I’m supposed to be afraid that my daughter will grow up one day. That seems to be the narrative that television and many others try to push. Every dad with a daughter knows what I’m talking about. Things like:
“Oh, she’s going to be a heartbreaker when she grows up. You’re in for a lot of headaches. Tee-hee.”
“Enjoy it while you can, before you know it, she’ll be dating and too cool for daddy.”
Or this freakin’ commercial…
Go ahead. Cry it out, slugger.
It seems like from the moment I became the father of a girl, there has been a concerted effort by the world to make me realize that she would one day grow up and move on. Sadly, I’d be discarded like a flaming sack of Barbies the moment she hits middle school. That’s apparently my destiny and there’s nothing that can be done.
For this, I’m expected to talk to her openly about killing any date who show up at my door in ten years. Whether it’s an “adorable” Youtube video of an obsessive dad telling his little girl, still in a booster seat, that he’ll attack her future boyfriends or a nutcase who cleans his guns in front of a 12 year old in a clip-on tie who just came over for ice cream.
Or this freakin’ guy…
At the end of the day, I’m expected to take part in some sort of bizarre roleplay where I’m a psycho looking to keep my daughter locked away from any potential suiters. It’s my job to do this because…well, I have no idea why.
Why exactly shouldn’t my daughter grow up? Why shouldn’t she find a significant other who cares about her? Why shouldn’t she reach an age where she no longer needs me to tuck her in? Because I’ll miss it too much? If that isn’t the most self-centered narcissistic approach to the natural progression of life, then I don’t know what is.
Of course I’ll miss these days when she grows up, but that’s on me. It’s why I relish the times now instead of worrying about what tomorrow brings. If you’re looking to keep “daddy’s little girl”, then why shouldn’t you enjoy those exact times when they are here? Even more so, why wouldn’t you build a loving relationship now to ensure that she’s not “too cool” for you at 17? You cross bridges when you get to them. You don’t construct them in your mind and then burn them to the ground a decade early.
Instead we have fathers laying down ground rules for future dates to their five year old and those rules all involve some insane, over the top, exaggerated nonsense that your kid is probably processing as real. You’re creating the very future you’re rallying against.
Nothing fosters healthy relationships for a young girl more than her dad telling her early and constantly that any potential date she might have is almost certainly going to be shot. Do you want a teenage daughter who feels she needs to sneak around behind your back? Because that’s how you get a teenage daughter who feels she needs to sneak around behind your back.
If ever the stupidity of this approach was apparent to me, it was during this dated story. Why is it dated? Because Olivia and I were watching The Cosby Show.
It was the episode where Denise had come home with a new husband, before ever introducing them to her parents. I turned to my daughter, who was about four at the time, and tried to explain what the problem was.
“You see? She got married and didn’t even let her mommy and daddy meet him. When you get married, we have to meet your husband first, OK?”
She nodded and responded:
OK, Daddy. But I get to meet him second!
Needless to say, I laughed myself silly and then realized that this conversation was over her head. Of course I’ll protect her and teach her what’s right when the time calls for it, but there’s no reason to make growing up scary or confrontational. Life is already hard enough to navigate for a child. Why make it harder? Why turn something as common as dating into a combative and uncomfortable situation before it even happens? What may be a tongue-in-cheek joke to a child of ten becomes a genuine concern for a girl of fifteen and then a real issue for a dad of any age.
I can’t pretend to know what my daughter will be like when she grows up. I’m not telling you that I have it all figured out. All I know is that, if all goes well, she will grow up one day and I’m aware of that. Time moves forward and, when you accept that, nothing will come as a surprise.
One day she won’t need me the way she needs me now. I know that. So until that day happens, I will do whatever I can to cherish the days when she does instead of obsessing about the day she doesn’t.