4:45am. I hear the faint guitar strumming of that generic Apple ring tone coming from the kitchen where my iphone is plugged in. My wife signals disapproval without even waking up. This is a skill that can only developed over time. I call it unconscious admonishment. She calls it economy of effort. I tried to plan ahead and spare the family the same pain I’m feeling at this ungodly hour. I even pre-striped my electric tooth brush with Crest and put it in the guest bathroom before I when to bed. Doesn’t matter now. It’s all been wiped out by one digital blunder. Thing 1, the six year old, is coughing like a crack whore with an addiction to Marlboro unfiltered. I go in to comfort her. She’s half awake and I lay down and stroke her forehead the way she likes. Should I slather some Vicks on her feet or just let it ride? She seems to be calming down now so I’m just going leave it. “Daddy”, she whispers, “Why are you in your work clothes.” Damn I’m busted! I start to panic because I just found out about this trip to Chicago yesterday and I haven’t done the proper emotional groundwork before my departure time. “I’m going to Chicago and I’ll be back tomorrow before bedtime.” She starts to cry, then cough, then cry some more. She wakes up Thing 2, the four year old, who is in the next bed and has miraculously developed a cough as well. She starts crying and I haven’t even told her I’m going yet. I tell them both if they quiet down I’ll cook pancakes for breakfast on Saturday, take them skateboarding at the Potato Famine Memorial (ironically located next to Goldman Sachs world headquarters) and I’ll also throw in a couple of stickers to put on their good behavior star chart. By the way, the Potato Famine Memorial is excellent for boarding because there’s a big concrete overhang you can ride under that simulates a big wave breaking over your head. It starts near the year 1845 on the Famine timeline display, about the time the potato disease shows up and ends around 1848, when cholera is at an all time high. The girls subside for a second but T2 also wants me to come over to her bed because I’ve already spent time with her sister. Equality is a big thing at this age. I almost needed to the call a moil the other day just to make sure I cut a banana into even portions. I tell her I have to go and she needs to go back to sleep. She refuses. T2 may be younger than T1 but she’s already a great negotiator. She has this uncanny knack for detecting when she has leverage. I add in a session on my surf cross training balance board and we all come to deal. I finish getting dressed and I hear T1 sobbing again. I walk in and she sitting on the end of her bed with her face in her hands. Thank god T2 went back to sleep. I pick her up and put her on my lap. She holds on to me like her life depends on it. “Daddy, I don’t like it when you go.”, she says in her crackly little voice. I start to wonder what we’re all gaining in return for the time we spend away from our kids. Especially at this age. Later they won’t care. But in the meantime, we get on planes, go to meetings, sleep in beds that don’t feel good and for what? With all the technology and the world being where it is ecologically speaking, do we really need to push all these parents around the globe? I think the old farming society had it right. Everybody gets up at 4:45am, stays home and picks potatoes together.