Readers of this column know I am the father of two daughters. They are both beautiful and smart and I love them equally. One is in her twenties and married with a son. One is 16 and has a boyfriend. I like my son-in-law and I like my younger daughter’s boyfriend. Once in a while, I get a message from a fellow father asking how I am able to handle either situation. How do I sleep at night with a married daughter living hundreds of miles away? How do I rest easy with a 16-year-old daughter out at a movie with a boy?
I do pretty well most of the time, really, until someone says to me, “You were a 16-year-old boy once, you know how they think.”
Well, yeah, I do. I also have taken my daughter’s boyfriend out to the shooting range with me. I know what a 16-year-old boy thinks. He also knows what I think about what he thinks. I think I have made myself perfectly clear. While I have not threatened him, his father once told me I had carte blanche to do whatever he himself would do if his son ever got out of line. His father is also the father of a pretty teenaged girl and I imagine he also knows how a 16-year-old boy thinks and is one step ahead of his own son. The front is being covered by two sides by allied forces.
My older daughter, as mentioned above, is happily married and the mother of a young son. Her husband has a good career, is a smart guy and a nice guy and acts like himself when he is around me. I like that. I don’t much like guys who pull the old Eddie Haskell act whenever the parents are around. I’d rather have someone be themselves. I don’t like nor do I appreciate phoniness. He’s a good stepfather to my grandson and the kid seems to like him. They say children and dogs are good judges of character. My grandson and the dog seem to think my son-in-law is a good guy, so I will go with their opinion. My wife likes him as well, but she also likes a lot of things I don’t, so I will defer to the kid and the dog.
My 16-year-old daughter’s boyfriend is a pretty good guy as well. He’s friendly and good-natured and respectful to his father and my wife and me. He has a good sense of humor and seems to fit in around here pretty well. He’s kinda tall and goofy, but that’s okay. Both sides of our family come from long lines of tall and goofy, so he is in good company. His last name is the same as our cat’s first name, so when he’s at our house for dinner and we yell at the cat, he gets kinda jumpy. I kinda like that, you know. Keeping him on his toes.
He invited my daughter out a month or so ago for a family outing. I asked where they were planning on going and I was told they were going duck hunting. Okay. I was at a point where I had to make a decision. Sure, I liked the kid and his family, but I was letting my little girl go out in the wilderness with people I had only known for a short time. Armed people. I was assured she would be brought home safely and if she was not having a good time, they would wrap up everything and come home and watch a movie or something. As of now, she has been out three times. Once they were successful, once they came back because of bad weather, and the third time involved a 30-minute drive and then a 20-minute boat ride. In my day, a teenaged date meant a movie and pizza. These days, it means decoys, camouflage and a Remington 1100 shotgun.
I don’t know what to tell my friends who ask how I handle having two daughters. I just do. I think every father and every situation is different and they need to be handled on an individual basis. When one daughter is having a little financial crisis, it’s okay to help her out and not immediately give the other a few bucks. When one daughter is going out on a date in the wilderness, you make sure she is better armed and more proficient than her date. It all evens out in the end. The other daughter may need a couple of bucks eventually and the one may need advice on how to get a wine stain out of a white carpet before her husband gets home. Once in a great while, the advice for both is the same.
“Boys are stupid.” my wife says frequently. For her, this is great advice. It seems to cover us all: myself, my son-in-law, my grandson and my younger daughter’s boyfriend.
It makes me wonder, though. If we are so stupid, how did we find the wonderful women we did?
Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.