‘What could your excuse possibly be, Dad? You’ve known about the dance for weeks!’: Single father says dads aren’t ‘showing up’ enough, ‘I am doing all I can to cherish her’

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“This time of year, I always take the time to think about how grateful I am to have a daughter to love and make sure I am doing all I can to raise her right and cherish her. I take this job VERY seriously.

But the unfortunate reality is there are many fathers who aren’t engaged enough (or at all) with their daughters and that just crushes me. This is one of life’s most honorable privileges and it’s being taken for granted WAY more than it should be.

A couple of weeks ago, it was ‘Dad’s Night’ at my daughter’s dance studio. I had known about it for several weeks, so the excitement had been building. Now, it’s not like I haven’t shown up for other dance practices, but this was a special event where the dads would be participating. I knew it meant a lot to my daughter and the other girls.

Courtesy of Damon D’Arienzo

As the class began, I was shocked I was the only father present! Ugh. What could your excuse possibly be, Dad? You’ve known about it for weeks! Not only was I disheartened for the other girls, but now it made my presence feel awkward. My daughter was feeling more embarrassed than excited, considering I was the only dad there – as if only the ‘weird dads’ show up – which led to her preferring I not participate as planned. What a sorry emotion for a 9-year-old girl to feel. You, and whatever else you thought was more important, stole a precious moment from me!

I know our young girls often say, ‘Don’t go, Dad,’ but, deep in their hearts where it counts, they want us there. It means everything to them (even if they tell you differently). We know better. As much as I want to think otherwise, this wasn’t an isolated incident. The sad truth is that dads are not ‘showing up’ enough in their child(ren)’s lives, especially for their daughters. We alone are building their perception of how a man should love them, look at them, protect them and be there for them. Nothing shapes a young woman’s understanding of love and self-worth more than the love and attention from her father.

Courtesy of Damon D’Arienzo

As a single father and co-parent, I know I need to be even more present and engaged because she does not have me there on a daily basis. Maybe that actually helps me be more present, compared to a father who sees his child every day and may feel just being around is enough. But it’s not about the quantity of time. It is how you choose to utilize and value it. But just being around and saying, ‘I love you’ when they are going to bed is not nearly enough! We need to be available in every way. It is always at the forefront of my mind. She needs me. Now. In all moments. In all ways. You can’t be over-present.

Courtesy of Damon D’Arienzo

Some of my favorite life moments have been experiences with my daughter. And it doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary or expensive. They want our time. Our warmth. Our interest in their lives. They won’t be explicit about it, but you will know. When you become a parent, you inherit the responsibility to love them deeply. Honestly, there isn’t a lot to it. Just show up!

As a single father, I have made some very conscious sacrifices to prioritize my daughter in my life. It has impacted my career advancement. It has slowed my search for a romantic partner in life. I have been able to socialize and travel less. But guess what? I’m good. Why? Because it gives me the chance to show up and raise an incredible human being.

Courtesy of Damon D’Arienzo

Going to ‘Dads’ Nights.’ Lying next to her while she is playing games on her iPad and being ready for her to show me something she finds funny or interesting. Making slime or dance videos together. Teaching her how to whistle obnoxiously, blow bubbles with her gum or make fart noises with her armpits (because that is what dads do). Attending all her soccer games and dance recitals and school events (even when I have a 2-hour round trip for a 30-minute activity). Coloring her hair. Baking. Swimming in freezing water. Spending 5 hours goofing around in IKEA. Playing the same game over and over again. Listening to her social ‘drama’ at school. Joining her on an amusement park ride that makes me sick.

I am her teacher. I don’t need to be an expert. I just need to try. I need to be genuinely interested in her. I need to show up!

Our children need us more than ever in this day in time. The information age is bombarding them with content and, unless we regularly engage, they will drift off into a world we don’t want them in and will feel less connected to their family. Our children are learning things so much faster these days, which means they need us involved to guide their learning and emotional development. Please. Show up! It is everything to them. It’s the best gift you will ever receive.”

Courtesy of Damon D’Arienzo
Courtesy of Damon D’Arienzo

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Damon D’Arienzo of Massachusetts. You can follow his journey as a single father on his website, Instagram, and FacebookDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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