I see it all the time from dads of daughters: the threats to any boy who dares show interest in dating their princess. Who hasn’t seen the pictures of the rifle-wielding father staring menacingly in the direction of his daughter’s prom date? This mentality starts immediately, and not just with the fathers.
From the first newborn photo on social media, the comments start rolling in. “Gonna have to lock this one up!” and “Better start polishing your shotgun!” It’s meant to be cute, to show how much Daddy’s little girl means to him and what lengths he’ll go to in order to keep her safe. But when people take it seriously, the cute wears off.
I get it, Dad — you’re protective of your little girl. And do you know why I get it? Because I’m protective of my little boy too. I don’t want to see him hurt or taken advantage of any more than you want to see your daughter in that position. We’re their parents, and no matter their gender, thinking of them suffering at the hands of someone else puts us on the immediate defensive. I understand that, believe me.
But imagine for a moment if the shoe were on the other foot. When your daughter knocks on my door for the first time, you wouldn’t want me to corner her and whisper aggressively through gritted teeth, “Look here, you little floozie, I’m warning you: You break my son’s heart, you suffer the consequences.” Imagine how that would make you feel — the audacity of me threatening your child (and insulting her) before even getting to know her. How dare I? She’s a good girl, right? She doesn’t deserve to be unfairly judged simply because she wants to spend more time with my boy, does she?
And neither do our sons.
Let’s give our kids — and our parenting skills — some credit. Throughout their entire childhood, we are equipping them to become adults someday. And by the time they reach these first steps, these forays into potentially romantic relationships, they have enough sense to handle themselves with some level of maturity. They don’t need to be bullied into compliance (and if they do, we’ve failed somewhere along the line, and that’s a whole different issue). Besides, if they were “only interested in one thing,” they probably wouldn’t be taking the time to meet their crush’s parents at all.
If my boy comes to meet you for the first time and acts like a disrespectful jerk, then fine, you have every right to let him know that won’t fly. Hell, let me know about it and he’ll get more than an earful from me too. But give him a chance. Your presence alone will let him know how much you love and value your daughter, and he shouldn’t need to be frightened into treating her well.
Because I am raising my son to know about boundaries and consent.
I am raising my son to be respectful and mindful of others’ feelings.
I am raising my son to know a woman’s worth and his own.
I am raising my son with integrity.
I am raising my son with a knowledge of sexual health and responsibility, so that when these situations come up (let’s be real: it’s inevitable), he will know how to keep himself and his partner protected.
Hopefully, you’re raising your girls the same way: to be decent, kind human beings. And I’d like to think you trust them to choose someone who reflects those values, just like I trust my son to be kind and respectful to the people in his life because I’ve worked very hard to instill those values in him.
So I’m making this promise to you: When the time comes for my son to date your daughter, I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt. When I meet her, there will be no intimidation, no show of power, no you-hurt-him-I-hurt-you or visible sharpening of my biggest kitchen knife. I’m going to welcome her with a warm smile and make her feel comfortable. After all, she likes my son, and I like my son — we’ve already got something in common.