So my daughters are visiting me this weekend. As we left the airport terminal for the parking lot with my daughters, handling their luggage, I clicked the button on my keys to unlock the car, popped open the trunk, loaded the luggage into the trunk, and proceeded to the passenger side of the vehicle and grabbed the door handle.
“What are you doing Dad? You’re on the wrong side,” my younger daughter stating the obvious.
I proceeded to tell her that it was just a natural instinct for me to open a car door for females, a “gentleman” thing to do.
I should have expected nothing less than my little comedienne than to respond, “oh, I thought you forgot which side of the car had the steering wheel.”
As both of my daughters are of dating age, I have shifted my attention from teaching about values such as manners, respect and such for others, to the same to expect for themselves.
I told both of my daughters, it was a natural thing for me to do, without giving it a thought to open a car door, any door for a woman. It was how I was raised. I will put out a chair for a woman to sit upon when out on a date. At some point, it is likely a woman of interest will get flowers (as soon as I find out what her favorite are).
My daughters know I am the real deal when it comes to treating someone with respect. Up until the time of the divorce, my daughters saw nothing less from me with their mother. I know that the way the last sentence was written, it gives the wrong idea, but even in divorce, my daughters never saw me disrespect their mother.
And I told them that I want them to demand the same of themselves, and any one interested in them.
So far, it has been interesting. Once I got past the “but she is my little girl” denial that is. A photo with a date, showing him hanging on her like “the Fonz” all cool, with a look “yeah, she’s with me,” or being flower-bombed, my daughters had two different types of boys interested, and then I saw, the next role that I had to play for my daughters. While I had no prior experience as a father before becoming one, I did have experience as a hormone charged teenage boy.
I dealt with each situation differently, but with the same goal, to make sure that they knew, whoever was interested in them, there were going to be expectations of how they wanted to be treated. If something felt wrong, or they did not like something said or done, they needed to let the other person be aware of it, in a calm and polite way if appropriate. I wanted them to understand they are worth that stature.
Just as importantly, I told them that they must keep things at their pace they are comfortable with, not to force anything. Even the simple act of receiving flowers. While this can be a simple gesture of a gentleman, it can also be a stronger expression of sentiment, that if they do not share the same feelings, that it is not right to lead that person on in false mutual feelings.
I am super aware of the example that I set for my daughters when it comes to dating and relationships. Just as many other examples as their role model that I set, I make sure that they know I will treat someone special in my life, like that, special. They may see me hold hands, definitely open car doors, assist with a chair, and many other ways that show respect to anyone of interest to me. And it is just as important, when it comes to PDA (public displays of affection), that my daughters respect themselves and keep those to a very minimum.
My daughters are a long way from serious relationships, but just as I prepared them for school, continue to prepare them for adulthood, my role as a Dad continues probably in its most important example, happiness with another. Respect for themselves, respect for the other.
Failure to do so, will be likely to result in a throat punch from one, and the other likely to “cut you and laugh while you’re bleeding” (from Billy Joel, “Always A Woman”), okay, she may not cut you, but she will definitely laugh at you. The other? You bet, there will be five knuckles heading towards the Adams apple.
I miss the simpler days of feedings and diapers when I was in charge of protecting them.