Jim Merkey gave his daughter’s high school prom date the third degree when he came to pick her up. “She a beautiful blond girl and I talked to him straight: ‘No fondling, no touching of the breasts,’ stuff like that,” says Merkey, who acknowledges that he’s less protective of his three sons.
But the fear that fathers strike in the hearts of potential suitors doesn’t always take much effort.
“Melissa has this Joey who calls and says, ‘Hi, is Melissa there?’” says Roger Rousseau. “Halfway through the phone conversation, you can feel the shaking in his voice. Automatically I’m the intimidator. It’s just the nature of being a dad.”
At the same time, fathers have shown some progress when it comes to talking to their girls about more sensitive matters.
“Sarah’s relatively comfortable talking to me about life changes,” Marc Rousseau says of his daughter. “She came up to me and said, ‘Dad, I need some Tampax®. Will you buy them for me?’ And she gave me a sample and I set off for the supermarket.”
Actually, that kind of openness between father and daughter has become more commonplace. “It’s time to be less shocked by that,” says Pruett, adding that such open communication can only help girls be healthier and more confident.
Sometimes, though, getting daughters to open up to their fathers about anything is a struggle. Roger Rousseau says his 16-year-old daughter, Nicole, will rarely open up to him when they’re simply sitting down together.
“However, if we’re actively doing something, then she’ll talk. When we’re out in the driveway shooting hoops, she’ll say to me, ‘So guess what I did today, Dad?’”
Rousseau’s wife, Ann, recognizes this connection, as well. “She’ll see Nicole go out in the driveway and then she’ll nudge me and say, ‘There’s your chance.’”
Return to: "I'm asking Dad!": How Fathers Relate to Their Kids and the Challenges of Growing Up
Jim McGaw is an associate editor for United Parenting Publications and a father of two boys.