Little has tested my mettle as a father like the recent decision made by my four-year-old daughter. This daughter, whom I love with all my heart, has never before been willing to participate in any kind of recital, play, or even–until mere months ago–photographs. Imagine my utter panic when she announced that this year would be unlike any other in that she would like to take part in her daycare’s Christmas recital.
I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I said “utter panic.”
Ordinarily I would be overjoyed at the prospect of my four-year-old defeating her reluctance to appear in public performances, especially those captured by photographic means. Normally I would encourage her, support her, and champion her every step of the way.
Unfortunately, there is one small, minor, miniscule, tiny, minute problem. You see, her star debut happens to coincide with Star Wars: Rogue One. To be more precise, it occurs at the exact time printed on the advance tickets I bought for Rogue One’s opening night.
I am something of Star Wars fan. I grew up with the original trilogy, made lightsabers out of wrapping paper tubes, and nearly lost my sanity when I somehow misplaced my Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker. You know, the one in the black outfit with the green lightsaber. (My father found him several months later in the garden. To this day, I blame my older brother [but don’t tell him I said that].) I have been looking forward to Rogue One for an eternity. When tickets were announced, I stalked my favorite theater’s website waiting for them to go on sale. This theater has reserved seating, so they tend to release their tickets sporadically, one day at a time. It can be maddening. However, my efforts were rewarded. I eventually got the seats I wanted at the time I wanted. Ah, the benefits of patience resulting from middle age coupled with a credit card … Life was good. So good.
Cue the bomb dropping. We were actually on the way to my eight-year-old’s Christmas recital when my four-year-old proclaimed from the backseat that this year she too would espouse the merits of Christ, Rudolph, and jolly old Saint Nick. “What?” I cried. “That’s wonderful!” My wife joined in, exclaiming, “We’re so proud of you!”
I then asked my wife what date the recital would occur.
I then asked my wife at what time the recital would occur.
“Are you sure, honey?” I erupted. “I mean, you know, you’ve never wanted to do it before? Are you positive this is the year?”
My wife slowly said my name. This was meant as a hint. I totally picked up on it. But that didn’t stop me.
“I mean, we don’t want your daycare to plan on you being there and then you back out on them, you know?”
My wife calmly asked me at what point I’d lost my mind. “See,” I whispered to her, “it’s just that, you know, I’ve got Rogue One tickets that night.” Her face told me she failed to comprehend the issue. “Not just that night, but at that exact time,” I enlightened.
My four-year-old overheard me and said, and there is not an ounce of embellishment added to this, “I don’t want to do it if Daddy isn’t there.”
So, guess what I’m doing right now? That’s right, I’m stalking my favorite theater’s website, waiting for those weekend tickets to go on sale. Yeah, I know opening weekend can’t compare to opening night, but I can’t be the guy who skips his daughter’s first Christmas recital to go see Star Wars. I wish I could tell you that my heart is swelling with love and that I gave up those tickets without a moment’s hesitation. I wish I could tell you that I can’t wait to sit through forty-five minutes of babies, toddlers, and four-year-olds singing Christmas songs.
The truth is, if I’m being honest, I’m really disappointed that I’m not seeing Rogue One on its opening night, especially considering that I scored tickets for it. I know I’m supposed to play the good dad and say it’s not a sacrifice, that I’m happy to give up my own wants and desires for the sake of my children’s happiness. I’m supposed to say that, but my hypocrisy would know no bounds if I did so.
In reality, I’ve got perspective enough to realize that the story of dad skipping his daughter’s first Christmas recital to see a movie would follow both of us for the rest of our lives. It would be funny to most, but I can’t risk the impact that could have on our future relationship, even subconsciously. And, let’s face it — I also don’t want to be judged. So, yeah, it’s mostly shame and fear of being judged getting me to that Christmas recital. Just let me know when and where I should appear to receive that “Father Of the Year” award.
I’ve also got perspective enough to realize that this article will serve as a confession of sorts to my daughter. One day I’m sure I will play the martyr and bring up the fact that I gave up opening night Star Wars tickets to see her sing for five minutes. I will play the guilt card and shamelessly use it to win every argument, every squabble, every petty disagreement. And she can then refer to this blog post and politely tell me to stop being an asshole. I also extend that invitation to my other daughter as well. Print it off and keep it in your pocket, girls.
I love my daughters in ways I didn’t know existed. They are my everything, and I will sacrifice anything and everything for them. I strive to be that good dad, but it’s not always easy. Actually, it’s rarely easy. But you know what? There will be other Star Wars opening nights. I only get one first Christmas recital with my four-year-old. I only get one year with her as a four-year-old. She’ll be fourteen before I know it, and then twenty-four. One day I will be gone and I won’t get any more time with her at all. Whenever I feel selfish and small, I try to remember that fact: one day I won’t have any more time with my children.
So, yeah, I won’t see Rogue One on opening night.
Life is still pretty good.