The different dynamics among the four people in our family feel familiar to me. My husband and I have an older daughter and a younger son, which was how I grew up. My dad, like theirs, was the one you played with, while my mom was the one who made sure we had clean clothes and signed trip permission slips, and that’s the role I’ve assumed in my own family. And like it was when I was growing up, there are no father/daughter dates with my kid and my husband.
I spent time with my dad, of course, but I would never classify them as “dates.” He and I took horse-riding lessons together, and the two of us were the only ones who knew how to play the piano in our house. When I was a kid we bonded over old movies, and, as I got older, good wine. We had a lot of fun together, but he never made a production out of it. It simply was us hanging out, doing stuff that was unique to us.
That’s how things are with my husband now. We don’t make a big deal out of taking our kids out for individual alone time with either one of us. We think it’s important to give them solo recognition, since they are siblings who constantly battle for our attention and need to touch base with us, one-on-one, at times. But we don't call them "dates" and reinforce what we believe to be problematic messaging our children already receive about interpersonal relationships, courtesy of the media and cultural norms.
So, yes, I refuse to let my daughter go on father/daughter dates, and here’s why:
Because Quality Time Shouldn’t Have A Romantic Tone
I can’t use the word “date” without my junior high school brain taking over. I don’t think it’s just me, either. There is something creepy about the idea of my husband and daughter referring to their time together as a “date.”
Instead, what if they just had “quality time” and used it to bond over playground adventures, or movies, or, yes, even a fancy dinner when they can have a conversation without me interrupting anyone about their table manners? The purpose of a daughter and her dad having time together is to feel close as a family. Calling it a “date” is misleading.
Because It Sounds Precious, So Ew
Calling dad/daughter time a “date” just sounds so twee to me. And that makes me think we have to treat my daughter in this dainty way, so it’s clear that her dad is playing a masculine role on this outing. I love the idea of my daughter and my husband getting time together where neither of them has the distraction of me, the mom, or our son, the little brother. But we don’t have to get cutesy about it.
Because The Idea Gets Less Cute As She Gets Older
I admit, it was adorable to see a grown man bend to the ridiculous whims of his tiny toddler daughter. Dad/daughter bonding was sweet to witness when our kid was really little.
But as she has gotten older, she doesn’t need her dad to treat her like a princess. Instead, she needs his guidance about how to be a good human and navigate the world when things aren’t going her way. She’ll always welcome her dad as someone to plays with, especially because they share a love for puzzles and card games. But as she grows older, she’ll want his trust, approval, and confidence in her even more.
Because It Puts The Pressure On For Time Together To Be Super Special…
A “date” is a special event, for the most part. I know we throw the word around a lot more casually now and use it ubiquitously — play date, dinner date, movie date, watching awards show date (just me?) — but it becomes a way of turning a get together into an "event" when it’s unnecessary to do so. Exclusive dad/daughter hangouts don't have to require nice clothes and or a lot of money. All it really needs to be is when my husband sets aside time for our daughter where the focus is just on them.
… Yet Infrequent
Reducing the pressure of their time needing to be “special” might help these bonding moments happen more often. With both of us working, and the kids involved in a lot of activities, we don’t have as much family time as we did when the kids were little. My husband and I really have to make an effort to carve out time to be with our kids individually, because I think it’s important to develop those relationships instead of doing everything together as a family. I know the conversation with my 7-year-old son is a lot easier, and he’s more eager to have it if it’s just the two of us at his favorite bagel place on a Sunday morning.
Although I believe in “quality over quantity,” having more occasions for dad/daughter time, on a smaller scale, will show our kid that it’s important to her parents to be with her, even if the plan isn’t to do anything more exciting than help her make slime.
Because It Perpetuates A “Daddy’s Little Girl” Stereotype
Even if a girl grows up, once she’s been branded “daddy’s little girl” it’s hard to shake the nickname. I’ve always shuddered at the phrase, which makes it seem as if a child were to be treated like a rare and delicate treasure to be kept locked away by her father. “Dad/daughter date” is in the same category of grossness, at least for me. Not only because it’s creepy, but because it indicates society’s outdated thinking about male and female roles in the family.
Because It Can Make Her Confused About The Idea Of Dating
At some point, my children might date. If I live through that shock, I don’t want to have to explain how romantic dates are different from any other kind of dates, like with your dad, because, indeed, they would be very different.
This is avoided by never allowing for the term “father/daughter date” to be used in our house that’s where I stand.
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