While enjoying dinner the other evening with my family, I began questioning my 17 year old son on his dating prospects. My queries were fairly innocent and well-intentioned…for the most part. However, as I am prone to do, my tone shifted a bit and may have turned a little on the creepy side. “Is she HOT??” was likely been the question that pushed my 12 year old daughter over the edge.
With the insightful awareness that only kids (and maybe only girls) of a certain age possess, she looked at me with her pretty green, judgy eyes and asked, “Dad, how would you feel if the dad of a boy I was interested in talked about me that way?” Well, I was caught and we both knew it. My only “defense” was that things are different for boys and girls. I understand that this reasoning is faulty and borderline sexist, but as a father, I know that it is also true.
I tried to back out of my comments, in that my intentions weren’t as creepy as they may have sounded. I understand all too well the power of nicer-smelling gender on a young man. Through my years occupying space on this earth, I have forgotten many things. I have not forgotten the beautiful feelings associated with my initial forays into the cauldron of “dating” relationships. In our youth, these experiences can awaken our confidence and self-esteem during a special time when both can be exceedingly fragile and rare. This is what I want for my son. Even if it did sound a little creepy.
For my daughter, I want her protected from the inevitable pain that comes with these relationships. She is my flower. I don’t care about the certain evolutionary benefits of experiencing a little heartache. I want her in a cocoon safe from pain. As her protector, I want her protected. Unfortunately, I also want her to have a brave and thriving life. I understand that this courage is forged with some degree of hurt.
I also understand that this contradiction holds no logic. But, I think within a father’s heart no logic is available when it comes to protecting his daughter. I understand my son. I don’t understand my daughter. When my son gets injured, I can look up from my book and say “You’ll be fine. Rub some dirt on it.” And go back to reading. With my daughter, I want to fix it. I need answers. “How did it happen? Who did it?” And begin formulating a pay-back strategy. Again, I recognize the double-standard. But, I can’t apologize for it.
A daughter captures and takes residence in a special place of a dad’s heart. It is a place reserved only for them. In this place live emotions that only the father of a daughter has access to. These emotions drive us crazy and make us stupid. We contain levels of love that we cannot comprehend and a biblical capacity for violence when imagining someone hurting our girls.
So, as the years move on, my daughter and I will struggle and battle with my need to protect her. She will win. But, I will win, too. She will become all that I wish for her to be, in spite of, or maybe because of the obstacles I present. Perhaps, a father’s relationship with a daughter is the first testing ground for how to deal with the irrational, stubborn, open and guarded, hasty and fool-hearty souls of men. If this is the case, then my girl has a bright future, because she owns me and I’m a disaster. She may even thank me for this one day…ahhhh…one day…
[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, whose first book is called “A Feel Good Life” (buy it on Amazon here). Dave also extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here.