When I was criticized
When I was ostracized
When I was Jazzercized
Steak and kidney pies
When I was modernized
When I was circumcised
Daddy wasn't there"
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 otherwise, 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 Didnt Show, it's usually because it was either a specific, deliberate decision on Daddy's part (maybe he was "Going to the Store") or because Daddy simply flat-out forgot he was supposed to be there.
- 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 heartbreaking 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. The ad is how Spanish movies are nothing like American ones.
- 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 (and making the presenter perform the speech even after it was made clear that he wasn't showing up).
- 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 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 Sgt. Frog, 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 & 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.
- In Robin after waking from his coma and finding himself in a wheelchair Tim Drake's father keeps making plans to spend more time with his son and then cancelling at the very last minute, or after, even though Tim carefully rearranges his busy schedule to make time for him. Tim is never surprised but he does appreciate that Jack at least realized he's hardly spent any time with his son and has made some futile attempts to rectify it. Jack stops even trying after he tells Tim he's dating Dana.
- Early in Jingle All the Way, to really cement Howard's status as a workaholic. In his defense, he tried to make it, only to run into a traffic jam, followed by a Cop From Hell.
- 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 in 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.
- In the 1995 film Man Of The House, this happens to young Ben when his wannabe step-dad Jack misses a special canoe trip. Of course Ben doesn't know that an attempt on Jack's life was the cause.
- In the The Babysitters Club Movie Kristy's father (who had previously abandoned his family when she was a child) promises to take her to an amusement park for her birthday. Unsurprisingly he doesn't show, leaving Kristy in the rain.
- Happens in The Wrestler with Randy trying to reestablish a relationship with his daughter. Guess who forgets to show up to dinner later? He "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. And then what Bill does next is basically leaving her crying on the side of the road.
- 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, taking the seat reserved for Russell's dad..
- 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 Little Giants. Jacob's dad is a traveling important businessman who keeps missing important things of his son's because he had a business trip. However, he finally does make it to the Little Giants/Little Cowboys football game and Jacob runs straight through the other team to get to his father - and scores a touchdown in the process.
- Whale Rider: Paikea is heartbroken when her grandfather doesn't show up to hear her speech (because he was trying to save a beached whale). That she wrote for him.
- In I Am Sam, Lucy is heartbroken when her father doesn't show up for visiting day at her foster family; Sam was too guilt-ridden to bear to even see her at first, but with the help of his lawyer Rita, he gets the courage to come the day after.
- A recurring plot point in What Maisie Knew (2012), where both the biological father and the mother are continuously missing their pick up days for Maisie because they were tied up with work.
- In Heat, the father of Natalie Portman's character was supposed to pick her up for the day but never came, which contributes to her attempted suicide.
- In Fire and Hemlock the protagonist's parents don't show up for a play at school. The father is absent, and the mother considers the play in question too boring. The grandmother is there. She is ... a bit ashamed of her son.
- 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 defied 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. The one time he isn't capable of doing so, he's trapped in a cave several miles away, and Sam starts reciting the book so loudly that Young Sam can hear the echoes from where he is.
- 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.
"... how come he don't want me, man?"
- 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 family, 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.
- In Golden Boy Walter's and Agnes' mom, a drug addict, turns up after getting out of rehab and tries to reenter their lives. She stays for a couple of episodes, then stands Agnes up after saying she was going to introduce her to a music manager and disappears.
- This takes the center of one episode of Psych in which a Young Juliet is having a birthday party and keeps expecting her father to come. Turns out her Dad was a Con Artist and this becomes a source of tension in the present day.
- Sherlock's father in Elementary. Sherlock has long since given up on him actually showing up when he says he will. One episode has him invite Sherlock and Joan to dinner, which Joan winds up attending alone because Sherlock is too bitter. There is someone there - but she soon realises it's someone Sherlock paid to pretend to be his Dad. He is, however, an acquaintance who cares a great deal for Sherlock, and we do get some information out of the exercise.
- ER. Doug Ross' abusive father resurfaces after 22 years on his birthday. Doug tells him off for having abandoned him and his mother, but the two end up having a talk that hints at them taking the first steps towards reconciling. However, by the next week, his father stands him up for a basketball game, prompting Doug to tell him off and cut him off for good.
- The part about "little Suzy" on the song "Youth of the Nation" by P.O.D. 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.
- Inverted in Harry Chapin's "Cat's in The Cradle." After an entire song about Daddy not being around, Daddy asks Son to visit. Of course, Son doesn't, despite promises.
- Dave Atell
"A little girl is sitting alone on a swing, not moving.'Where's Daddy?'Jaeger."
- In The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Olive saves seats for her parents. She knows her mother won't come, because she's in India, but she holds out hope for her dad, who ultimately never shows. In a later song, Olive says that her dad is angry and neglectful because he takes out the anger he feels for her mom on her.
- This happens to Ashley from Another Code 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 meet her at the bus stop, it's more the workaholic/absent-minded reason.
- Averted/inverted in Something*Positive: Jason has had a very nasty relationship with his father, characterizing him as manipulative. The one time that Dad shows up and asks Jason to meet him for lunch, Jason refuses, sure that Dad must want something. (Oddly, because Jason doesn't go, neither he nor the reader finds out what prompted this visit.)
- In CollegeHumor's sketch "Drunk Girl Therapist," the first client is a young woman who is crying because she has been trying to get her father to notice and validate her all her life. She recalls standing on the pitcher's mound at a softball game, scanning the crowd for his face, and not seeing him...while the therapist drunkenly attempts to dance on the coffee table. The therapist tells her that she needs to find happiness in herself, and not in her father's approval.
- The Simpsons:
- 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.
- Nelson's dad, especially in later seasons; his family situation sort of depends on the writer. In earlier episodes it was his mother who was never around. In one episode, Bart finds and reunites Nelson with his Dad
- 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.
- On Phineas and Ferb, neither of Doofenshmirtz's parents showed up for his birth. Cue Cutaway Gag of a very confused doctor holding the baby.
- Futurama has Fry upset that Farnsworth did not attend an award ceremony where we won a prize. Could be considered an inversion since Fry is Farnsworth's ancestor.
- Gravity Falls: Heartbreakingly used as part of Soos' backstory in "Blendin's Game". It's revealed Soos is a Birthday Hater because his father was never home, and only ever sent Soos a postcard with a halfhearted promise that he'd make it "next year".
- All Hail King Julien has Julien haunted by a dance recital his parents never came to because they had left. He recreates it just for them now that they're back, but they don't show up to that either. They then turn up to have actually shown up, they just weren't in their reserved seats.
- On Hey Arnold! Helga's parents are notorious for this, especially Miriam. Bob is always busy with work, and tends to put his beeper business before everything else (unless that everything else is Helga's big sister, Olga), and Miriam is an alcoholic, so she forgets things a lot or winds up passing out from one of her "smoothies."
- Sadly is often Truth in Television with neglectful parents or people who abandoned their children while they were young, though there are also plenty of aversions.
- 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.