Daughters and Dating
So, my daughters turned out just like my wife—beautiful. Some time during the last six minutes they grew from cute, little girls to beautiful and oh-so-appealing young women. What's a dad to do? Panic, then PRAY.
I resisted the urge to actually buy a shotgun to keep the 'wolves' at bay. However, I did gratefully accept a large broadsword from my dear friend, Brian. It’s almost five feet long and is conspicuously obvious in the bonus room where all the kids seem to migrate. And, I have, on occasion, jokingly referred to its presence when young men seem to be around. And, I've hinted about its potential use as an instrument of pain and how it might be reserved for any young men who might intrude on my daughters' honor, etc...
Seriously, dating is a big deal. Girls seem to be born pre-programmed for planning tea parties, and pretty dresses which quickly and naturally moves to romantic movies and dreams of their own wedding. Having no sisters when I grew up, this was all fascinating and freaky for me to find out as a father. Daughters (as is well-known) can take a full-grown man and reduce him to a piece of Play-Doh in seconds. Dads are in a serious bind when their daughters are approaching the age of dating. Protect and provide is our natural instinct, so when young hormonal men start showing up at the door, it's difficult for us to shift gears and allow them to enter our homes without inflicting some harm on them. (just kidding)
So, as a father who has two beautiful teen daughters (17 and 15) in high school, here are some observations and encouragements to my fellow dads in crisis. I am not a big fan or critic of dating; my wife and I like the idea of “courting” for our girls.
There does seem to be a subtle shift in the emphasis the concept of courtship provides for teens to move from the emotional—physical rush of a crush, to the reminder that a potential relationship with a future husband or wife should be sacred and approached from the very beginning with some serious consideration and awe.
That particular approach is an issue for you and your wife to decide together. I’ve read books by Christian psychologists that advocate opposite approaches between the “good and bad” of dating or courtship and the jury appears to still be “out” on the ‘best” option. I do believe that no matter what you choose as a family, if you honor God in your processing of it, He will grant you the wisdom to guide your daughters through this very vulnerable season of their life.
No matter what approach you take as parents on the dating vs. courtship concept, it's been my personal and observed experience that the following essential truths will do you no harm and much good!
Don’t allow a stranger to be your daughter's first date. It's our job to do that. Start dating them early… like age five or six. Take them out to Chuck E. Cheese or Dairy Queen or to the latest version of Disney on Ice. Revere them, honor them by opening the door, teaching them to pause at the door for a man to open it for them, listen to their dreams and hopes, pay attention. Find out their favorite colors, television shows, i-Pod play lists, the names of their stuffed animals, best friends, etc… You get the idea. Little girls who learn of faith and family and truth and can trust that their dad will be there for every birthday, fever and bruised knee will grow up with confidence and stability. Dads, we must convince our girls at a young age that they are loved, adored and indescribably special and watch as they grow up into young women of faith and honor and inner beauty and strength for their own families.
Date their mother. No example is stronger or more profound to a young lady then to see her parents continuing their own love and courtship. When we take the time to open doors for our wives, genuinely complement their beauty, and flirt with them in the kitchen… it re-assures and reminds them of the reality that a marriage and a home can be happy, peaceful and fulfilling no matter what the latest People Magazine reports.
Prayerfully protect them every day. Guys, we have the spiritual ability to prayerfully cover our kids with God's blessing and peace as the heads of our home. The biblical model is clear, men are charged with the well-being of their homes, including our children. Spend time in God's word regularly for our own instruction and encouragement and it will spill out into our families in a very healthy way.
Rest in Grace. We will never be able to filter every bad particle out of our kids lives, not in our schools, with their media intake or with all of their relationships. But we can provide them essential truths and the wisdom of healthy boundaries and we MUST. But in the end, it's Grace that will triumph and overcome all of our and their mistakes. Trust in it.
In the end, no matter what we say or do, it’s a scary age to be a parent. I’m not smart enough, wise enough or strong enough to do it on my own. Thankfully I’m a part of healthy Christian fellowship in my home town and in that community of faith I have support, encouragement and the extra eye-balls of fellow parents to help us keep our son and daughters “on the road and in in-between the lines."