I just sat down in my favorite chair with a cup of coffee in my ‘meh’ mug, and I’m facing down one of the toughest stretches of my education. I have a month and three papers to finish before you get here. Many people before me have inquired into what it means to be a dad, and even more have opinions on what it’s like to be a dad to a little girl. Men have a biological drive to protect. I have begun searching out dangers in the house: asking myself what the hell I’m going to do about our evilly-cornered coffee table, wondering how much work I need to do on our back patio to keep you from bruising your knees, and calling ADT to do some price matching.
Almost every single dad with a daughter will tell you the same thing: “you aren’t dating until I’m dead.” Dad’s have become trapped by this idea as if my connection to you is only a primal one — protecting you from saber-tooth tigers — and in such a way that sees me beating my chest at every obstacle and person that gets in your way. I imagine there will be plenty of times that this feature of parenthood will rear its head, causing me to look foolhardy in my efforts to protect my family. Believe me, little miss; I’m sitting here now before the sun is up with only the light from my computer reminding myself of the fine-line one has to walk when it comes to being a dad.
You see, the problem with this “over my dead body” mentality is it encapsulates the problem of being an American. Our system of education continually reminds us of our unchanging nature; our almost 300-year-old constitution is so revered culturally that it forces us to believe human nature is entirely conspicuous. However, our nature is precisely the opposite. As we develop our minds, we develop our self, and the puzzle becomes crafted as much from the outside as inside. A continual reminder that whom you date is up to Dad cuts so closely to the problematic ideal of male dominance that it unintentionally (or maybe subconsciously) exposes you to your need for protection. I profess now that I cannot help but think we should install gymnastic mats in your nursery to soften any falls.
The fine-line is becoming exposed. My efforts to protect you are not static. What you need is dynamic in nature. What you need when you are two weeks old, two months, two years, 5, 9, or 14 is not a dad who can’t for the life of him get over the fact that you are your own person. My hope for you is that you bruise your knees; yearn to learn; challenge me to be my best; become whomever you want to be. I want to see you face the world with a smirk and be better than it. I want to meet you and not forget these words I’m writing. Little Miss, the world is big, and you will soon be in it. Some might tell you that it’s a scary place; they might not be wrong. But, it is also full of wonder. “So much to do, so much to see.” And please, don’t take me any less seriously because I quote the Smashing Pumpkins. One thing dads have right is their jokes.