My most common conversation usually goes like this:
Anonymous Acquaintance: “Hey, How’s it goin?”
AG: “Going well. How are things with you?”
Anonymous Acquaintance: “Pretty good. Can’t complain.”
Anonymous Acquaintance: “Your daughters are cute.”
AG: “Well, thank you. They are great kiddoes.”
Anonymous Acquaintance: “Good thing they take after their mother.” *laughter *elbows me
Ag: “Ha. Yeah. Good thing.” *refrains from mentioning that only one of them actually favors their mother while the other 2 resemble their grandmothers…but whatever…
Anonymous Acquaintance: “You’re gonna need a shotgun when those boys start coming around.” *more laughter *more elbows
AG: *laughter “That’s right. Gotta keep them on their toes”
I enjoy this conversation. It never gets old. I hope this conversation continues because it means people see me involved in my daughters’ lives. There is always some variation but the same basic pieces are there. In my sphere of influence (and I would assume it is prevalent throughout fatherdom), there seems to be a common feeling or understanding that a man who has daughters approaching adolescence and dating is the chief defender of honor and must protect, with fear and threats of violence, her vulnerable young heart from the “boy who only has one thing on his mind”. I don’t disagree. A father should aim to protect his daughter and I would argue that the vast majority of fathers want to protect their daughters, especially as they enter the dating world. While I recognize the comical hyperbole within some of the shotgun comments, I think a father has to put more thought into his interactions. If he wants to protect his daughter as she navigates relationships with boys, he has to take steps to prepare her with love and understanding because he can’t prepare them with fear and intimidation. My oldest is just 8 and her sisters are 5 and 3. They are young now so you should know this is all theory, but I will turn around and they’ll be getting married. So, I’m tackling this now and I’ve come up with a few reasons to reject the gun-wielding junk yard dog brand of fathering.
- I want my daughters to have a cohesive view of dating, not a combative one. The messaging throughout our culture is decidedly framed in adversarial terms of “Women vs Men”. Every movie, every tv show, every book portrays men as bumbling idiots in need of supervision. We are characterized as stumbling blocks to progress. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think males are biologically incapable of maturity at even the most basic level. But, I do know better. The truth is that everything works better when men and women share views of mutual cooperation instead of opposition. This flows through every facet of human connection, from money to dating to love to sex (And make no mistake, AG will most certainly talk with his daughters about sex. I am not afraid!) When the She-Gables begin to bring boyfriends/interested suitors into our interactions, they will find a dad who models a harmonious view of relationship. If I meet those young men with bravado and intimidation, I only set the tone for their relationship by showing her that she should be on the defensive.
- Everything I do communicates something to my daughters. If I threaten and intimidate by making a show of firearms, my actions tell them they aren’t smart enough to decide for themselves. One of the things I always want to consider is how my fathering either builds up or tears down each of my daughters’ confidence. Confidence will keep her safe and guard her from potential danger but the gun thing wrecks that.
- I never want to preemptively sever any chance of further influence in the future. I’m in this for the long game. If I start out by pounding my chest in bravado, I have cut off any chance of being that calm and trustworthy haven when her heart does get broken.
- I want to protect them from the predatory guys (and the statistics on sexual assault paint a frightening picture), but the reality of the environment we’re in is that there are far fewer wolves out there than there are just dumb boy sheep. I know because I was one. Dumb boys don’t need Rambo. They need mentors. I want to model what it looks like when a man cherishes a woman and is sold out for her good.
So, if you are raising sons and one of them happens to take an interest in one of the She-Gables, fear not. I will not shoot your kid. He obviously already has impeccable taste. But he will be expected to treat my daughter a certain way and I have every confidence he will do so. If he doesn’t…well, I still have guns.