Basic parental instinct dictates that parents of little girls will do anything to keep them from getting hurt. Paternal instinct goes a bit further. It dictates that fathers of little girls will do anything to keep their daughters from being hurt…by boys. It’s a potential source of conflict that can never be fully resolved because women will never be able to fully conceive of how depraved and single-minded a teenage male is.
It’s going to take a fair amount of self-restraint, but I’m determined to not become a cliche father from a country-western song, sitting on the front porch cleaning his shotgun as junior comes by to pick up my daughter. I can’t promise that he will always be welcomed warmly, but I want my girls to know that I respect their choices and give them the opportunity to find a good guy without dad messing things up. I need to step back and let them learn from their mistakes. When I was seventeen there were girls that were forbidden by their fathers from associating with me. All it really stopped was them being honest with their parents. I don’t want that.
So when The Preschooler told me about the new boyfriend she was planning to marry, I winced a little, gave her the “cooties” talk, and let it go. I got his name and did a little digging, but so far the pint-sized romeo has come up clean.
Apparently she has a bit of a jealous streak. She’s been in trouble at school for sticking out her tongue at other girls who talk to him and pushed another little boy when her man tried to spend some time on the playground with his boys. It took some of the cuteness out of the situation and was a sobering reminder of how many more years of boy drama we have in front of us.
So far we’ve been pretty lucky with The Teenager. There have been unrequited crushes and a few fights with other girls, but nothing too major. When a boyfriend starting getting too handsy last year, she not only immediately kicked him to the curb, but talked to us about it. As a daddy, that’s about as close to a win/win as it gets.
There are times when she can be uncomfortably open about her initial forays into dating, but it’s something her mother and I force ourselves to encourage. I don’t fool myself into thinking she pays much attention, but if we can advise her on what characteristics to look for in her Prince Charming and which to avoid, it has to at least have a little influence. Chances are she is going to kiss a lot of frogs before she’s done and from time to time will have her heart broken.
I’ll do my best to keep my instincts in check.