I wish someone had told me that it is OK for a father to say "I'm sorry" to his children.
Especially before I lost my temper with my 14-year-old son.
I very rarely get angry. But for some unknown reason to me, I just lost it on a Friday afternoon with Amichai. And over a completely ridiculous issue at that. One of my sparkling parental moments.
It was Friday just before Shabbat and we were leaving to eat at the home of friends. Amichai came down the steps wearing sneakers. I said to him, "Amichai, you can't wear sneakers on Shabbat. Put on your Shabbat shoes."
Amichai said, "But these are so much more comfortable to walk in."
I replied, "Shabbat shoes, and quickly, it's almost sundown."
Well, Amichai started to dawdle and dillydally and take tiny steps to change. Maybe they were his small steps of self-assertion and independence, but they completely infuriated me. And I lost it. I raised my voice. I yelled at him. I could feel the color of my face changing and my blood boiling. I felt like a monster and must have looked incredibly frightening to him.
Amichai took off, out the front door and sat outside on a bench at a park nearby.
OMG. I knew I had behaved like an idiot. I went outside, paused for a moment, and then sat down next to him.
In my mind the question exploded: "What do I say now? Do I apologize for losing my temper?" I completely love this boy and know that I was wrong, but does a father apologize to a son?
I just didn't know. My father had never apologized to me. I am certain that my grandfather had never apologized to my father. He wasn't the "I'm sorry" kind of guy.
Was there some wise tradition of not apologizing that I was supposed to know? Is it assumed that parents do not apologize to their kids? Does it shatter some holy hierarchy?
When I was a small boy there was a TV show called "Father knows best." I sure needed that now.
I sat on the bench next to Amichai, in silence. Eternities passing by as my internal debate over whether to apologize gained no clarity.
I felt like a failure of a father. To apologize or not to apologize? How could I be so clueless?!
Finally, without clarity or intention, the voice within me just burst out, "Amichai, I'm a terrible father for getting angry at you. You are a wonderful kid and who cares about the shoes anyway. Wear whatever you want."
Finally Amichai said, "You know Abba, when my friends get together to rag on their parents, I say that when I grow up I want to be just like you."
I learned a lot from Amichai that day, and I learned a lot about myself.
There is no tradition or wisdom that supersedes authentic soulful honesty. Spirituality is revealed in humility and honesty. God gave us an inner voice to listen to, an inner GPS. Our inner truth is the voice of our soul talking. I was fortunate that on that day, somehow, mine just came out.
The bond between us grew much deeper while sitting on that bench. Still, I wish that someone had told me that it doesn't break the orbit of the planet for a parent to say "I'm sorry."
It would have saved me a few silent eternities.