Better Lock Her Up
This past weekend I attended my brother-in-law's wedding. It was postponed a number of times due to Covid-19, but it was a beautiful event for a wide variety of reasons. My wife's brother is a wonderful person, and his bride is a also a wonderful person; the families involved are full of delightful people. It is the first big family even we have attended since Christmas of 2021, and I'm very lucky to be able to say that I have terribly missed family events with my wife's whole family, so it was a special pleasure on a lot of levels.
Perhaps most special to me personally was that my daughters teamed up to sing the first (and only official) dance - an a capella duet of If I Ain't Got You by Alicia Keys (here is Alicia Keys' version). My girls are incredibly talented and beautiful. My younger daughter (KidTwo) is sweet and cute, but as my older daughter (KidOne) nears her sweet sixteen, it is worth noting that she is breathtakingly beautiful. I'm not just saying that as every father does about his kids; my daughter is a woman that turns heads, because she is an incredibly good-looking young woman.
The phrases that I heard most often through the day about KidOne was one we have probably all heard many times, often in conjunction with each other:
"Wow, you are going to need to lock her away!"
"You're going to need to get a shotgun!"
I wish I had started counting earlier in the day so I could report exactly how many people expressed one of these exact sentiments to me. I am not lumping together other variants of "she is beautiful" either, simply counting up the instances of "You need to remove her from society and invest in a firearm to protect her from society."
How messed up is that?
We, as a society, feel perfectly okay to tell someone that they should remove their daughter from society for, one assumes, their own protection. It's common enough that it's a whole article on TVTropes, but I was wondering why it was so common. I came across a number of comment threads like this one where people basically say that it's because people understand how men can be; since many men seem to be perverse, we are protective of our daughters. On some level, I understand that, but men are also perverse to other men; why are we not overly protective of our sons? What is the difference?
I think it's clearly a patriarchal, outdated notion; women need protectin' and men need to protect. I think that there are things in that to admire, but there are also things in that from which to move on. I have been trying to wind my way to a better conclusion on how to be as a father, and I've reached the following conclusions.
- All children need protection. My son is as precious to my as my girls; I will give him the same level of protection that I give them.
- I enjoyed myself at every age, and part of that was being unprotected. I met people, I lived, I laughed, I loved, I fought, I won some, I lost some, I did things. I want my kids to do things while doing things is still sweet and wonderful.
- As a parent, part of my job is to give my children the tools to protect themselves, and not stand as a warden over them because the world can be cruel or disgusting, because while that's true, it is also filled with wonder and delight.
- Part of growing up is experiencing the wonder and delight, but another part is experiencing the cruelty. I will do what I can to help them when life is cruel, but I cannot stop all bad things from happening.
Don't lock up your daughters - teach them how to experience the world with the same joy you had when you were younger. Teach them how to deal with predators, and teach all of your children to not be predators.
It's notable that many articles like this one have already been written. by people who are better writers; I merely wrote this to process my own thoughts on the matter and start working through it.