started counting them. When I saw that he already had some money, my confusion and frustration rose again.
"Why did you need more money if you already had some?" I asked, struggling to understand.
His next words were a wake-up call. "I was a little short, but now I have enough. Dad, can I buy half an hour of your time with this? Maybe you could come home early tomorrow? I'd like to have dinner with you."
I was speechless, a torrent of emotions overwhelming me. Guilt, sadness, and a profound realization of what truly mattered filled my heart. I held him close, my eyes brimming with tears, and begged his forgiveness.
This moment was a stark reminder to me, and all parents consumed by their work, of the importance of balancing our professional and personal lives. The relentless pursuit of success should not come at the cost of the priceless moments with those we hold dear.
Our jobs might move on without us, but the absence we leave in the lives of our loved ones is irreplaceable, leaving behind only memories in place of the time we could have spent together.
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