Raising a daughter is hard work; especially when you come into her life when she is eleven and missed her formative years. I often find myself longing for more of that time than I had received, but in an effort to gain it back I simply tried to do the best I can in the present. Kay figured this out in short order, and after a few deep conversations, we realized that we had more in common than she could have known and our bond was sealed. In short order, she became my little girl and I was her protective father.
I’m aware that I’m probably easier on Kay than the boys, but that is a product of circumstances. Becky is pretty hard on the girl in some ways and too easy in others. I fill the opposing voids to balance things out. Kay is more likely to come to me with concerns and issues when she needs help, but I have found that over time children are more likely to consult a parent of the opposite gender for assistance in resolving problems. For that reason, when my wife asks me why I’m not harder on her, or harsher at times, and the reason is pretty simple: I want to model a healthy male figure for her.
When I talk about my children with others and tell people my daughter is fourteen, the typical male response is the standard joke about being an overprotective father. One man offered me his gun to threaten boys with as if I would need it to be scary. While this behavior comes from a well-meaning place it is completely misguided. It teaches young women to rely upon male protection or provides the silent instruction to hide the fact that they are dating. Posturing as the over-protective father figure is an old joke, but my daughter understands just that: it is a joke.
A good male role model is important for both boys and girls at a young age but especially in their adolescence, as you need to model how to be a man for the boys while also being the type of man you want your daughter to ultimately marry. Far too often fathers fail to realize this and become insanely overprotective of their daughters, teaching them that they should not bring boyfriends, or girlfriends for that matter, home. This attitude comes from an era when women were treated as property, not independent equals. This does not mean I’m not protective of my daughter, it means that I recognize that she knows I want her to be in a happy, healthy relationship.
At times it is harder watching your little girl grow into a woman, but ultimately you have to trust that you have taught her well and guided her enough so she will make the right decisions. I realized I was succeeding when Kay was in eighth grade when I was told by her classmates what happened at the county science fair.
Kay grew up surrounded by strong women: her mother, her aunt, and her grandmother. Yet, for some reason, she remained slightly timid and quiet. The strong women in her life had been great role models and offered generally the same advice I would later give, but there is something different hearing it from Dad. Throughout most of her time in Middle school, Kay would deal with bullies, usually of the same gender, and over time she learned to just not care about the nonsense and focus on her school work. But in seventh grade, she began to stand up for herself more and more. (My bullying advice: Knock the bully out and walk to the office) While she did not take my advice she would stand up for herself and others to the point of making bullies cower from her.
Then is changed, a boy started to bully her. First, he grabbed her butt in the lunch line and she slapped him. There was some trouble with school but I handled it, pointing out that they could write her up but that I wanted the boy disciplined as well. Kay laughed at this saying that being bitch slapped in front of the whole school is enough discipline. The young man in question had a dramatic improvement in behavior for a little over a year when at the county science fair he pulled her hair and grabbed her head. Kay told me, “I told him, ‘Touch me again and face the consequences.’ And he said ‘I’m not afraid of some girl.'” To which he promptly snapped her hairband against her head as made a turn to saunter away.
At that moment, my little girl stood up to confront this misogynistic fool, who unwisely turned around to Kay angrily yelling at him”Don’t ever touch me again!” as she kicked him directly in the testicles. He dropped in the middle of the science fair like a sack of unwanted, rotten potatoes. Everyone saw the boy go down and no one made a comment, although I heard about it long before Kay got off the bus I feigned ignorance as she proudly told me the story, seeking approval. While I disagree with violence in most cases, this resolved an ongoing issue with the boy in a manner which the school could not have done. I was proud at that moment, my little girl stood up for herself, defended herself against a boy who had groped her and did so in front of the judge.
She won third place in that contest.
From that day forward the boys knew: Don’t mess with Kay, because she will get you. And if she doesn’t… have you seen her Dad?