There is a trend happening in evangelical circles that I find somewhat disturbing. Its the trend of fathers dating their daughters. Yes you read that correctly, and apparently its highly recommended as a means to for fathers to spend time with their girl children. A common event is the Daddy/daughter dance, where the fathers wear suits and the girls dress up and go to a planned evening, complete with photographers, punch and a DJ. Its more like a prom. In fact in some cases it is a prom. Some of these “proms” are not designed for fun, tiaras, and all the punch you can drink while dancing to Selena Gomez.
If you have clicked on the links and are skeeved out, you are not alone. Those dances with the “purity” theme send a very negative message to girls about sexuality. I find them highly disturbing and coercive. They use fear wrapped in tulle and ceremony to get girls to consider their virginity the whole of their value. Yet they are quite popular in conservative evangelical circles.
Thankfully, some father/daughter dances do not have the sexual purity undertones, but instead are simply billed as fun events for dads and daughters.
I understand that such events are an attempt to get fathers to spend time with their daughters. I understand that its also an attempt for dads to try to instill positive views about the male gender, or to try to teach religious ideals about sexuality. I understand that little girls often love dressing up like their favorite princess and dancing to Disney tunes, and think Daddy hung the moon, but I wonder if such events takes away from the natural, spontaneity that can exist between parent and child.
I have to ask, do daughters really have to wear frilly dresses just to have some one on one time with their dads? do dads have to go to planned, events where they likely feel completely out of place just to spend time with their daughters?
I don’t think so.
I remember dancing with my dad, at family themed church dances, where he patiently tried to teach me the box step. I happened to like to dance, even if I lacked elegance, but dancing with my dad is not what rates high on my Time With Dad highlight reel.
Instead I remember him taking my brothers and me to the lake, where we learned how to put our own worms on hooks, and catch bluegill. I remember the bag swing he built in our back yard. The bag swing was nothing more than gunny sacks, rolled up together with a rope tied to the middle. The other end of the rope was tied to the branch of an oak tree branch, a good 15 feet up. I still remember the thrill of my dad pulling me back as far as he could make that swing go, then throwing me forward. I’d screech in delight as I’d hurtle to make the arc complete, than back down again.
I remember years of playing cards or checkers with him, and never once beating him. I came close once or twice. The consistent defeat didn’t daunt me, as we enjoyed the game, as well as all the jokes, silly bantering, attempts to catch one of my brothers cheating.
I remember the entire house being dark, and hiding, while my dad tromped around, loudly yodeling the melody of the marching soldiers from the Wizard of Oz, while wearing a KFC bucket on his head. I was always found before my brother. My brother was very hard to find. It was such spooky fun, ending with giggles and a tickle.
I remember Dad being the only person on the planet who could help me almost understand algebra. It is thanks to him that I passed any math class. I remember when I was sixteen being taken to a movie, the first grown up one we’d been to together. It was Alien. He loved it, thinking it the best monster movie made in thirty years. I was scared shitless.
I wasn’t treated like a fairy princess, the idealistic little girl fantasy. The idea of going out on a date with my dad, would have likely horrified us both. For him to take me to an event where I was supposed to ceremoniously hand over my virginity so he could give it later to a spouse of his approval was unthinkable. I was treated like a daughter, a human being with autonomy, who had a step sister and a host of brothers, each of us special in our individual ways, being groomed to step out into the world on our own.
My own children’s father proved to be a poor role model, so I did what I could to share the lessons my father taught me. Lessons taught that being a great parent, was simply spending time with your kids, enjoying their company, showing a sense of humor, quick to apologize for messing up, teaching practical skills, like cooking, mowing the lawn or doing laundry, to be available to listen, to help with homework or to play Scrabble with, and to do those everyday things that they may never appreciate or remember, but they often do.
I really don’t understand the idea of “dating” daddy. I don’t understand having to plan events, schedule time to spend with one’s child. I certainly do not understand having to suggest to fathers things to do with their daughters. Even busy dads, as any parent often is, take five minutes to listen to her to play Fur Elise on the piano, or help with a Geometry problem, or teach her the trick to throwing a curve ball. They can show her how to check the oil in the car, have her hand him the tools while fixing the sink, and play pranks on Mom. Doing those small things consistently, and willingly will mean more than any fancy dress up dance with a DJ playing Justin Bieber and Pharrell.