Boy band epiphany
Author: Clay Nichols

I’d come to my daughter’s room to put away a hair clip for the eight millionth time, daydreaming about the sage who would one day explain to me how the things breed. But the closet door stopped me cold. Gone were the golden retrievers, spaniels and pugs. In their place: what I initially took to be ads for hair gel.

Then the terrible realization set in: “Those are boy bands.”

Feelings of dread clutched at my solar plexus. “My daughter is growing up,” I thought, “and she has terrible taste in music.”

My next thought was of the Fockers – specifically Mr. Byrnes, the hyper-vigilant dad played in the films by Robert De Niro, and his pop culture forefathers going back to the archetypal “Pa on Front Porch with Shotgun.” I have a pretty daughter, so I’d heard the double-barreled jokes for years. Was I having a shotgun moment with the closet door? And would shooting it solve my problem?

I’ve always thought Hollywood Dads were about as accurate a reflection of reality as a Picasso, but way less interesting. Plus, both Focker and Shotgun Pa seem so out of date, tribal, not ready for YouTube. Intimidating your daughter (and her dates) into healthy relationship decisions seems like spanking your sons for fighting – hair of the dog parenting, if you will. Being the guardian of my daughter’s virtue is way too proprietary for a hip dad like me.

Then I came across an article describing a series of programs directed at middle-schoolers designed to help kids avoid abusive relationships. As an exercise, girls were asked to imagine potentially dangerous scenarios and to react to them. Prompted to envision a request to meet an online acquaintance at an unknown location, two girls both exclaimed: “My father would kill me!”

Do these Focker Fathers have a point?

The role of dads has drastically changed in the space of a single generation. Simply scowling at the boy in the boutonniere doesn’t cut it any more. We have to nurture, communicate, model and, most importantly, be present to listen to our daughters if we hope to empower them to make good decisions. Maybe with just enough “old school” to make it stick.

Thanks, One Direction, for that insight. Now get the heck out of the bedroom.

Clay Nichols is one of the founders of and co-author of “DadLabs Guide to Fatherhood: Pregnancy and Year One.” He lives in Austin with his wife Kim and three children.

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