Today I realised that in a few years I would need a shotgun and a rocking chair. I subconsciously practiced the phrase “Son, what are your intentions with my daughter?”
So what caused this train of thought?
Well, today Rhiannon competed in a dance competition. She’s now 11, but since the age of 3 has been learning ballet, tap and contemporary dance at the local EDTA (Education in Dance and Theatre Arts) school. I’ve seen her in lots of concerts and competitions but she was always my little girl. This said, today in one dance I glimpsed the woman that she would become – something very Betty Grable (if you are young, then look Betty up – she’s a 40s/50s movie star). This glimpse was fleeting, but it blew me away.
Oh shit! (pardon the swearing, but there was real panic and surprise and I needed to really convey that to you).
At another point today real tears of happiness and pride also flowed. Her particular dance school did a piece from the Nutcracker suite and it was fantastic – visually splendid.
Gushy father stuff aside, what has all this got to do with the title of my post?
Well, I guess it was some moves in another dance by another troupe that made me think. I felt that some of the moves were a bit too adult for the girls. Let kids be kids. Also, let’s not sexualise our kids because we don’t want any perverts out there seeing them as tasty dishes. I kind of dwelt on all these thoughts as an anxious father does.
My mind stepped back a few days to a car conversation with my wife. You know the types of conversations. Your partner says something, you’re in a car with them, and for some reason in this confined environment you decide that it is a good idea to call them a hypocrite.
Yes, ummmm, yes.
My wife was complaining that the High School that Rhiannon would be attending has far too short a uniform. “Knee-length” Nicole concluded, showing contempt for the improper (dare I say indiscrete) length at which they were now.
“Such hypocrisy”, I cry. “You wore bum-freezers at school!”
For the uninitiated, the term “bum-freezer” is real and it was the 1980s term for school skirts that left little to the imagination. You see, I’ve been with Nicole since she was 18 and I knew this for a fact (I even enjoyed it at the time).
So I let the thought of this recent “conversation” with my wife enter into the context of my current thoughts about Rhiannon and her development over the coming years.
And then a final event today. We visited friends (with a daughter Rhiannon’s age) and the wife told us that today their daughter found a print-out of a “naughty” cartoon that the wife had printed off for the husband. Before she (the wife) could snatch it away, the daughter had read it and smirked. The husband/father upon hearing this said “Good on her, she’s growing up.”
At first the response surprised me, but then I pondered it more. (Damn it, I really ponder a lot don’t I?)
Some hours later I sit here writing this for you guys. Over the intervening time I have been thinking about my own youth.
I was about a year younger than my daughter is now when my best friend showed me his dad’s collection of Playboy (the American issue it was back then). Already I had been noticing girls and was keen to get to know them better. This said, I was extremely shy and – let’s face it – totally scared of girls. When I was 13 I had a crush on one girl that was so mentally painful. I created a secret code roughly based on Mayan symbols that I used in my diary just so that I would write angst-filled comments about her. “I love her. She doesn’t even know that I am alive”. And so on and so on.
As my teenage years progressed I progressively found ways of admiring the female form. Some longer term readers of this blog may recall my story “Finding Teenage Greg” where I show some of my paintings from this period.
So do I really expect that my daughter will be any different as the years progress? Will she pine for some guy who does not deserve her? Will she be curious about boys? Will she do foolish things? Will she be like so many girls that you read about who send “sexts” to boyfriends and the pictures turn up online somewhere? (If this latter happens there may well be some hard kicking of young-man butt).
I guess whatever happens the important thing to remember is that I am her dad and I am here to support her and make things better, not to embarrass her or make things worse.
Yep – sorry – this is a very convoluted brain dump tonight.
So what does all this mean for me as an author?
It’s interesting because here I am writing one novel that is a coming of age story. 15 year old Pari is about to become 16 year old Pari. She is about to undertake her people’s rite of adulthood. She is experiencing a crush on an adult guy that will never love her back. She is experiencing jealousy and the ugliness associated with it.
At first I wanted to make Pari a pure character. In my head I associated pure with having no romantic or lustful thoughts. But how real is that? Not at all.
Is 15/16 too young? In Australia consensual sex is not legal till 16.
By suggesting at a 15 year old has such thoughts am I being perverted? This is a question that really disturbs me. Yet I know for a fact that all my school friends were lustful little blighters at that age.
As a father I don’t want to write anything that condones underage sex because I know that young people are not emotionally ready for everything that involves. But as an author I feel the need to acknowledge that the feelings are there. I won’t make my characters do anything wrong, but I will explore their emotions.
In the end I want my daughter (when she is a teenager) to be able to read anything that I write and know that it is honest.
Anyway, sorry for writing such a meandering brain dump. The thoughts were dwelling there since the dance competition and I needed to get them out of my head. :)
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading :)
PS: the featured image for today’s story is a photo of dad (me) and daughter (Rhiannon) from our local Doctor Who 50 year celebration a while back.