Dad Guilt Is A Thing Too, And Today I Have A Major Case Of It

by John Markowski
Originally Published: 
AzmanL / iStock

It is close to midnight on January 22, 2017, as I write this.

And I feel guilty as hell.

I was close to falling asleep a few minutes ago while the endless highlights of today’s two NFL games slowly lulled me into a state of relaxation and bliss. But then I made the mistake of completing my routine practice of running through and summarizing my day. I like to do this to ensure that it was a good balance of fun, relaxation, accomplishment, family time, me time, and prep for the upcoming week. When solid results are achieved, it becomes a self-giving good-night kiss that sends me off on good terms as I leap into REM.

If I find there was a shortage in one or more of the aforementioned qualities that day, I might try to plan to make up for it the following day or justify why one quality was more abundant than the other. It is typically a short exercise, and while it may delay my falling asleep, once I am done, I settle down, clear of mind.

But tonight was different. And it continues to nag at me and has me writing this in hope that I can forgive myself.

See, my 11-year-old daughter loves to celebrate.

She has written a series of short stories with titles such as “The Night Before Thanksgiving,” “The Night Before the First Day of School,” and “The Night Before Christmas Eve, Eve.” They are precious and keepers, and I’ll never let anyone outside of our family read them.

I got a card from her in November for Veteran’s Day, and I’ve never served.

She epitomizes having fun and enjoying life — nothing like her sarcastic father.

John Markowski

More than anything else, she loves to throw parties, always has. These are not your standard tea parties either. They are way more elaborate and creative, and always prepared completely on her own.

I remember playing games for my “41 and a half”-year-old birthday.

I remember the Parent Olympics where I won the relay race, and the trophy made out of a toilet paper roll still sits on my desk at work.

I remember celebrating the first day of summer with an elaborate menu of items that were real tangible options, not pretend hot dogs or plastic french fries.

She was at it again today — for the two big NFL games played earlier. All she needed to know was “Who are we rooting for?” and what colors best represent the Atlanta Falcons.

Before the kickoff of the first game, we had:

– Chips and salsa eloquently displayed on a platter

– Homemade sugar cookies made from scratch – A “Let’s Go Falcons!” banner on the back sliding door – Streamers in both Falcons and Steelers colors – Pre-sliced cheese and crackers – An available tattoo of our choice to be created with a special pen and glitter, not the simple stick-on variety – An array of beverages with Falcons straws and choice of team cups

But instead of embracing her elaborately planned celebration, I blew her off.

I turned down a cookie because of my sugar detox.

Really John, you watched her hunt down the recipe, secure the ingredients, time and test them for doneness, and overall make them without fear of failure. She was so proud, and you couldn’t eat just one?

I said, “I couldn’t care less who wins since my team, the Raiders, are out of it.”

With all the Falcons stuff occupying the kitchen, you couldn’t pretend to at least show a rooting interest? Family bonding was her goal, and I killed it.

I never used one of the cups or straws.

Do you hate me yet?

The only reason I have a Mets tattoo on my forearm is because I agreed to do it after the third fucking request.

Bad dad is an understatement.

I didn’t take one photo.

Oh boy.

I know deep down that I am a good father. I’m leaving out the nightly rides on my back, the lessons I stress as both her father and coach on the basketball court, the talks before bed and the endless laughs we share together.

But here was an opportunity to enjoy a special moment in time that may not be repeated again. Eleven becomes teenager very quickly and cruelly. Time could have stopped for an afternoon, but I ignored it.

And all because I was consumed with exercising, and checking my eBay sales, and getting absorbed in the football games, and doing who knows what else. I wouldn’t consider myself selfish, but maybe I’m not self-aware enough. Lord knows I held the title today.

Even a simple “thank you” before she went to bed tonight would have been nice, but now I’m here wallowing in my selfishness, and even worse, my taking her for granted.

She didn’t seem affected by my lack of participation, and that makes it all the more painful. My biggest fear is that she expected me to blow it all off. That is unacceptable.

I can’t wait to wake her up tomorrow morning and apologize. Check that, no apology but a big frickin’ hug and a “thank you” for her being the awesome kid she is. I think she has taught me more than I could ever teach her.

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