When someone pointed me to an article entitled Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex, I was prepared to be outraged.
Instead, I found a tender, reflective, well-thought-out discussion from an obviously loving dad.
In the end, the title is just there to grab your attention, I think. This isn’t just about sex, but about letting our kids be their own person.
You’re not me. Nor are you an extension of my will. And so you need to make your own damn mistakes, to learn how to pick yourself up when you fall, to learn where the bandages are and to bind up your own cuts. I’ll help. I’ll be your consigliere when I can, the advisor, the person you come to when all seems lost. But I think there’s value in getting lost. I think there’s a strength that only comes from fumbling your own way out of the darkness.
I had to laugh at the bandage part, because GlitterGirl had a small cut on her foot last week, and after looking it over I suggested she wash it with soap and water, dry it, and put a band-aid on it. The look on her face was priceless. Apparently, this is the first time she’s been sent to clean and bandage her own boo-boo. Well past time for most kids, but GG isn’t most kids. Some kids need you to slow them down, others need you to urge them on. GG needs slowing down in some things, and gentle nudges in others.
It’d be bad parenting to let her go off to college without ever cleaning and bandaging her own cuts and scrapes. It’d also be bad parenting for me (or RK) to decide who she can and can’t date, and then send her off without letting her make her own mistakes a few times while RK and I are around to help her pick up the pieces and move on.
Here’s something my mother still doesn’t get.
You’re your own person, and some of the things you’re going to love will strike me as insane, ugly, or unenjoyable…And I would be a sad, sad little man if I manipulated you into becoming a cookie-cutter clone of my desires. Love the music I hate, watch the movies I loathe, become a strong woman who knows where her bliss is and knows just what to do to get it.
He doesn’t say how old his daughter is, and I’m hoping she’s well past GG’s age. Eventually, I can say the same for my girls…I hope they have awesome sex. But, like I said, this is about more than sex. I want them to find their own inner strengths and define who they are in this world.
When my kids listen to music I can’t appreciate — or like something else I don’t — instead of putting them down for it, I let them know it’s not my thing, and ask them what they like about it. I’m not snotty about it, but curious. Interested. As a result, they sometimes ask me why I like something when they don’t, and we’ve had great conversations.
I won’t throw out all of the “Rules for Dating my Daughter”, though. Some of them are designed around respect and strength, the very things I want for my girls.
Rule One: If you pull into my driveway and honk you’d better be delivering a package, because you’re sure not picking anything up.
Yeah, I’ll keep this one. If you don’t respect her enough to walk to the door; she’ll respect herself enough not to walk out the door. I’ve made sure of that long before we hit the dating age.
Rule Two: You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my daughter’s body, I will remove them.
Aren’t we back to respect here? Even if she’s 25 and I know they’re sexually active, it’d be crass for the guy to grab her butt or ogle her chest in front of her parents. If you touch my fourteen year old daughter in an inappropriate way then yes, I will remove your hands from her body; but if you touch my twenty-something year old daughter when you know I’m looking, my response will be based on my daughter’s reaction. If she’s fine with it I’ll probably excuse myself or deflect it with humor, depending on the situation. If she’s uncomfortable I’ll likely ask him if he knows how uncomfortable he’s just made her. If neither of them know I’m around then I’ll quietly leave, so as not to embarrass any of us.
One boy briefly held her hand in front of us, and we didn’t say anything. It was appropriate for the setting and their age.
Rule Three: I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys your age to wear their trousers so loose that they appear to be falling off. Please don’t take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends are complete idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open minded about this issue, so I propose this compromise: You may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes too big, and I will not object. However, to ensure that your clothes do not, in fact, come off during your date with my daughter, I will use my electric nail gun and fasten your trousers securely to your waist.
This one’s funny, but I’m not actually going to do it. So far, all of GG’s “guys” haven’t dressed too bad. One had long hair, but it was an artistic statement more than a hoodlum thing. I was fine with it; RK called him a girly-boy and annoyed GG to no end. (He didn’t call him that to his face, just referred to him that way around the house). They broke up and remain friends, and he’s a good kid.
Rule Four: I’m sure you’ve been told that in today’s world, sex without utilizing a “barrier method” of some kind can kill you. Let me elaborate, when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.
Again, a sorta ha-ha statement, but…depends on the age. I want my kids to talk to me about what’s going on in their lives. I knew about GG’s first kiss within ten minutes of her getting home. I know which of her friends have gone farther than kissing, and I know GG isn’t ready to do so yet, but is curious. If I act like I’m going to kill any guy who touches her, I won’t know these things. If someone were to do something requiring a barrier right now, I’d get law enforcement involved. However, eventually? No, I’m not going to be the you-touch-her-and-I-destroy-you parent forever.
Rule Five: In order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day. Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on this subject is “early.”
This one gets tossed. I want to know everything I can about my daughters’ friends — male and female.
Rule Six: I have no doubt you are a popular fellow, with many opportunities to date other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you. If you make her cry, I will make you cry.
Oh, how I wish this were feasible. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Our kids are going to get hurt, and it’s our job to help them learn to deal with it.
Rule Seven: As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating. My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process that can take longer than painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of just standing there, why don’t you do something useful, like changing the oil in my car?
This one gets tossed, also. Respect is a two way street. Girls should respect the guys and their feelings, too. If GG’s running a few minutes late I’ll apologize for her and expect her to apologize again when she finally shows, but if she’s more than a few minutes behind then I’ll be deeply disappointed. I’m not raising Divas who think the world revolves around them, I’m attempting to raise considerate young ladies.
Rule Eight: The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter: Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool. Places where there are no parents, policemen, or nuns within eyesight. Places where there is darkness. Places where there is dancing, holding hands, or happiness. Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough for my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops, midriff T-shirts, or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and a goose down parka zipped up to her throat. Movies with a strong romantic or sexual theme are to be avoided; movies which features chain saws are okay. Hockey games are okay. Old folks homes are better.
Other than staying away from places with a bed, this one gets tossed. Hmmm, and maybe the movies with a strong romantic theme for another couple of years. It hasn’t come up yet, and I hadn’t really considered it. She isn’t allowed to see anything above PG13 without me, so we should be okay for a while. Hopefully.
Rule Nine: Do not lie to me. I may appear to be a potbellied, balding, middle-aged, dimwitted has-been. But on issues relating to my daughter, I am the all-knowing, merciless god of your universe. If I ask you where you are going and with whom, you have one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres behind the house. Do not trifle with me.
I’m keeping some of this one. I do happen to have a shotgun, a shovel, and plenty of land behind the house; but I won’t use them. I will, however, no longer trust your word, and will do everything in my power to cut you from my daughter’s life. Whether I do so outright, or subtly, will depend on her age and how much she likes you. Honesty is huge with me. Trust is paramount.
Rule ten was just ridiculous, and not even worth reprinting. My weapons are only to protect us from grave bodily injury or death. I’m not going to threaten to use them on someone for touching or liking my daughters, much less contemplate using them. I know what a bullet can do to a body, and it’s nothing to joke about or lightly threaten.
Part of me sometimes wishes we still lived in a time when it was appropriate to put a chastity belt on your daughter before sending her out without an escort, but most of me is glad we’re beyond that.
I don’t want GlitterGirl to have any kind of sex right now — awesome or terrible. But eventually? Yes. I hope she has awesome, guilt-free, blissful, sex. Mostly, I hope she has the self-confidence and strength to make her own decisions and not let others convince her to do anything she isn’t sure of.