There is a boy here with a car…in a tux…asking for my daughter.
So, at some point, BOYS started showing up. Good grief.
This is a complicated issue for all fathers and all families but it does get a bit more complex in a blended family because there are different relationships with the girls.
As a “Dad/Stepdad,” the avenues I take with each of my daughters when it comes to boys are individually tailored to each relationship.
But my response to all of the boys is consistent. Whether they show up with interest in a daughter or stepdaughter, I reinforce my expectations regarding how my daughters will be treated. Boys coming to my home need to know that I am involved, I care, and I have high expectations.
My daughters know that when a boy begins to show interest in one of them, he gets a pretty quick friend request on Facebook from me. It’s simple, I send a friend request with the message: “I notice you have been spending more time with my daughter, (insert name) and I would like to get to know you.” They quickly accept and then immediately text said daughter.
The first couple of times were cause for some kerfuffle; now the girls just give the boys a heads up. This sets the tone: I am involved, I care, and I have high expectations.
I am not above cliché. At a recent “meet-the-boy-for-the-first-time” cookout at our house, I was trying out a new holster and a sidearm. The daughter in question pointed out what a cliché it was and asked me to take it off. I did just before the boy arrived, but conversation with the boy did turn to guns and sport shooting later, which gave me the chance to inform him of my marksmanship.
Am I going to shoot one of the boys? Of course not! They’re far too quick. (I’m kidding).
Plus, my daughters have excellent judgment and bring home nice boys. But is there value in the boy knowing I can handle a firearm? I think so.
Another boy was taking one of my stepdaughters to prom. I greeted him at the door, looked him in the eye, gave him a firm handshake, complimented his fine attire, and invited him in.
After the niceties, grand entrance by daughter, some pics and well wishes, they walked to his car. I followed, stood near the front of the car and as he began to back out of the driveway I did the “I’m watching you” sign (my two fingers at my eyes then pointing at him). He laughed nervously. He behaved like a gentleman. They had a great time.
There was no doubt in his mind that I am involved, I care, and I have high expectations.
I look at boys who are interested in my daughters with some suspicion. I was a boy once. I know what is pulsing through that hormone-laden, still-developing brain.
I believe that there isn’t a boy on this planet good enough for my daughters. But some day, they will fall in love – the real, long-lasting love – and I will need to respect their decision and trust that at least part of that decision was informed by my caring involvement and high expectations.
Joking about cleaning your shotgun, “friending” on Facebook, or generally going all “Alpha Male” is fun to talk about and may even be useful, but they aren’t the most important thing. Here’s the kicker: We need to show our involvement, care, and high expectations long before the first one shows up at the door.
As Dads, we have to UNDERSTAND that the issues around how your girls/daughters think about boys are well on their way to being settled long before they start dating. Once we understand this, we have to ACT accordingly. Think about these things:
How have I communicated to my daughter that she is beautiful – inside and out? That I love her deeply and unconditionally? That her beauty isn’t tied to the opinion of a boy, even if she likes him?
- How have I modeled how a gentleman behaves as I interact with my wife, her mom/stepmom? Does she see respect? Does she see a man who values women, and her mom/stepmom in particular? Does she understand how beautiful (inside/out) I think her mom is? Not just how much I love her but how I love her?
- How does what I watch on TV/Internet/Movies, how I respond to women around me in public, how I talk about women (as a group, individually, jokes, current events, etc.) demonstrate a well-rounded, wholesome and attainable definition of beauty? How does it show respect for women?
- How does how I respond to my daughters and the girls/women around them help them realize that there is no limit to what they can do with proper support, priorities and determination?
- How have I believed in them every step of the way? How have I challenged and supported them through life’s many twists and turns, so they understand their own value and worth. So, they will be drawn to the good guys and demand respect from them?
If I haven’t done these things, then strapping on a gun won’t be enough.
It’s never too late to start! Dads, let’s pour love into our daughters with renewed passion, energy and focus today!
In addition to being a Dad to five pretty awesome young women (and husband to Tamara), Tom Emigh is the Principal at Acorn Leadership, a consulting firm that exists to build desire and capacity to lead. In addition to organizational/business consulting, Acorn provides Blended Family coaching, and ADD/ADHD coaching.
Tom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org