Earlier today I tweeted this gem: “I don’t worry about my girls’ future boyfriends. I trust my daughters to be smart and capable.” I’d like to expand on that a little.
This was inspired by a quote I read on the Freakonomics blog:
“I want my girls’ potential boyfriends to think I’m a crazy lunatic,”Haley said.
I’ve heard this kind of thing before from my male friends who have daughters. They talk about getting all weird and scary with their daughters’ hypothetical boyfriends when those daughters are finally old enough to start dating. Just what are all these guys afraid of? Do they consider that their daughters are utterly helpless and are such bad decision-makers that they’ll be dating boys who won’t treat them well? I suppose I could be super uncharitable and guess that they extrapolate from their self-knowledge and think these hypothetical swains will be rapists who will nonetheless be deterred by the idea of a vengeful father. I bet, though, that it’s just that they don’t trust their daughters, and that makes me kind of sad.
Your kids are going to grow older whatever you do. I figure the best thing I can do for my kids is to teach them to be thoughtful and to value themselves. If they think of themselves as precious, they won’t put themselves in situations where they’ll get really hurt. All that remains, then, is to teach them enough to be able to recognize a bad situation, a bad idea, or a dangerous person. That’s hard, but not in the way that calculus is hard. It just requires a lot of time and engagement and trust. You can’t just wake up one morning and think, “Holy cow! My daughter, with whom I last interacted when she was five, is now old enough to be dating boys! I’d better teach her some stuff!” That won’t work. You have to be engaged all along; then when your daughter starts considering dating, she can bring up questions and you can offer insights and it won’t be all weird and fake.
And yeah, no matter what, if Mom or Dad says it, it’s probably wrong. So your daughter won’t believe you and will go make mistakes *anyway*. If she’s got a good sense of self-worth, though, she’ll come out okay. Just like you, right?