My Daughter is not My Princess

So I have a kid now. At least I think she's a kid. Bill Cosby wasn't kidding about them looking like lizards when they're born. That and she makes noises somewhere between a velociraptor and a screech owl. Still, it's hard to believe I have a precious, baby girl. My little princess. And for her sake, I hope I never call her that again.

I know, I know. Princess is meant to be a term of endearment. It represents a father's unwavering affection for that little woman he's responsible for. And as the cultural reference suggests, it's painfully evocative of a stern overlord. Of course, back then, young ladies needed to be protected. But they were also traded like baseball cards for political favors. So much for chivalry.

Chivalry is an odd thing, isn't it? On the surface, it's glazed with special kindnesses and social graces. The kinds of things so saccharine it's a wonder anyone was fooled by how patronizing they were. Because the obvious message left to the young girl was that, "You belong to your daddy. You are his property." And even though that reality has been left in antiquity, the attitude remains.

Take, for example, the absurd tradition today that a man ought to ask the father of his intended for her hand in marriage, for the father's blessing. How does that request not assume the father has rights to his daughter? Or even the more recent convention where the father gives his a daughter a ring anticipating that she pledge to remain pure. To him.

That's just weird. And while I may be a new parent, I can say with some certainty that being responsible for someone is not indicative of ownership.

Granted, I don't think most dads today think of their daughters so callously. They're just looking out for them. Because they know men. They know what boys want. Trust me, as a former porn addict, I'm well aware. But love is not an excuse to be overbearing.

Love, as we're often told, is about doing what's best for the other person. So it makes sense to protect our little girls from the world, right? You know, preserve their innocence for as long as possible? I guess. But it sounds like I'm doing that more for me than her. Like I'm more interested in preserving my porcelain doll than raising a confident, capable young woman.

That doesn't mean I don't care what happens to her. It just recognizes that love and leadership aren't about control--that thing that none of us have but think we do. Because here's the awful truth: my daughter is going to make mistakes. She's going to disregard my better judgment. She's going to hurt herself and she's going to break my heart. Just like I do every day with Jesus. But hopefully, just like Jesus (or the father of the prodigal son), I'll let her do it. And always be waiting expectantly with open arms.

That being said, I'd like to make a few promises to my daughter:
  • I will never greet your boyfriend with a shotgun
  • I will never threaten your boyfriend, even jokingly
  • I will never tell you that you can't date until you're 30
  • I will never joke about not letting you date until you're 30
  • I will never hide the truth from you when you ask
  • I will never withhold my trust when you've given me no reason to
  • I will never hold you to a standard of my own making
  • I will never make you feel guilty for my fears
  • I will never give up on you
  • I will always love you
Some will surely scoff at how precious and naive I'm being. And that I think all of this now, but wait till those boys come knocking on her door. To that I say, is it any more naive than marital vows? Is it any more naive than committing to my wife that I will be faithful to her? Forever? I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I have no idea what failures and moments of weakness lie before me. Should that stop me from renewing my promise of fidelity every single day? Because that's all I'm saying here. That doesn't mean it won't be hard and I won't slip into defense mode on occasion. It just means that I'm not taking the coward's way out and giving up.

I will always fight for my daughter. And in this case, Naomi, that means I'm fighting for your individuality.