My Baby Girl is Growing Up, Despite My Best EffortsErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Earlier this week, my wife sent me the text message from Hell, the text message every father dreads getting. The words no father of a daughter wants to hear or read.
"Your daughter has a boyfriend"
My reply was calm, well-reasoned, and rational.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. . .!"
Every father with a daughter reading these words is silently nodding and thinking, "there's nothing irrational about this." Every father who only has sons is snickering, thinking I'm overreacting.
To that, I have two responses: 1) Try to remember what it was like when you were a teenager, and you'll understand my concern, and 2) if your kid ever pokes his nose around here, I'll return it to him in a box.
I immediately called my wife.
"I blame you for this, you know," I said.
"How'd you leap to that conclusion?" she asked.
"I've been very clear on several things she is not allowed to do. Talking to boys or being in the same ZIP code as boys are a couple of them. Now you're just violating those rules willy-nilly, letting her be in public, or go to school."
My wife said some things that were meant to be reassuring, but since none of them included the phrase "heavily armed response," I wasn't really listening.
But my wife told our daughter that if she wanted to continue to see The Boy, she had to tell me herself. (I call him The Boy because I don't plan on learning his name. I don't anticipate him being around long enough for me to care.)
"I have to tell you something," my daughter said when I got home that evening.
"Other people might call it 'going out,' but I call it 'hanging out.'"
"Call what hanging out? And what am I going to call it?"
"Well. . ." The pause was killing me. "Well, I've been 'hanging out' with a boy." She even said "hanging out" like there were actual quote marks around it.
I started pacing around the kitchen. Outwardly, I was very calm and rational. Inside, I was still continuing my text back to my wife.
". . . OOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
I've been trying to mentally prepare myself for this for the last 12 years. Even when my daughter was one year old, we had family friends trying to set her up with their own one year old.
"Look, they're playing together. That's so cute. Wouldn't it be great if they got married?"
"No, they're clearly just playing in the same vicinity, not 'together.'" I was very protective of her even then. "She's not getting married to anyone, especially someone who still wears feety pajamas and sleeps with a night light."
My attitude has not changed, but apparently all the rules have. And yet nobody told me about this. Nobody warned me that I need to beware of young men taking an unhealthy (for them) interest in my baby girl. Nobody told me my daughter was going to be interested in boys when she hit her teen years.
Or maybe they were, and I just wasn't listening. I'm bad about that.
I'm sure there are those of you who think I should have been prepared for this for the last 12 years, that I should have known this would come one day.
I have been. I read "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" several times. I even created my One Simple Rule for Dating My Teenage Daughter.
But apparently, this rule was ignored — it's simple, it's clear and to the point, I don't see the problem with it — because now my little baby is "hanging out" with The Boy.
Now, we've been very clear on what our daughter is allowed to do. No being alone, no kissing, and no actual dating until she's 16. And I've already begun devising a plan to frame her for some heinous family crime that will allow me to ground her for 14 years, so I think I'm set there. But beyond that, I haven't done much mental preparing, which is why this took me by surprise.
Why is it that fathers are so overprotective of their daughters, yet don't worry the same way about their sons? Why do we look at these young men as threats to our own sanity and family cohesiveness?
Is it because it means we're getting older? That our daughters are old enough to look to another male, and not us, as their hero? Or that in a few short years, they're going to be leaving the house and starting their own families?
I'm not that worried about it though. My wife owns a Remington 11-87 shotgun, and I'm not afraid to let her use it.
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