As any parent will tell you, from time to time. we all do things that make us feel like the worst parent that ever walked the face of the earth. For me, it usually involves a sick or hurt child. Having taken way too many trips to the emergency room where the outcome was basically that nothing was wrong, on occasion I have put off seeking medical attention for what I thought was a minor ailment that later turned out to be more serious. But that was not the case this weekend. My most recent run-in with the title World’s Worst Dad did not come at the expence of one of my kids health, but it did leave me a little broken-hearted. Especially since it came at Molly’s expense.
Of my three kids, Molly is by far, the most loving and sensitive. Stephanie and Alex, although different as night and day, are both very independent. But Molly is the eternal clinger. When Molly gets in trouble, the tears begin to flow. As the youngest child, she has always had to battle a little more for attention, and as the smallest she is very often over powered by her two older siblings. She is not shy, but can be intimidated by others, especially older kids. She is very often too eager to please, and this has gotten her in a bit of hot water from time to time. I also have a special soft spot for her because of how young she was at the time of my divorce. It was a tough time for all of us, and Molly was really looking for that reassurance that despite what was going on, her mom and dad both still loved her. I think she still holds in some of these fears even today.
During that time, I moved out of the house for the first time just after the New Year in 2006. By then it was painfully obvious that the divorce was going to happen, although no formal paper work had been started yet. I will admit that I was not in the best of shape at that time, and as a father I was inept. On a trip to a small game arcade called Wilderness Falls, Molly won this neon green friendship bracelet, and she gave it to me and asked me to wear it forever. That way she would always know we were friends. How could I say no? And I took my promise seriously. A very worn and much faded green string still loops around my right wrist today.
Before I continue, it is time for a quick confession. The original neon green friendship bracelet broke about a month after Molly gave it to me. It was only made of a somewhat elastic string, and it constantly had to be re-adjusted or it would fall off. During one of the adjustments, it just snapped in two. Not wanting to tell Molly that it broke, I headed back over to the arcade and picked up a couple of extras. The one I am wearing now is actually the third, but it is the one that has been in place the longest. The second one slipped off my wrist at some time and just disappeared. I believe there might actually be one more stuffed away in the top drawer of my dresser under some underwear, next to all the teeth the Tooth Fairy has collected over the years.
For the past few years, Molly and I have taken part in a park district event called The Daddy Daughter Dance. It is not really a big fancy event, but most of the dads treat it as one. We all wear shirts and ties, and the girls put on their best dresses. Flowers and a cheesy photo and a bad dinner are all part of the fun. For a cheep park district event, it is very well done, and the girls all seem to enjoy the night out with dad. The event is always held the weekend before Valentines Day, but you have to sign up in advance. And that is where I blew it. Last Saturday after Molly’s ice skating lessons, I was supposed to run over to the park district and sign us up. Well, it was a very full day and Maureen and I had three different places we had to be that day, and I forgot to sign us up. Even later in the week, when Maureen asked me if we had plans for Saturday night, the event completely slipped my mind. It wasn’t until Friday night, on my way home that it suddenly popped into this thick skull of mine.
I frantically called as many of the park district offices as I could find numbers for. A very nice lady at one place took pity on me and gave me the office number for the woman who puts the night together. I called and left a message, but the reality was sinking in fast. It was time to give Molly a call and break the bad news. I told her what I had done, and I could hear the disappointment in her voice. It really is a silly little dance, but it means so much to Molly just to have that special night just the two of us. I promised her that if I could not get us into the dance, we would still have a date night, and that I would take her out to dinner. Once again, Maureen stepped in to save the day, and reminded me that the ice show was still in town, and maybe that would be a fun alternative.
On Saturday morning, I placed more phone calls and left more messages and stopped by the park district office in person to check and see if there was anything that could be done. While I was there, another dad was also looking to try and get tickets for the dance, but the lady behind the desk told us it was sold out. She also said we were not the only dads who had dropped the ball on this one, and that there had been a number of fathers stopping by. If her intent was to make me feel better it didn’t work. I had already ordered Molly a small wrist corsage just in case, so I headed over there to pick it up. When the much too jovial lady told me to have fun at the dance, it was like rubbing salt in the wound. Of course I didn’t correct her.
On my way to pick Molly up from her ice skating class, I called a friend and got two tickets to Disney on Ice. I then made a reservation at a nice restaurant near where the ice show was performing. When I picked up Molly, she ran right up to me and gave me a big hug. She asked if I had gotten the tickets and I had to admit I did not. I then filled her in on our alternate plans, and I could see the smile start to build. I showed her the flowers and told her we would still have a nice date night. We spent the rest of the afternoon just the two of us, running errands and getting ready for our night. I asked Molly to pick out a tie for me. In honor of the ice show, she picked out an old Mickey Mouse tie I had from my days running movie theaters. While I was still getting ready, I heard Molly and Maureen talking, and Maureen was explaining that this was going to be even better than the dance, because it was going to be just the two of us. This really seemed to make Molly happy.
And it really was a great date. We talked and laughed and ate too much and had a nice time. I was feeling much better about my mistake and that disappointed look never returned to Molly’s face. I know it may sound like a bit of a cliché, but kids really just want to know that they are special and that they are loved. What we did that night was not nearly as important as spending the time together. It was our special night. At the end of the night, Molly even suggested that we do this again next year instead of the dance. What else could I say? I told her next year we would do both. That way we would have two date nights. I better not mess it up again.