Young couple holding hands
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What Kind of Dad Will You Be When Your Kid Starts Dating?

It's bound to happen. Here’s how you can prepare

When you have daughters, people try to worry you right from the start. Relatives, coworkers, total strangers even, would drop the warning that I really didn't need to hear. It was always some variation of this: "Daughters? Oh, they're gonna be heartbreakers! Wait till they start dating!"

Or something even weirder like, "It won't be long before the boys are beating down your door." Like a zombie movie? How many boys? Don't they knock?

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The third version was the worst, a cringey suggestion along the lines of, "Well, you'd better keep a shotgun for when the boys start sniffing around!" The hell is that supposed to mean? I'm supposed to murder teenagers who show interest in my future daughters? That's the dad I'm destined to be?

No, of course not. It's ridiculous. But I also don't have a great answer yet for what kind of dad I actually will be when my two teen daughters start getting romantically involved. I imagine it's coming, but as far as I know, it hasn't happened yet. I'll ask, casually, if they are seeing anyone; the answers range from impatient disgust ("Ew, no!") to a digression into all the dating drama that's happening to their friends, but not to them personally ("So-and-So likes What's Her Name but told The Other Girl that he likes her first and now What's Her Name is super mad!").

I've thought about this a lot, how I might react as a father to a boy (or anyone, I'm open minded!) showing up to date one of my kids. Below are the options that come to mind.

Rage Dad
This is dude with the shotgun. His head catches fire, like the red guy in Pixar's Inside Out, at the hint that one of his daughters could be pursued romantically by anyone. This leads to a lot of bad decisions, a lot of throat polyps from so much yelling, and maybe a murder charge or two. This option is not for me.

Intimidating Intellect Dad
This Dad waits for a young suiter to show up and then sits them down at a table next to an enormous set of bookshelves stuffed with thick nonfiction books. There just happens to be a chess board waiting on the table. "So, what are your intentions with my daughter?" this Dad asks. "Oh, and it's your move."

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Way Too Comfortable With His Daughter Dating Dad
This Dad offers not only to have the suitor over for a pre-date (non-alcoholic) cocktail, but to drive the couple on their first date. "Text me pictures!" he asks, assuming none of those photos will be of them making out or doing drugs together. Amp up the friendliness even more and this becomes Embarrassingly Friendly Dad, who requests a friendship with the date via Facebook and suggests podcasts for this person. He also busts out the family photo album to show baby pictures of his daughters.

Present Dad
The Dad from this list who most appeals to me is Present Dad. Present Dad is there to chaperone if needed, but steps back into the shadows if that's too much. Present Dad asks, but doesn't pry, about his daughter's dating life. Present Dad is there, waiting for the first heartbreak, ready to listen and hug his girl if she needs a shoulder to cry on. Present Dad doesn't judge, but he does worry. He stays up and waits for his daughter to come home, safe.

Present Dad doesn't need a shotgun. He just needs his daughters to be happy.