As a father of daughters, Tom saw his share of young male suitors. On weekends he’d gather clues about the boy du jour. He’d observe the young man’s arrival in the driveway, his walk to the front door (no swaggering!) and the “character” of his eye contact—direct, evasive or shifty. Once the young man was allowed in the door, Tom’s demeanor would gradually evolve from friendly greeting to subtle inquisition. His daughter would smile at her gentleman caller, roll her eyes at Mom and, gently pushing the young man out the door, turn back and shoot visual daggers at Dad. Eventually Tom was relegated to the TV room where he vaguely heard Mom’s greeting and wondered if she was conducting a proper grilling and inspection.
The fathers we’ve talked to all have those protective feelings for their daughters. What kind of boy is this? What are his intentions? Will I ever see my daughter again!
You’ve been caring for this precious creature since birth. You love her indescribably, in spite of the aggravations she (and probably you, too!) have caused. It’s only natural to be protective.
But when your daughter becomes a teen and starts dating, there is one pain you cannot spare her – a broken heart. That sad, rejected, ache-inducing look on your daughter’s face when she says, “We broke up,” “He lied to me,” “I don’t want to talk about it.”
The Shoulder to Lean On
Avoid a reaction. She will probably not want to talk to you about it when it happens. Your gut instinct to put a dent in the guy’s skull will certainly not make her any more likely to share her story. The best you can do is probably to say, “I’m so sorry.”
Be patient. She may mention something about the incident, the relationship or the feeling. Listen for this and be supportive. Don’t pry.
Let her share. If she decides to share her pain, let her do it in her own way. Don’t control it. She needs to deal with this personal pain so that she can come to terms with it. Don’t give advice or try to change her mood or gloss over the loss.
Be available. Make sure she doesn’t spiral downward too far. Be aware of her mood and keep in touch. Your interaction need have nothing to do with the loss, but it has everything to do with remaining available and being aware. She needs to feel loved to overcome the feelings of rejection and hurt. Share with her a time when you felt profoundly hurt, rejected or left out.
This is one event we can’t fix, Dad, but we can help our child heal. Patience, openness and understanding may be a bit unfamiliar but are in our child’s best interest.