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 the two NFL games from earlier today slowly played in my mind and lulled me into a state of relaxation and bliss.
Before I drifted completely, I made the mistake of running through and summarizing my day, a common mental practice before bed. I do this to ensure that I experienced 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 goodnight kiss that sends me off on good terms as I leap into REM.
If there was a shortage in one or more aspects of that day, I may plan to make up for it the following day or justify why one was more abundant than the other. It is typically a short exercise and while it may delay my falling asleep, once finished, I’m able to settle down with a clear mind.
Tonight was different. And it continues to nag at me, resulting in my writing this in hope that I can forgive myself.
My 11-year-old daughter loves to celebrate.
She has written a series of short stories entitled “The night before Thanksgiving” and “The night before the first day of school” and “The night before Christmas Eve, Eve.” They are precious keepsakes and I will 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 fun and joyful living; nothing like her sarcastic father.
More than anything else, she loves to throw parties. Always has. Not your standard tea parties, either. 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, which still sits proudly on my desk at work. I remember celebrating the first day of summer with an elaborate menu of items that were real, tangible food options, not pretend hot dogs or plastic French fries.
Today, she was at it again. Two big NFL games had been played earlier. All she needed to know was who we were 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.
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 make them with little 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 3rd 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 and I ignored it. All because I was consumed with exercising, checking my eBay sales, getting absorbed into football game-watching, 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.
Lord knows I held the title today. Even a simple “thank you” before she went to bed tonight would have been nice. Now I’m here wallowing in my selfishness and even worse, the realization that I took 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. And then give her a big hug and a thank her for being her. I think she has already taught me more than I could ever hope to teach her.
Photo Credit: Getty Images