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When I was first baptized

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Steak and kidney pies

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When I was circumcised

Daddy wasn't there
—"Daddy Wasn't There", from the Austin Powers: Goldmember Soundtrack

A child's Disappeared Dad or Missing Mom has, after many years, returned. The child is ecstatic, but everyone else is leery of the parent's arrival, and for good reason. This person abandoned his family once already, and despite any attempts by the returned parent to convince them other wise, they don't believe his change of heart is sincere.

Then comes the test. The parent promises to show up at a major event or function of their child's, or promises to take them along next time they go somewhere. Our child puts all his faith in his mom or dad's sincerity... and it all comes crashing down when he realizes that his parent simply didn't show.

Obviously used as a form of Tear Jerker, it also serves as a Kick the Dog for the parent who made the promise. The surest and most clear-cut sign that, ultimately, their lip service about changing their ways was just that. This can also be done more than once if the parent has a history of doing this sort of thing and the child finds himself unable to give up hope that this time will be different.

Compare When You Coming Home, Dad? for examples where the parent tries to be a part of their child's life but other affairs, such as work, simply interfere. Also compare Daddy Had a Good Reason For Abandoning You, in which the disappeared parent disappeared for a legitimate reason.

In both cases, the key difference is that the parent genuinely cares for their child, is usually conscious of what they're doing, and portrayed with much more sympathy than with this trope. When Daddy Didn't Show, it's usually because it was a either specific, deliberate decision on Daddy's part or because Daddy simply flat-out forgot he was supposed to be there.

Contrast Visit by Divorced Dad.

Examples of Daddy Didn't Show include:


  • In an Australian Occupational Health and Safety ad, there is shown a little girl performing in a school play. Her mother is in the audience and she keeps looking at the empty seat next to her and grows increasingly listless throughout the play, during which we are treated to shots of the mother worriedly trying to call her husband, and just as we reach Tear Jerker levels, thinking that he's had an accident... he shows. The girl smiles. The play continues. Cue sighs of relief throughout Australia.
  • A Spanish ad had a kid playing baseball (Not very common on Spain to begin with, but this is supposed to be a play on American movies) and going "Gosh, why didn't my dad come, he won't see me bat!" Then Antonio Resines stands up and yells "Hey, kid, this is Spanish cinema, of course your dad came!" and thusly the dad shows up. And yes, the ad is how Spanish movies are nothing like American ones.

Anime & Manga

  • This formed the center of the Drama Bomb that dropped about halfway through Toradora!. Taiga was encouraged by Ryuji to try and go along with a father's attempts to patch things up, despite everyone, even Ryuji's ditzy mother, not trusting the man. Ultimately, they proved correct when said father fails to arrive at the culture festival where Taiga eagerly awaited him and held out hope that he'd show; going so far as to write words to dad in an award acceptance speech.
  • A variation with a single mother (instead of a father) happens in Change 123: Motoko's mom promises to 5-year old Motoko that she will come to the sport event at kindergarten. But the morning of the day when this is supposed to happen, she suddenly tells Motoko that she must go on an important business trip. What happens after this (see Change 123 page for details) actually creates Motoko's first Split Personality.
  • Shotarou's not doing this when her own father did is a large part of what gets Little House With an Orange Roof's Rina to accept Shotarou as a stepfather.
  • In one chapter of Keroro Gunsou, Natsumi really hopes her mom Aki can compete with her in the three-legged race at her school's sports festival, but Aki ends up having to work after all. The Keronians catch wind of this, and Keroro schemes to offer to take Aki's place as part of a scheme to get Natsumi indebted to him. But in the end, Giroro ends up running with Natsumi, instead.
  • Hiroshi Morenos in Michiko to Hatchin could be accused of this. When they finally find him near the end of the anime, he agrees to live with Hatchin and take care of her. (Since he's her father, her mother is dead, and her only other parental figure is about to be sent to prison for ten years, this is the least that could be expected of him.) Then the Distant Finale reveals that he left her to her own devices not much later, when he found a new girlfriend.


  • Early in Jingle All the Way, to really cement Howard's status as a workaholic.
  • Peter Banning failing to show as promised for his son's baseball game in Hook is one of the many things said son holds against him.
  • Parodied and played to the hilt in Austin Powers: Goldmember, complete with song by Austin Powers and Ming Tea: "Daddy Wasn't There," quoted at the top of the page.
  • The Spanish/English movie La Misma Luna has one of these. Particularly sad because Carlitos' dad left before he was born and was supposed to take him to his mother who he hadn't seen in four years.
  • The Babysitters Club Movie.
  • Happens in The Wrestler with Randy trying to reestablish a relationship with his daughter. Guess who forgets to show up to dinner later?
    • Not so much "forgets" as "gets coked out of his mind, screws a halfway-obsessive fangirl, and passes out". Not exactly the kind of excuse he could use, though.
  • Hope Floats: Bill, the guy who leaves Sandra Bullock's character Birdie for another woman and dumped her on live television comes back. Birdie is, of course, leery, but their daughter Bernice, who absolutely hates her mother and idolizes her father, prepares to leave with him. If you're not crying after what Bill does next (basically leaving her crying on the side of the road), you aren't human.
  • Also Russell's dad in Up. Russell talks the whole movie about getting his final patch so his Dad will be proud when he sees him get his award. Dad doesn't show. Carl does, though.
  • The John Hughes film Dutch is Daddy Didn't Show: The Movie. Doyle is an alienated kid at a fancy prep school who idolizes his rich father despite the fact that he does this trope all the time. When daddy opts to spend Christmas in Paris with a supermodel, Doyle's mom sends her working-class fiancee to get Doyle. Hilarity Ensues. When they get to mom's house, daddy's already there -- not because he realized he's a schmuck, but because the model dumped him. Luckily Doyle's learned a lot of valuable life lessons and tells his dad to get lost.
  • Angels in the Outfield: The triggering event for the plot is having the kid's dad say they could be a family again when "the Angels win the pennant". The kid takes it literally, and enlists the help of real angels to help do just that. However, his dad later breaks his heart by relinquishing custody of him to the state.


  • Inverted in The Dresden Files book Changes. Harry, upon finding out he is a father is determined come hell or high water to Show Up for his child.
  • Strongly subverted in Discworld with Sam Vimes, who, despite slaving constantly to maintain order and prevent civil war in a chaotic city, reads the same ridiculous book to his one-year-old son every night at 6 o'clock. No. Matter. What.
    • Sam, an expert on human nature, reasons with himself that if he misses story time for a good reason, eventually he'll start missing it for bad reasons. So he doesn't miss it for anything.

Live Action TV

  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode "Papa's Got A Brand New Excuse" featured this plot with Will, whose Disappeared Dad returned and promised to take Will on the road with him. When he didn't follow through, and tried to get Phil and Vivian to cover for him, Will was distraught, tearfully asking why his father didn't want him.
  • Monk: Adrian and Ambrose's long lost father promised to return home one Halloween night. Adrian and Ambrose waited at the house the whole night, anxiously waiting, but it wasn't looking like he was going to show. Everyone left the house at some point due to the Mystery of the Week and, when they got back, they found a note from their dad saying that he arrived, but figured that since no one was waiting for him, that he wasn't wanted, and left again.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: London Tipton is used to her dad not showing up for her special events. In one episode, London is told that her father was going to show up, but she keeps saying that she knows that he won't show up and isn't upset, until her father calls, tells them that he's not showing up, and it turns out she really is upset about it.
  • Inverted in Heroes - Steven Canfield arranges a meeting with his wife (and possibly his children, I can't remember), and they don't show up.
  • In the Chinese drama Into Thin Air, after the whole issue of finding his long lost son and his son having to return to his birth parents leads to both sides being estranged again. The son was anticipating his parents is coming back...then cue the plane crash
  • Implied in Charmed with Leo and Chris in a future timeline.
  • Manny's dad in Modern Family, who shows up from time to time and charms everyone, making it worse when he suddenly has to bail again.
  • Beverly Hills, 90210 plays this crazy straight. In fact, Kelly's dad's no-show at her Big Event Mac Guffin springboards her into her cocaine abuse storyline.
  • Veronica Mars mom does this twice. First she skips out on rehab, which Veronica had spent her entire savings on. But that's not low enough, so after Veronica confronts her about it, she absconds with a $50,000 check that Keith got for finding Duncan Kane. Oh, and she does this while Keith is in the hospital after saving Veronica from a murderer.


  • The part about "little Suzy" on the song "Youth of the Nation" by POD is this trope.
  • Tim Minchin invokes this trope with his song Darkside, "Daddy never came, to my ball game". The whole song is a satire of True Art Is Angsty

Stand Up Comedy

  • Dave Atell

 "A little girl is sitting alone on a swing, not moving.

'Where's Daddy?'


Truth in Television

  • Heartbreaking real life example: Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, the guy after whom buckyballs/fullerenes are named, had a daughter. She had polio, and was very ill. Dying, in fact. She asked him for a present, a stick to help her walk. He promised her he'd get her one. He went out drinking with some physicist buddies. She fell into a coma, and died. When he returned from his night out, she regained consciousness, just for a few moments, and asked if he'd remembered to get her the stick.
    • He hadn't. He'd completely forgotten.

Video Games

  • This happens to Ashley from Trace Memory when she agrees to meet her dad for the first time in eleven years. Instead of leaving it at that, she decides to go looking for him. It's a bit more understandable when you discover he was drugged and unconscious for some time while Bill gave Ashley the runaround. When it happens again in the second game when he forgets to met her at the bus stop, it's more the workaholic/absent-minded reason.

Web Comics

  • Averted/inverted in Something Positive: Jason's father wants to meet with him, but Jason winds up refusing, citing both his emotional manipulation and the fact that he only ever shows up when he needs something.

Western Animation

  • Nelson's dad on The Simpsons a few times.
    • Especially in recent seasons; his family situation sort of depends on the writer. In earlier episodes it was his mother who was never around.
    • Homer Simpson is prone to the lesser version of this.
      • Once he forgot to bring Bart home from soccer practice and the other time when he actually stopped by Moe's to get a beer before getting a much needed saxaphone reed for Lisa's recital.
  • The As Told by Ginger episode "Hello Stranger".
  • In Drawn Together, it's implied several times that this is why Foxxy Love tends to be so promiscuous.
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