I’m a Dad and I’m Uncomfortable With How Short My Daughter’s Shorts Are Getting
BY CRAIG STEPHENS
Photo by moptkcs/Twenty20
Sep 26, 2019
It is a morning like any other.
I make my way to the kitchen, thinking about today’s deadlines and whether or not I’ll actually make them.
My morning thoughtstorm stops once I notice a strange young woman sitting in my daughter’s usual breakfast nook.
This can’t be my kid. I do a double take as it hits me: overnight, my little girl has morphed into a young woman, a fact made very clear by the amount of skin her shorts show. Shorts which I felt were too revealing a year ago — but she’s growing.
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I haven’t given it enough thought to even begin to know the right thing to say.
My first instinct is to tell her to cover up — that showing too much skin sends the wrong message. That the boys in her class will be distracted and she’ll be a target of predators.
I can’t help but mentally loop these usual fears.
I want to tell her all of this, but for some reason the words don’t come out.
It’s all too sudden, too new.
I’m in uncharted territory, and want to make sure to say the right thing. I don’t want to be the fashion police, but what is my role here? I haven’t given it enough thought to even begin to know the right thing to say. All I can muster is, “are you sure it’s not too cold to be wearing that?”
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“Dad, we’re in the middle of a heat wave,” she says.
“There might be a cold snap,” I respond as you leave the room to call 911-MOM for backup.
Over the next few weeks I replay that moment and my inability to say the right thing. It gets me thinking about the kind of positive fashion guidance a dad should give his daughter. You notice that most young girls are wearing similar clothes. It’s the style today and young girls want to wear trendy clothes. I think back to when I was her age and how my style choices vexed my parents. The thought makes me smile.
So, I continue to talk, read and think about the most positive guidance I can give.
I came up with four basic principles that work for me:
A Young Woman is More Than Her Looks
Initially, I couldn’t help but be saddened that so much of a girl’s self image is tied up in her physical appearance. And while I can’t stop the inevitable hormone-driven fixation on looks, I can take every opportunity to reinforce and champion her other positive qualities such as her creativity, empathy and intelligence.
I make a note to emphasize these attributes at every opportunity, and help her recognize that it’s the inner qualities that make a person truly attractive.
Accentuate the Positives
The more I think about it, I have become convinced that my knee-jerk reaction of telling her to cover up would have been the wrong way to go. What good comes from causing her to feel ashamed of her body? What good comes from telling my daughter the way she’s dressing could put her in danger?
Instead, I compliment her on her sense of style, while gently reminding her that clothing that is appropriate for the beach is not appropriate for school.
Object to Objectification
My daughter has reached an age when she needs to be aware that the sexual objectification of women is very real in our society. Over our once-a-week dad-and-daughter dinners, I begin to talk about it.
I start by discussing how the #MeToo movement is reminding everyone that all people need to be treated with dignity and respect. I can’t help but hope that every parent is having the same discussion with their kids.
I’m not a girl, therefore I can’t fathom what that experience is like. So I vow to ask questions and listen.
How does she feel about herself? Why does she want to wear the clothes that she wears? How does she want the world to perceive her?
The more I think about it, the more I realize that my insight is only valuable when I take the time to understand how my daughter is feeling, rather than jumping to the same old stereotypes about how a woman dresses.
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