"Where is Cinderella's Dad?" seemed like an appropriate name for today's post, which comes on the heels of Two Very Different Dances and Where is Cinderella? Then, I got to thinking about the whole Cinderella story, and it occurred to me that Cinderella's dad really wouldn't make a good role model for the fathers of girls who are on the brink of womanhood. Where was this guy while Cinderella was being abused and taken advantage of by her wicked step-mother and step-sisters? Why wasn't he more engaged, more aware, more involved in parenting all of his daughters, and encouraging and guiding them as they stepped into adulthood? Why did he persist in an apathetic, self-serving, hands-off approach to Cinderella's future, including her future relationships with other men?
So, forget Cinderella's dad - Fathers, you do not want to be like him. No, you want to be lovingly engaged, looking out for your daughter's best interests, guiding her as she grows into a young woman who can wisely and confidently relate to the men around her.
Consider the following two dads:
My brother-in-law planned and carried out a "practice" date with his daughter when she became date-able age. He wanted my niece to know what to expect on a date, how she should behave, and how her date should behave. Barry took his daughter out to dinner and then to a movie, being very careful the entire evening to demonstrate good manners, respect for his "date," concern for her preferences and needs, and enjoyment of her company. When they reached home at the end of their outing, Barry walked my niece to the door and thanked her for a pleasant evening.
Then he told her, "L----, this is how any boy who takes you out on a date should treat you. And you are to behave in a way that communicates that you expect this kind of respect from your date. This is the standard. Anything less is unacceptable." Barry respected and valued his young daughter, and he wanted her to respect and value herself. And, he wanted to make sure any boys that showed up knew they would have to respect and value her as well. Well done, Barry. Very well done.
Now, consider Dad #2. A couple of years ago, my husband and I attended a Valentine Party/Dance hosted by neighborhood folks at a local church. While we were sitting at a table with a group of other parents, whom we had just met, a young girl - maybe 8 or 9 years old - bounced up to the table. She was wearing a skimpy little halter top that exposed her midriff and back, and tight, knee-length spandex pants. "Ooooo, honey, don't you look sexy!" her dad enthused as he gave her a big hug and pulled her up into his lap.
Steve and I sat blinking like stunned 'possums, but nobody else at the table reacted like anything odd or unsettling had occurred. Later, on the drive home, Steve brought up the incident. "That really disturbed me," he confessed. "Don't you think it's a little perverted for a dad to call his 8-year-old daughter 'sexy'? To let a little girl go out dressed like that, then to act like it's good? There's just something sick about that." Okay, fathers, Dad #2 is NOT the parent you want to emulate.
Dad #1 communicated, "You are precious. You are valuable. No one should treat you with disrespect or like a toy to be used for their diversion." Dad #2 communicated, "Flash some skin, shake some booty, and you really get my attention." Essentially, he was saying, "You are a toy, an exciting little plaything." One taught his daughter that the men in her life should value her and respect her thoughts, her feelings, her aspirations, and her virtue. The other taught his daughter that the men in her life should value her for her body and relate to her based on how she packages the goods.
A mother of teenage boys commented on Monday's post about the skimpy prom dresses: I get that a teenage girl doesn't fully understand the way men/boys think. She may not understand what she's doing. I'm sensitive to that. But where are the dads who are brave enough to say, "No, you can't wear that"?
LZ Granderson, a columnist for CNN.com and ESPN The Magazine put it this way: "Parents, don't dress your girls like tramps." Halter tops, push-up bras, and thong underwear for pre-pubescent girls? You've got to be kidding! Granderson writes, "In 2007, the American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls issued a report linking early sexualization with three of the most common mental-health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. There's nothing inherently wrong with parents wanting to appease their daughters by buying them the latest fashions. But is getting cool points today worth the harm dressing little girls like prostitutes could cause tomorrow?"(cnn.com/20111/OPINION/04/19) Dads, is that really the road you want your daughters traveling down? Read Granderson's complete article here - he addresses an issue that deserves the attention of every parent today.
So, Dad, what are you telling your daughter? She loves you and cherishes your love and esteem. She's listening, whether you know it or not. Her radar is up, and she's learning from your behavior, your attitudes, your comments how she is to view herself as a woman. Be the brave dad, the dad who encourages his daughter to be truly beautiful.
3 weeks ago