It had to happen.
Like sand through the hourglass or a rain-drenched movie kiss near the end of a rom-com, it was utterly inevitable. My baby’s got a special friend. He went from a ‘tune’ to a ‘boyfriend’ without me even noticing. No one actually told me. No one said, ‘Hey, Dad. Guess what!’ It just happened. I haven’t actually checked her Facebook status, but I’ll die if it says, “in a relationship.”
Oh, God. How did it come to this?
She’s just a kid. Sixteen. SIXTEEN!
And given this has been pretty much sprung on me, I’ve had to go back and think about what it was like when I was sixteen. What was I like? What did I do? What did I want to do? Oh, the shame! My internal thermometer is on its way up.
My first girlfriend, Roz-someone-or-other said I was frigid. We went to the movies in Frankston, year seven, I think. I was meant to pash her, but couldn’t muster the courage. It had been the same with Debra Underwood. While all the other kids were trying to gag each other, I sat next to her absolutely rigid. With fear!
But by 16, things had changed a little, maybe even a lot. We moved towns and at the first party we went to, I hooked up with Amy Court. It was just a kiss. By Tuesday word had filtered in from the kids who caught the 72 tram from Camberwell that I was a ‘user’.
The horror. It was just a kiss: a long one, to be sure, but still.
And now I have daughters. They could go out with boys like that 15-year-old me who might think it’s okay to suck face for half an hour and walk away as if nothing had happened.
It is interesting that when a man has a daughter, the reaction is different to when he has a son. No man ever says, ‘Bloody hell, mate. A son. Better lock him up in a convent ‘til he’s twenty-five.’ You’re a good chance of hearing that about a daughter, though. And, that you’ll ‘need a shotgun to keep the lads at bay. “Heh heh heh!”’
Well, “heh heh heh,” yourselves.
I kind of like that she has a boyfriend. My smarter-than-me wife said something to me a long time ago I hadn’t actually considered because I’m small part dad, big part buffoon. She said, ‘You know all that fumbling about? The awkwardness, the outstretched, clammy attempts at hands and not knowing if they want to hold yours? The leaning in for the first kiss, the grope at second base and beyond? You know how horrendous and yet, kind of fun that can be? Well, it’s the same fun for girls as it is for boys.’
And here’s me wallowing in those memories somewhere between frigid and being a user thinking otherwise. Of course it’s fun for girls. So, of course it’s fun for my girls, too. I suppose. I hope. God I want it to be fun – respectful fun, as in, that the girls are respected and valued and cared for.
That’s my concern. That the experiences are good, that the mistakes aren’t big and catastrophic and carry trauma they don’t deserve. I’d love it if the girls, and my son, can look back on their formative, bumbling years and not wince too much with self loathing or abject horror.
Andrew Daddo owns up to a parenting fail: he stills packs his kids’ lunch box. Post continues...
You see, when Bibi was about two, something happened. It was as dumb as losing the top off her ice-cream, or the dog eating her cake before she got to it. Whatever it was, she looked up and was shattered. I’ll never forget it. There was this utter tragedy and sadness etched onto her face, and it wasn’t just a downturn at the corner of her mouth, but in her eyes and across her shoulders.
She was properly hurt, and I knew then that was the face we’d see again once boys were in the picture.
So, I’m thrilled for her, I really am. Excited, as she is, by the possibility and the joy of what it is to be young and fun and finding things out. I just worry a bit, you know? Hopefully the best bits will outweigh the other bits that have to come with first everythings, including boyfriends.