As a father of two daughters and one son, I was always keen to make sure that I treated them equally and fairly. I tried to avoid any of the stereotypical gender traps that are laid out for us.
I don’t know if it’s because of genetic wiring, but when it comes to some things, as a father, it’s just different for boys and girls.
Take sex for example.
As fathers, we often joke about getting a shotgun to keep potential boyfriends away from our daughters, whereas, with sons, there’s a nod and a wink.
I hoped to be different. I wanted to be different, but I can’t deny those feeling were there within me. These were my daughters, my little princesses, and I can’t say I didn’t think about buying the proverbial boyfriend stopping shotgun.
But I was committed to treating them all the same. I’d seen a few father-daughter relationships suffer badly trying to get to grip with this, and I didn’t want my relationships with my daughters to go the same way.
Fortunately for me, my son was the eldest. I say, fortunately, as I think made things easier to handle as we got to lay the ground rules for him. Every time boundaries were set, I had to ask myself if I would set the same boundaries for my daughters. And if the answer was no, then I changed the boundaries.
I remember one vacation. Dan was 18, and it was our last vacation before he would go to university. He had been seeing the same girl for over three years, and he asked if she could come on vacation with us. We had rented a large house in France, so there were more than enough bedrooms to accommodate, so I said sure.
The only issue left to address was the sleeping arrangements. It was a lot tougher subject to broach than I thought it would, because of how I handled it. This was going to set the president for future discussions with my daughters.
Finally, I just said to Dan, how will we handle the sleeping arrangement? He just replied “I’d put us in the same room, it will save a lot of creeping about in the middle of the night”.
It was an interesting answer because it clearly showed me that, whatever it was I was hoping to prevent, was going to happen anyway, either with or without my consent. This was going to be true for my daughters, too. And at the same age, whatever it is we’re trying to stop, it’s probably already happened.
Halfway through the vacation my eldest daughter Jessica–who was 16–asked me, “next year dad, can my boyfriend Joe come on holiday with us.”
I thought I might get a bit more time before my resolve for fairness would be tested. But I just said, “it will be the same for you and Lucy as it is for Dan, when you’re 18 your boyfriend will be able to come with us on vacation with pleasure.”
She looked at me and frowned a little and then said, “that’s a shame, but I guess it’s only fair.”
When Jessica was 18, she decided she would take a break from education and take a job for a year or so, and she asked if I could help her with a flat. I knew that as soon as we agreed that she would probably move her boyfriend in. But she was 18, and I had decided that I would be cool with that, just the same as I would have been if it had been Dan asking.
I could have tried to take the “Not with my daughter approach” and tried to protect my little princesses. But, as mentioned before, whatever it is we’re trying to stop, has probably already happened. So why fight a losing battle?
Why implement a double standard, that doesn’t work anyway, and one that could potentially damage our father-daughter relationship?
Our children grow up, they become young adults, they do what young adults do, they do what we did, it’s all part of the circle of life. Having taken this path, I truly believe it helped strengthen my relationship with my daughters.
Photo: Flickr/ Eugene Wei