Katherine DM Clover

Honestly, Daddy-Daughter "Dates" Reinforce Dangerous Hetero Norms

Ad failed to load

Most parents love their kids, and would like to spend more quality time with them. It's recently become a bit of a "thing" for parents to take their kids out on platonic dates, which undoubtably allows for some special one on one time with the child. Critics of "mother/son dates" and more commonly "father/daughter dates" have a lot to say about the practice. Many are uncomfortable with the illusion to romantic relationships, which I think is a valid concern. But as a queer mom, I have another concern. These "dates" reinforce a heteronormative ideal which leaves out queer parents and queer children alike, and those ideals can be hurtful and dangerous.

It isn't that I don't understand the appeal to some degree. All families get busy, and mine is certainly no exception. My wife and I both work, and while we certainly spend lots of time with our young son, quality time is sometimes another matter altogether. Children benefit from the attention of their parents, but as parents we can easily get distracted. As we scour the internet looking for ideas to stay connected — in a life is which we're way too busy — parent/child dates might seem like a fun solution. It requires (and allows for) one-on-one time, it can make the kid feel special, and some parents think it has the possibility of teaching the child something about how their future relationships might work. So while sure, I do find the idea of dating your kid a bit creepy, I get that most parents who are into it don't see it that way. They're just trying to do what's best for their children — and isn't that all any of us are trying to do?

Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover
Ad failed to load
Daddy-daughter dances, and being told that it was my father’s job to “teach me how a guy should treat me” made it harder to figure out my own sexuality, and ultimately harder to come out once I realized I wasn’t straight. I found my own way eventually, but it was hard. I can't imagine how much worse it would have been if I'd been taken on mock dates such as these.

Yet, what message does this send to kids who fall somewhere on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum? Kids aren’t stupid, they know what the word “date” means, and they understand that these “dates” with their parents are a playful approximation of romance, and that's kind of part of the point. When a little girl is taken out on a pretend date by her father, it reinforces the heteronormative idea of that her future partners will — and should — be men. For gay kids, this is just one more message that there is something "wrong" with being the way they are.

In my case, I wasn’t taken on “dates” like these, but I received plenty of messages in early childhood that heterosexual was the only way to be. Some of these messages came from places that weren’t all that different: things like daddy-daughter dances, and being told that it was my father’s job to “teach me how a guy should treat me” made it harder to figure out my own sexuality, and ultimately harder to come out once I realized I wasn’t straight. I found my own way eventually, but it was hard. I can't imagine how much worse it would have been if I'd been taken on mock dates such as these.

Ad failed to load

Queer kids have enough to work against as it is.

Even if a child is 100 percent heterosexual (though I’d like to remind you that you can't know that about a kid), I think the practice sends the wrong message. It goes without saying that most straight people will have to deal with non-straight people at some point, and the presumption that all children are straight teaches kids that there's something wrong with their peers who turn out not to be. Considering the bullying many LGBTQIA+ kids already face, this is no laughing matter. I'd hope even parents who are operating under the assumption that their own kids are straight would want those kids to know there's nothing wrong with being queer, and that they'd teach their children to treat LGBTQIA+ kids that way as well.

Ad failed to load

And then there are families like mine. My son has two mothers, so I suppose technically we could each take him on the occasional “mother/son date.” But why would we, as a gay couple, want to model heterosexuality in that way? It doesn't make much sense for us as a queer couple to essentially tell him "it's OK for us to be queer, but you should be straight!" I have no idea what my child's future orientation will be, and frankly, I don't really care. As his parent, and as a decent human being, I plan to support him completely whether he dates women, men, both, or neither. I don't assume he's going to be straight, just like I don't assume he's going to be gay, or any other orientation under the sun.

What would happen if a gay mom took her daughter out on a “date,” or a gay dad took his son? I’ll wait while you picture the hatred and vitriol that family would most likely receive. I'll tell you one thing I know from a lifetime of witnessing homophobia: it sure as hell wouldn't get shared on Pinterest as a "cute idea."
Courtesy of Katherine DM Clover
Ad failed to load

And what happens if, sometime in the future, we decide to have another child, and that one turns out to be a girl? That’s kind of where it falls apart, because regardless of the orientation of the parents, there are plenty of kids who just don’t have a parent of the “appropriate” gender to do these kinds of mock heterosexual dates. Just imagine what would happen if a gay mom took her daughter out on a “date,” or a gay dad took his son? I’ll wait while you picture the hatred and vitriol that family would most likely receive. I'll tell you one thing I know from a lifetime of witnessing homophobia: it sure as hell wouldn't get shared on Pinterest as a "cute idea."

My son is still quite young, but as his parent, I don’t feel it’s my job to model the exact way he should date in future. Instead, it's my job to show him I love him, allow him a safe space to explore and spread his wings, teach him to be kind and compassionate to all people (not just potential romantic partners), and help him learn the skills he’ll need in this life. Then, if and when he’s ready to date some day, all of that will serve him well. Basic lessons like “respect others, and don’t let others treat you poorly” are great because they translate well to family relationships, friendships, work relationships, and yes, even dating. The best part? Doing so means there are no mock dates required.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills