Friday, December 3, 2010

Meeting the parents

I have been preparing for the first time my daughter would bring home some boy (or girl, either is fine by me, but assume boy for the moment for stereotypical hilarity) and I would get the chance to do my Suspicious Dad Act.  You know the kind, where the father of the girl is extremely suspicious, hostile and quiet, staring at the wretched beast his precious little girl just dredged up from the gutter.  I have the option of getting out my axe and sharpening it up right in front of him while having one of my eyes twitching erratically, or perhaps making comments about barrels of lime and burial sites that nobody ever would think to check.  I could also be really friendly of course and try to make things smooth and jovial but that wouldn't be nearly so much fun.  While I haven't really got to do this sort of thing yet I wonder how much of the hostile father thing is usually just an act put on because it is so much fun to do and how much is real suspicion on the part of the old man.

Today Elli came home and announced that she has a boyfriend.  She is just turned 4 unfortunately so the normal speeches and glowering simply aren't rational - it isn't like they even understand what that means.  The trouble is that the boy she chose is actually the boy in her class that I don't like!  I don't have to conjure up a bunch of resentment towards him only based on the fact that he might do something to my innocent little daughter since I already find him irritating.  Now what do I do?  Clearly the reasonable approach is to say "that's nice dear" and worry not at all about it but I feel like I may lose out on that 'first boyfriend' window of opportunity and end up not getting to do my Suspicious Dad Act.  Obviously I *could* just do the act the first time I end up having dinner or some other event with a real boyfriend as she gets older but some deep part of me says that I have to do it the first time - just firing it up at some random point isn't the same.

One thing I almost did was laugh when I heard the girlfriend/boyfriend news but I managed to kibosh that fairly effectively - it would not do to make fun of Elli.  While I know that this fling isn't going to be anything real in the relationship sense it is important to her and it is going to help her explore the breadth and depth of human interaction and making light of her fumbling about would be cruel.  That said, it is hard for me to figure out precisely what I should say.  Is it better to just ignore it, or better to ask her if she is going to stay with him forever and see if she wants to get married?  Should I try to act like I would if a friend of mine were to say they were in a new relationship or some entirely different way?  This is the sort of thing that child advice books don't have a lot of coverage on (not that I hold with following their instructions anyhow) as they focus advice for first relationships at much older ages where the kids are doing something that actually resembles dating.

I guess I will just smile, ask a few easy questions and change the subject.  No need to sharpen the axe or get a barrel of lime since the offender in question is, after all, 4 years old.

1 comment:

  1. My niece skipped the boyfriend thing to just plain having a husband. She was obviously not clear on the distinction between someone you had already married and someone you intended to marry, but considering that when you are four these words only mean whatever you think they mean, and have little relationship to the way adults would use the words, husband is a better word for this boy than boyfriend.

    At some point, her mother decided to ask her why she wanted to marry her husband, and she answerd, "Oh mommy, he's so handsome, he's even handsomer than daddy."

    Fair enough.

    When, a few months later, her husband decided he didn't want to get married after all, she was completely unfazed. Her plan was simply to invite all the boys she loved to a party and then decide which one she would marry.

    Four-year-olds, in my mind, have an enviable relationship model.