Diaper Duty and Other Situations That Are Tricky for a Dad and His Daughter
My ex-boyfriend revealed to me the other day that he refuses to change his niece’s diapers because “girl diapers and men don’t mix”. Up until that point I had almost forgotten how awkward situations involving female anatomy and attitudes could be for a father. Look at the controversy that resulted from Chicago’s Bishop Trotter and his granddaughter bathing in the tub. With stories breaking everyday about molestation and rape, people’s instant reaction was to label him a predator. While I don’t think the pictures were appropriate, I think it was unfair to accuse him of molestation just for having bath time with granddaughter. Trotter’s situation served as an unwelcome reminder of the assumptions people make about any man who is affectionate with children, especially little girls.
When I think of a 30-something version of my father who took pride in the puff ponytails he sent my sister and I to school with since water and hair grease where his only familiar friends in the world of haircare, I understand just how raising daughters can leave a man helpless and humbled. I’m sure my mind has purposely abandoned memories of big parts of my adolescence because talking to my parents about pubic hair and passion marks was beyond awkward. Those teenage years are tough for any parents of a young woman, but fathers face an especially unique balance of boundaries and respect when it comes to their daughters. I think one of the most beautiful things a daughter can have with her dad is a relationship where she feels comfortable talking about love, relationships and even sex because she knows her dad will listen first and protect her later. When daddy’s little girl shows any sign of getting grown it can be awkward for fathers to figure out the role they play in their daughter’s lives. Next time Dad says, “Ask your mother,” give him a break. The following situations may freak him out a little:
1. Diaper Duty: We’re talking to creatures who use the same method for frying chicken to use the bathroom: shake and zip. “Women have all kinds of special directions for using the bathroom like wiping from front to back. It’s complicated,” explained my ex as he told me why he won’t change his niece’s diapers. See, ladies your man passing on them pampers is not him being inconsiderate. It’s just him being completely clueless.
2. Bath Time: For many, Bishop Trotter crossed the line when he invited his granddaughter to bath time. I am torn on Trotter’s situation. I don’t know if I’d want my teen daughter splashing around with grandpa in the nude, but I also don’t think children should be taught that nudity automatically equals something sexual. I think children should be taught there’s beauty in both boy and girl bodies and as long as dads and daughters have appropriate boundaries, nudity doesn’t have to be some big deal, especially when it comes to babies. Dads shouldn’t feel like they can’t bond with their baby daughters unless there’s a diaper between them.
3. The Birds and the Bees: Even though he’s probably having sex with someone’s daughter, no man is comfortable with the idea of his daughter having sex. Society feeds fathers with all of these unwritten rules and double-standards about women being deflowered and losing their innocence, while boys are just given a condom and a “Make me proud, son.” I may still be the only one tuning in for Teen Mom 2, but one of the best things about that show is the relationship between Chelsea and her father. He may hate her choices in men but he supports her and makes her feel comfortable and Chelsea talks to him about everything from boys to birth control. It’s not easy, but one of the best things a dad can do for his daughter is give her the real deal about sex and relationships without judging her or losing his temper.
4. Potty Training: So who’s easier to potty train, boy or girls? Although studies have shown that girls usually begin and complete potty training earlier than boys, doctors agree that a lot of factors affect who takes to the toilet sooner including who’s doing the potty training (usually mom) and also the fact that boys face the confusion of having to change position according to the task at hand. Either way, it’s hard for either parent to explain the procedure to a child of the opposite sex without the proper…em…parts. Be patient with papa, the child and the potty.
5. Public Restrooms: Another challenge to potty training for both parent and child are public restrooms. Fellow mothers tend to not take a second a look when a mom brings her XY offspring into the ladies room, but a men’s restroom is usually the last place a proud papa wants his sugar and spice. So when his little girl announces that the tinkle train is about pull into the station, he is usually left looking awkward and helpless outside the ladies’ room looking for the first woman who doesn’t look crazy or creeped out to offer a hand. Thank God for family restrooms and unisex single stalls.
6. Puberty: When I was in eighth grade the last person I wanted to call when I came home from school and discovered that I was a “woman” was my dad. Thankfully, I kind of had an idea of what was going on because of an older sister and my mom, but I can only imagine the conflicting feelings a father might experience when he has to confront his worst fear of his daughter’s ability to procreate. It’s like some men see their daughters like a dog in heat and once her period arrives all of the other boys in the neighborhood will see the Always infinity sign in the sky like the bat signal. Moms, you have to patient with dad. Understand this is just as emotional and awkward for him as it is for your daughter (and maybe even for you). Reassure him that although your body’s saying she’s a woman, she’ll always be his little girl.
7. Dating: Whether you’re fifteen or twenty-five, every woman will have to endure the tense moment that is bringing your boyfriend home to meet dad. At its worst it will be a silly battle filled with King Kong chest beating and subtle threats delivered as dark jokes, or if your father is anything like mine he’ll be relieved that finally there’s some other testosterone in the home besides the Yorkie. It’s dad’s time to do his protective “I’ll kill you if you hurt her” thing. He’s been waiting for this moment his whole life. If said date is lucky, he’ll have been prepped beforehand, and both him and your daughter can nod and laugh through it. The good news: your daughter can consider herself blessed to have a dad for the date to meet, no matter how embarrassing he is.
8. Ballet Recitals and Dance Practice: Fathers usually feel like one of two things while watching their daughter’s twirl in tutus with the other dance moms: prime rib in a tiger cage of single mothers or the bored, helpless guy in the corner fumbling with the leotard. Unless dad has a weak spot for Black Swan, he might not know exactly what he’s supposed to do while he waits. Cut him some slack if you catch him looking at NBA highlights on his phone and rest assured he’ll be the first one to applaud when you land that pirouette. He may have no clue what one is, but he’ll know it looked incredible.
Toya Sharee is a program associate for a Philadelphia non-profit that focuses on parenting education and building healthy relationships between parents, children and co-parents. She also has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog BulletsandBlessings.