Watch me dance, Dad!

My dad lives abroad — but he can still come back for the weekend for my dance competition, right?

Not necessarily, says our elder — but there is a possible solution.

Dear EWC

So over the summer, my dad moved to Saudi Arabia for a new job as a principal in an international school. He had only told me and my two siblings about it maybe like four months before he left. He and my mom are divorced. I live with my mom and she’s always the one coming to anything dance-related I’ve had. With basically any event, I’ve had to drag my dad to it because he’d say that he had work or something else. What really annoyed me though was that he’d go to things all my siblings would have, for example, an 8th-grade promotion. When I found out the date of mine last summer, I called him and told him and he told me that he had a conference in another state around that time and he would be coming back that night. I got really annoyed because middle school was extra hard on me and my dad would get mad at me because of my grades and I feel like he can’t act like I don’t exist, then get mad at me and then not celebrate the fact that I’m getting out of that school.

Anyway, the week of my promotion, my mom had very bad health issues and had to stay in the hospital for the week, so it was just me, and my older siblings in the house. The night before my promotion, I was ranting to my sister about how I didn’t think it was fair that I’m always the one child who can’t have their dad at their promotion when he’s able to be there. Because family should come before work, right? I was saying that like obviously I can’t complain about my mom because her position wasn’t something that she could easily get out of, and my dad missed my 5th grade promotion, and him saying that he couldn’t come to my 8th grade promotion really made me anxious because I started thinking about if he’d miss the rest of my graduations.

My dad ended up getting back earlier than he was supposed to. He would have been able to get to my school right at the end if he hadn’t gone to the wrong school, but he got there when everyone was leaving the school and was able to speak with me and take pictures and everything. Right now, I’m a freshman in high school and I’m on my school’s dance team, just like my sister was. I’m actually the only freshman and I feel like for once in my life, I really do belong. My dad is in Saudi Arabia for the next three years, which means that he won’t be completely back until my senior year. My birthday is at the end of January, at the end of the week, which means that our counties competition falls that weekend. I really want to ask him to come back just for the weekend to see my team perform. When I told my mom about the idea, she told me that I shouldn’t ask him because it was selfish of me to want my dad to just drop everything to come to my competition. I really want to ask him, but I feel like the same thing would happen as my promotion. He went to at least one of my sister’s competitions every year she was on her team, so I feel like it’s only fair. I know the circumstances are different, but I just feel like since it’s my birthday weekend and the weekend of huge competition, he should be there to see me. I don’t know if that sounds entitled or not. I’m only on this team for four years, assuming I don’t get cut off. I want him to see me grow as a dancer every year and not be surprised when he sees one of my competitions in person for the first time in my senior year.

Folk replies

I totally understand why you want your dad to attend your competition and watch you perform. It’s a very big deal that you made the team as a freshman, and you don’t want him to wait until you’re a senior to see you dance for the first time. Besides, the important county competition this year happens to coincide with your birthday, and you’d love it if he could be home for that as well. Honestly, if your dad lived anywhere reasonably close, I’d say that he for sure ought to be there. But the thing is: he doesn’t live anywhere reasonably close; he lives thousands of miles away in Saudi Arabia. And he’s not there on holiday kicking back and having fun; he’s there working, presumably to help support you and siblings. Coming home for your birthday weekend would, therefore, be a very, very expensive thing to do both in terms of time and money. It might also be a bad time for him to leave the international school that he is responsible for as its principal.

That said, I don’t think it’s at all selfish of you to want your father there. I definitely get where you are coming from: you want your dad to see you do something you excel at because you want to make him proud. But you are old enough to understand that as much as your dad loves you and would like to be there for you if he could that he has other, competing responsibilities. You are very important to your dad, but there are other things that are important to him too, and he has to balance everything out. You’re right about family always coming first, but sometimes putting family first means missing out on family events and activities. I know this sounds a little crazy, but think of it this way: your dad works to support his family, so if he loses his job because he doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do for work, it’s his family that will suffer.

I have a possible solution to offer you though. If you want your dad to see you perform at your big competition, how about videotaping the whole thing and sending him a copy? Your dance coach probably records all the team’s performances, so if you ask, he or she can let you have a copy to send to your dad. Or you can ask a friend or relative to record your team’s performance — with a special focus, of course, on you. This way, your dad will be able to replay the tape and watch you perform over and over instead of just once. I made recordings of my granddaughters’ dance recitals to send to their dad (my son) when he was in Iraq, and he really appreciated it. He felt very bad about missing out on what was going on with his girls and getting recordings of their activities really helped.
It sounds to me like despite your parents’ divorce that your dad is trying his best to be a good dad and to stay in your life. Sure, sometimes he’s annoying and, sure, you wish he could be at more of your stuff than he has been. But, hey, he did bust his butt to make it back from his out of state conference early in order to catch your 8th-grade promotion. He may have gone to the wrong school by mistake, but eventually made it. Instead of asking your dad to come home for your birthday weekend to see you perform, try letting him know that even though you are disappointed that he cannot be there that you understand that he is doing his best to be a good dad and that you love him for it. If you do this, he will be proud of you for behaving so maturely. He will think to himself, “My baby girl is growing up.”
I hope this helps. I am always here if you’d like to talk more about this. Please write back if you can to let me know how you are doing. And good luck with your big competition!

Letter #: 449584
Category: Family

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