“I would like to apologize to the 3rd grade children at the Herzl School in Haifa. My daughter, Martha, goes to school there, and I read Childland to the children in her class. I need to apologize because afterwards, when I was walking down the street and met some of the children, I had a grownup face on. They saw me while I was making a grownup face, and I couldn’t take the mask off and smile at them.
That grownup who forgot to laugh and smile doesn’t make that face on purpose. When he was a little boy, if he had known that one day he would scare children like that, he would have been angry at himself and would have promised himself that he would be nice to children when he grew up.
Sometimes when I meet you on the street, I only realize later that I disappointed you by being a grownup. But when I read Childland to you, the gateway opens up and I become a child again.
So again, I apologize on behalf of all the grownups who have never apologized to a child, but who always ask children to apologize. Forgive them, because they have forgotten what it’s like to be a child, and will probably never remember.
Martha always says to me, “Daddy, why are you so serious and not smiling?” But even she’s getting tired of saying that, and I think she’s given up hope, like other children have, of ever being able to see everything I’m feeling inside by looking at my face, like you can with children, and of me smiling at her like a child.
Some children think that when you grow up, they take you into a secret room and teach you secrets that you can use against children, like how to always beat them when you play, and how to scare them, and they make you swear never to tell these secrets to children. But what really happens is that other grownups tell you things – grownups who you want to like you. But they tell you without using words. And things said without words are stronger than
things said with words. So I’d like to tell you a secret, children: what you see is only a mask, it’s not real. That’s just the way a grownup’s face is.
A wall is being built up around Childland. Every day another row of bricks is added on and you can see less and less. When the wall gets as high as your eyes or even higher, Childland suddenly disappears and you can’t remember it anymore. And then you don’t even know that you’re inside a cage and can’t see what’s outside. At first, you still try to remember, but the sunlight makes your memories fuzzy. At night, though, when it’s dark and you can’t see very well, Childland sometimes comes back to you. That’s the way it is, there
are some things that are actually easier to see in the dark.
When I read this to my other daughter, Bartha, she told me to change it and leave out the apology, because apologies are for grownups. She said that instead I should just write that I didn’t mean to make a grownup face. But Martha, who is a little older, told me to leave in the apology”.