THE BLOG
10/09/2014 08:59 am ET Updated Dec 09, 2014

The Unrules to Dating my Daughters

Karen Kavanagh Photography

To the hoards of men and women who will someday be lining up to date my daughters, I feel bad for you. I feel bad that there are so many images of parents looking for an excuse to shoot a partner their female child decides to date out in the world. I swear, I'm not that guy. I know so little about mixed martial arts that I'd probably break my neck trying to pull off any move I've seen on television. My friends pretty much work in communications or are bloggers who might be writing similar notes to their children's future partners. We're awfully non-threatening. For the love of god, I sleep with a cat at my feet every night.

Intimidation is a horrific way to welcome a human into your family fold, and that's exactly what we're doing when you start dating our children. It may be hard to believe but I was a young person once -- a shy one at that. For one year in high school, I talked to zero girls all year long because I was too scared to approach them. I get how hard it can be to approach someone you're attracted to. The last thing I want to do as an adult is make things even harder for two young people to get to know each other better. I'm on her side and I'm on your side.

I trust that my partner and I raised our daughter to surround herself with good people. She's picked you as one of those people and your role is one of the most important pieces of her life puzzle. To me, that puts you in some pretty exceptional company.

But yeah, I'm one of her parents and I guess it's all the rage now to lay some groundwork for your relationship. I can't Snapchat you my welcome message, because the camera adds so many pounds to my frame and I don't want to look any more intimidating than I already probably seem with my lush beard and greying hair. And god forbid I just talk to you when my daughter decides it's time to meet because, well, I'm not sure why.

Before we get to the unrules, there are a few rules you need to know if you're going to be spending time around my daughter and, by extension, me and my family. First, know the rules to Scrabble. I love that game and anyone who cheats when playing me will be forever labelled a scoundrel. I have no time for Scrabble cheats. Same goes for Words With Friends. I work on the honor code when we start a game. Please don't use online tools to find the best placement for your J's and Q's. I'd also like you to know the rules to hockey so that should you cheer for a different hockey team than I do, I can explain to you why your team cheats and mine does not.

But that's it for actual rules. My daughter will know what kind of arrangements we've made for times when she's too drunk to drive or in a situation she's uncomfortable being in. You can talk to her about those if there's a need. I'll even extend that invite to you too. If you need a ride because you can't drive anywhere safely, and you don't know who to turn to, give me a call.

While she lives with us, she will have some rules. I want to know where you guys are going to be, how long you're going to be staying out and how I can reach her in case of an emergency at home. I will be angry if these rules aren't followed, because this is a world where we do have a set of rules in place and reasonable, trust-based ones need not be broken.

The rest of my keys to having fun with my daughter are kind of, well, human people stuff. Take them or leave them, you're an adult, but these are the things that make me feel comfortable as a dad.

  1. I don't have a gun and won't have a gun. You won't find me standing behind the curtain with my rifle on prom day. You won't find a Derringer in my coat pocket on her wedding day. I'm not a threat to you. You're dating my daughter, so I'm a friend. I don't believe threatening someone is the best way to get them to reach their potential and I don't think telling someone you're going to shoot them if they make one wrong move is fair to you or my daughter. I'd also prefer that when you're around our family, you don't carry a gun around, either.
  2. I'm going to worry about her, which means when you pick her up for a date, I'm going to be shaking hands with a sweaty palm. Not because you have tattoos (me too!) or because you have a Whitesnake leather jacket. It's not because you're a gigantic man who is linebacker on the football team or that you're a woman who decided she didn't like ballet class and decided to pursue a career in plumbing. I worry because for so many years, my daughter has woken up to me sitting on the edge of her bed, ready to give her a kiss. That won't happen forever. One day, someone like you will be giving her that kiss. I worry because I want to make sure there's always someone there to give her a kiss.
  3. Talk to her. This is more just a tip from someone who's been in a relationship long enough to realize a 10-minute conversation can save a pair from a month's worth of harbored resentment. Sometimes a kiss is enough, sometimes rubbing someone's back, but sometimes you need to use words.
  4. Try new things with her. Don't just fall in love with the person she is, fall in love with the person she can be. We've encouraged our daughter to do the same with whatever person she chooses to partner with. You don't stop growing when you meet someone new. In fact, it's a pretty damn good time to grow more than you ever have before. Try new things all the time. And let me know what you two end up liking -- I'm always looking for Christmas gift ideas.
  5. Oh, about Christmas, I listen to Michael Bublé's Christmas album all year round. I also still listen to Frozen all these years later. When I'm in a really cool phase of my life I hearken back to my Pearl Jam, Beastie Boys and Wu Tang days. I bet I won't like all the music you listen too either. Let's keep our musical tastes to ourselves. I won't judge you by yours if you don't judge me by mine.
  6. I don't own a chastity belt, I don't have any blacksmithing skills whatsoever, and most importantly I don't make the decisions on what my daughter does with her body. Look, I'm an old person, but not so old that I don't think young adults are having sex. If you two decide you want to have sex, that's what you two decide, together. Anything consensual is up to you and her. Make decisions that are best for you two, not for me. Me, I'm going to think about this zero hours of my day from here on in.
  7. Talk to me. Seriously. I'm not big on words but if something I do is making you angry (and I'm a pretty weird guy, so this is likely to happen), tell me. Me and you don't need to be best friends, but we need to be able to talk. We both have an interest in my daughter's well-being and we both should know that harboring hate at one another won't solve a damn thing.
  8. I'm going to struggle. I'm not going to like everything you do together. But I won't let my feelings fester, either. I won't tell her what she can and can't do without you knowing what my concerns are. If you're old enough to date my child, you're old enough to listen to my concerns.
  9. If things don't work out between you, that's life. I've had many relationships that haven't ended up in marriage -- a lot of them don't. If that happens, and my daughter runs to me and cries on my chest about the one who broke her heart, I still don't have a gun and I expect there's a good chance you're in your own home crying with your own family about the one who broke your heart.