Right off, I don’t know if this works or not, but so far, so good. Ask me in 12-15 years and I may have a different answer. One universal truth about being a father to young girls is that you hope more than anything that the boys they eventually date (you know, when they’re 30 and you’re about ready to accept the inevitable so that you can have grandchildren) aren’t constantly thinking about what every other boy is thinking about when dating at their age. This boils down to a few salient bits of wisdom, as I see it. Here are 5 Rules I made up, but which I commend to anyone with daughters.
1. Get a gun permit now, before someone has the good sense to add the question on the form, “Are you the father of a teenage daughter?” (How do you spell 5-year waiting period?)
2. Train your daughter well so that she is not drawn to bring home the type of suitor that you’re likely to shoot on sight or call the cops insisting you saw his picture on a leaflet at the post office. This means spending time with her so that when the time comes, she won’t settle for a guy who isn’t as good to her as her father is. Treat her special, and it’ll dispense with the worst that could crawl up to your doorstep when it comes time for her first date. (Rude tip: if she brings home someone who mistreats her but really no worse than you have, then you’re the lowlife; this is what happens when they can’t wait to get out of your house.)
3. At least semi-regularly, take her to Home Depot with you. Go out for ice cream, or go for hot chocolate at Tim’s. Take her to the food court at the mall and share an order of french fries. Talk about something or talk about nothing; what’s going on at school or what she wants for her birthday. Talk about her mother (but say nice things) or about events that are coming up for you as a family. The topic doesn’t matter a lot at first. It’s important to do this one-on-one, and listen up when she tells you that she hasn’t been out with you in a while; it is called “an outing” and it is the crux of everything I know so far about raising daughters. Start this when she’s about 2 or 3 years old, or now – whichever comes first. Tell your wife what you’re up to, and she will not only help you remember to keep the intervals between outings short, but she will love you more for it. You get big-time husband-points for doing this but remember that’s just a side-benefit. Stick with it – my wife and I have gotten to the point where we can tell from our oldest daughter’s behaviour patterns when she’s overdue for an outing with one or the other of us… it actually makes a difference and it’s easier than threatening punishment.
4. Above all else, you need to build up enough closeness and trust with her that should she ever introduce you to something you consider decidedly substandard as a potential mate for her that if you take her aside later and tell her she can do better, that turkey will go on the chopping block forthwith. Part of this is cultivating a strong enough relationship with her that she’ll actually talk to you about this stuff. As I see it, this is one of the primary roles for the father of a daughter. If you pull off Rule #2, you won’t need to rely on this, but if you blow Rule #2 and Rule #4, I sure hope you’ve planned ahead and covered off Rule #1. How do you pull off Rule #4? See Rule #3. Get that one right, and everything will work out.
5. Build up Karma. Whenever you go to the food court on an outing (Rule #3, don’t forget), sit within a relatively close distance to an older couple. In my experience there’s pretty much always one nearby. Why? Well, it has nothing to do with you or your daughter, but especially when she’s young, the older couple will watch her, and the two of you will brighten their day a little bit. If you do this consciously, the older couple will come and say how cute about 60-70% of the time or more. It’s just to brighten their day, there’s nothing in it for you. Except Karma, and contact with strangers.
Ultimately, I’m certain this tells us something about God. I behave better when I spend more time with him and make better life decisions as a result. Makes sense. So what brings all this to mind? Well, a lot of my friends have daughters, and when I shared this advice with one of them a little while ago, it made sound sense to him. The other thing is that earlier this week I became an uncle (again) when my brother and his wife had their first child – a daughter.