kids

'No, my daddy daughter dates with my two-year-old aren't creepy. They're necessary.'

Parenting, apparently, is a minefield. The world is changing and it’s hard to keep up with what’s appropriate anymore. It’s as if the spectrum of ideas is a galaxy, in the form of an ever-expanding spiral, with some ideologies just getting further and further apart.

Recently I stumbled across an article titled “Honestly, Daddy Daughter Dates are anything but innocent.” In it, the author claims that she wouldn’t let her husband go on dates with her daughter, and directly links the activity to rape and incest.

Now normally, this is the type of nonsense that isn’t even worth engaging with. But it’s out there, and it does open the door to discuss a broader point, so we may as well have a quick look. Let’s take this chronologically:

In January this year, Caitlin Slomski posted on Facebook about how her husband took their three-year-old daughter out on a date. It went viral, because apparently dads doing things with their kids is still something remarkable in 2017 for some reason.

“My husband decided once a month he will take our little girl out on a ‘date’ where she gets all dressed up and gets taken out for cake and ice cream. Tonight was there [sic] first night doing it. He helped her pick out a dress for her to wear, got a little purse ready for her, held the door open for her, and made her feel like a princess. She loved it and was so happy when she got home. She will always know how she deserves to be treated because her dad sets such a high example.”

Seems fair enough. I don’t love the concept of princesses in general, but it sounds like everyone had a good time. Developing that kind of a connection between parents and children is crucial. It is through this regular, intimate contact, that we can develop a bond which is close and familiar enough to serve as a bedrock for stable relationships in life.

The article, of course, takes a different view, repeatedly labelling them “creepy”. Oh FFS. The first source it links to is a column called “3 benefits of father-daughter date nights” on Christian resources site Lifeway.com. It says things like “Remind her regularly of the beauty God has placed inside of her—and outside too—so she sees herself as more than just her looks.

Image: Supplied.

We want the majority of emphasis to be on the things that last forever...the beauty of her spirit, as in Proverbs 31.” Which sure, gives pause. But the weird bit in here isn’t the date, it’s… well, you know what it is.

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Next the article points to some local recreation commission advertising a “Daddy Daughter Date night” in February 2015:

“Dads and daughters can enjoy a special date night which includes a candlelight dinner, dancing, photo and a goodie bag. Space is limited. Tickets must be purchased in advance. $45/couple; $20/additional date”

There are indeed a few of these; it may be ‘A Thing’ in American culture. The article cherry picks some quotes and presents them in a way to make them seem sinister: “Another […] features a photo of a girl clutched to a man’s chest.” Now to be fair, it’s possible that there is a vibe to these things that I’m not aware of since I’m on the other side of the world. And I can see how some of it could be perceived as kind of weird if you think candlelight is too romantic or whatever.

But even then, if these things get a handful of dads and daughters off the couch and out of the house to spend time face to face, then good on the local recreation commission. And candles are a welcome addition to any table anyway. So… what’s the problem?

Image: Supplied.

“These aren’t sweet. They aren’t cute. They’re creepy, and they seek to enforce patriarchal notions of femininity.”

Whoa. Ok, let’s see where this is going…

“These little girls, who are taken out on dates by their fathers, are taught that men should do everything for them. Men open the door. Men pull out the chair. Men buy everything. Men even pick out their dresses and purses, in Fladager’s daughter’s case. It’s incumbent on the man to 'ask questions' and draw her out. And it’s his job to validate her inner and outer beauty.

"This is 2017. And newsflash, women don’t need men to do things for them. We don’t need some big, bad patriarchal figure to hold the door or compliment our inner beauty. We deserve men who are equal partners, who share life’s journey with us, and who treat us as equals.”

Right. There is a sliver of a point here. Re-enforcing rubbish patriarchal ideals is obviously not what we want to do. But that is all the more reason to do DDDs, and do them well. They can and should be a shining beacon of how to behave. To model how a man should act. Don’t let people patronise you. Encourage her to make choices and speak for herself etc.

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“Daddy-daughter dates include an implicit power dynamic, and it’s not in favour of the girl. They aren’t empowering. They’re teaching girls to accept a domineering masculine figure in their lives”.

LISTEN: Bec Sparrow and Robin Bailey discuss their relationships with their fathers on The Well (post continues after audio...)

They are exactly as empowering as you make them. Sure, you can teach them to accept a domineering masculine figure in their lives, if that’s how you want to play it. But here’s the kick: you can do that anytime, it doesn’t have to be on a date. And a date doesn’t have to be domineering; it can be the perfect vehicle to educate kids about equality and agency. Up to you.

Unfortunately, the article keeps digging into still weirder ground:

“Moreover, it’s just… creepy. 'Daddy-Daughter Date' sounds like a porno. You can’t escape the incest-inspired overtones of these dances and 'dates.' Research […] indicates that ten million Americans have been the victims of incest, with 11 percent of rape victims specifically victimised by their father. One study […] found that out of 1,521 individuals, 19 were victims of father-daughter incest.

"Incest has been cited as the most common of all child abuse […], and 43 per cent of children who are abused are victimised by family members. Incest happens. It’s almost commonplace. To have such dances in this environment seems almost cruel — and possibly irresponsible, enabling predators to play out a Lolita-type fetish right under the eyes of God and the community.”

Jeese Louise, if you can’t escape the incest inspired overtones, then… I think we have some problems. Two of the three links in that paragraph were broken, but yes, out of 1,521 women, 260 had experienced sexual abuse, and 19 of those were father-daughter scenario. I wonder how many of those had healthy relationships reinforced by regular one-on-one time out to dinner.

We desperately need quality time. And we need to teach our kids the art of ‘going out’. The difference between Primi and Secondi, how to talk to wait staff, cutlery etiquette. The order you should eat sushi in. And how to sit opposite someone you love and simply talk to each other.

And even if you do take the most bizarrely extreme interpretation of this outing, and imbibe it with romance, romance is a worthwhile skill anyway. I am completely in love with my daughter. She is f*cking fantastic and every moment with her is divine. Well, maybe not every moment, but certainly a lot of them. And I want her to know that. Is it different from the romantic love I have for my wife? Of course. Does my heart still race when I see her smile, hear her laugh, and watch her investigate the world? Absolutely.

“They teach them that men are superior, and they need to obey them; they try to mould girls into submissive, passive women.”

No, you’re thinking of sh*t daddy-daughter dates. Good ones do the opposite. You can have a date without it being a power play. That’s what dates are supposed to be. Please do good dates.

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