Many an afternoon I have whiled away, sipping imaginary tea from tiny plastic tea cups adorned with flowers and lace, chatting incessantly with Elmo, a Care Bear whose name escapes me, Tigger and the occasional Little Pony who dropped by to spend the day with friends.  Such is the life of a father with a young daughter.  For me it was a rite of passage and a memory etched deeply into my heart and psyche, time I knew I would never get back and needed to spend wisely.  For her, it’s another world, a day to spend with her friends showing off the father who loves her dearly enough to forgo college hoops on the TV, hunched in the tiny little alphabet-themed chair and table that brought my knees almost to my chest.  I long for those days now while she’s off to high school, tea parties a thing of her past and probably replaced by lattes with her classmates.  It was the best tea I never had and it tasted deeply of the bond a father wishes to have with his daughter before she replaces him in her life with a much younger man.  Pity the father who misses these opportunities and shame on him for denying her the chance to feel loved, valued and honored by the most important man in her life.

yes, let’s find a reason to make sure this never happens again….

My father was not such a man.  I’m sure he missed many a high tea with his daughters, as he declined to attend any events of significance in any one of his son’s lives.  No, instead, it was my mother who would sit in the stands at sports tryouts I would often falter at, or stand by my side at the model car derby or the father-son picnics at the scouts, proud and beaming when I’d step up to receive the next badge in my quest to achieve.  Often times, it was my older brother standing in the spot vacated by my father; at times an older cousin or an uncle.  In fact, I was lucky that my mother saw to it that there was always someone to stand in for a man who should have been bonding with his children, whatever the venue, gender not withstanding.  And I was never asked to leave any of these events, nor did I seek to deny any other child the opportunities to have such precious moments.  I was proud to have my own moment, not jealous or envious of others having theirs.

I’ve often wondered about the father-daughter dances, dammed sure I’d be there but just as sure that someone who loves and cares for my daughter would fill my shoes if I was unable.  My brother would hop on a plane in a minute to fill the void; my brothers in law would be insulted if my wife didn’t ask.  In any case, a strong, caring male figure in a young woman’s life is essential to how she views her self and they way she relates to men for the rest of her life.  Unfortunately, many fathers are absent; for reasons too numerous to detail, a lot of young girls never experience a strong healthy bond with their father.  Maybe deceased, maybe absent through divorce or indifference, too many fathers are not there.  Where are the other males in her life, men who can make a difference?  Also too often, the absence is one of choice, albeit not a choice the child has any input in.  Mothers who think only of their needs and men willing to walk away from their children are now acceptable segments of the way we define family; family used to mean the emotional bonds that tied us.  Now, family can be anyone who shares DNA or a common dwelling, nothing more.  Is this good or bad? Depends on the window you’re looking out from.  I will not disparage anyone who is a family based upon the love and emotion they have for each other.  But I will always hold within my heart, the aching need to be a part of my daughters’ lives or, if the need arises, ensure that there is another man of integrity and character who can help them to become beautiful independent women.  But first and foremost, the bond between a father and his daughter can never be fully replaced with a reasonable substitute.

It might be with my blind “father’s” bias that I keep reading about the ACLU lawsuit against the Cranston Rhode Island school district outlawing father-daughter dances.  I can’t help wonder what the rest of the story looks like.  In all of the articles I’ve seen there is no mention of where this young girl’s father is.  Or for that matter, where are any of the other men in her life? I’m sure that there are those reading this now saying it’s none of my dammed business; that the school has no right discriminating on the basis of gender.  Unfortunately, none of the stories give us any details other than the mother complained, the ACLU sued and the dance is now illegal.  If this girl was sent away from the dance because she brought her mother, her uncle, her grandfather, or any other stand-in for her missing father, I’m quite sure the lawsuit would have been different and the press would be all over that fact.  So I’m trying to figure out what the end goal of the mother and the ACLU really was here?  Did the child want to attend alone? Again, doesn’t say. So, one must fill in the blanks here.  I’ll take a shot.

Mom doesn’t have a man in her life.  Maybe mom doesn’t want one.  Maybe mom doesn’t know who the father is.  So for whatever hidden agenda she has, she contacts the ACLU to put an end to this injustice.  Her rights are being trampled and she’ll have none of it.  Her daughter’s embarrassment at being the reason why no other girl in Rhode Island can attend a father-daughter dance is far outweighed by the embarrassment she’d suffer having to attend with someone other than her father.  Sounds like great logic there.  Fathers and their importance have been denigrated for years by the progressive left, being replaced by the all-caring omnipotent state.  A child doesn’t need a father in their life and a woman certainly no longer needs a man.  We are irrelevant, relegated to nothing more than the image of the weak, bumbling idiots we see on TV and films, always out of step, out of touch, hateful, hurtful, and lost without the superior intellect the children and female characters possess.

As for the ACLU, any attempt to destroy the concept of the traditional family and gender roles is all the motivation they need.  In their own words, any traditions of family like this are to be discarded: “[Parent-teacher organizations] remain free to hold family dances and other events, but the time has long since passed for public school resources to encourage stereotyping from the days of Ozzie and Harriet. Not every girl today is interested in growing up to be Cinderella — not even in Cranston. In fact, one of them might make a great major league baseball player someday.”  Of course, the ACLU is quite sure it understands what girls really want anyway, stating that the issue “was resolved for a simple reason: the school district recognized that in the 21st Century, public schools have no business fostering the notion that girls prefer to go to formal dances while boys prefer baseball games.”  Then again, the fact that no one was forced to go to the dance was lost on them as well.  In their eyes, celebrating the father-daughter bond is poisonous and exclusionary and it cannot stand.

As I’ve said before, it takes a special man to be a father; no greater responsibility can be placed on any man’s shoulders; No greater reward can be had.  Society can fool itself into thinking that we’re of little importance; it’s true only if we as men allow it to be so.  I for one, will not.  I will attend every father-daughter event I can, trying to hold back tears as I watch her inch away from me on her way to independence.  I will teach her to be strong, caring, to value herself, to let no man disrespect her and to chart her own future.

I will not teach her envy or to be jealous.  I will not teach her that she is entitled to everything she wants.  And I certainly won’t teach her that if there are things she cannot attain or achieve in life, she should force others to give them up as well.   That’s a lesson she’ll only learn by dancing with the ACLU.