My daughters might never be “stand-up guys” themselves, but they should still know what it takes to be one.
A few nights ago, as I was – I kid you not – rearranging my sock drawer, my wife asked one of her “I know something that you don’t” questions.
“Would you like to guess who your daughter has a crush on now?”
At this point it’s worth explaining that I have two daughters, ages 13 and 10. To my (possibly limited) knowledge, only the eldest is confiding crushes to Mom, so I knew which daughter it was.
“Honestly, no,” I replied, assuming the answer would be the name of some guy from a television show I don’t watch or the singer in some band I don’t listen to, or perhaps one of the chaps whose photos are affixed to the bedroom walls I paid someone good money to turn a nauseating shade of green when she was five.
She told me anyway.
The name was one I actually recognized. It belonged to a boy in her 7th grade class.
“You mean she has a crush on a real person?” I asked, completely aware that all those other guys were real people too, but not real people with whom my kid can interact on a regular basis, real people who might be hanging out at the mall with her this coming Friday night, real people whose father’s ass I may or may not be able to kick if it came to that.
My princess had discovered boys – real boys. It was time to Dad-up.
Without sons, one would think the responsibility of serving as a male role model would be lost. One would be wrong.
Like most dads, I want what’s best for my kids, and what’s best for my suddenly real-boy crazy daughter is that she have a suitable template against which to measure all males with whom she keeps company – socially, professionally or otherwise.
Holding doors, pulling out chairs, and chivalry in general is mere window dressing. It’s the veneer over which there better be substance for those situations when one doesn’t happen to be entering a building or sitting down to a meal. It is my responsibility to display that substance in such a way that my daughter (and her sister, when the time comes, and I hope to God it’s not soon) sees it as the sine qua non of what constitutes a “stand-up man.”
I want my daughter to cotton to guys (“gentlemen” reeks of studied artifice) who are respectful of her (and, naturally, her parents) at bare minimum. Everyone is worthy of respect and a genuine, kind word. I always extend kindness and courtesy to the waiters, baristas, clerks and others my daughter and I encounter when we’re out. I always emphasize that the places we patronize for our leisure are businesses owned by and employing hard working people worthy of our respect and gratitude for their time and labor. I want her to steer clear of the boys who think it’s fun to goof off in a store or be a jerk to the folks behind the counter of the local burger joint.
At home, she understands that a man doesn’t “help out around the house.” That presumes that the upkeep of a home and its stuff is not his responsibility in the first place. Cooking, doing dishes and laundry aren’t supposed to be “cute” when Dad does it. It’s just something that he does. Sure, Mom does it too, because it isn’t anyone in particular’s “job.” And you’re damn right my kid’s seen me scrub a toilet without finding novelty in it.
While the kid has seen plenty of occasions when her mom and I enjoy each other’s presence and (tastefully) show affection, she’s also seen us perfectly content doing our own things. Personal space and time should be respected and granted liberally. Hovering may seem flattering, but in the end, it becomes tiresome, suffocating, and sometimes downright frightening. Dad doesn’t hover. And when Mom goes out for the night, Dad is most certainly not “babysitting.”
And so I have entered the era of self-critique, where I must analyze all of my actions to ensure I’m setting positive examples for my daughter as she takes another step toward maturity.
I returned to my sock sorting . . . a labor suddenly graced with a higher purpose.