I had always heard there was a special bond between dads and daughters. Of course I’ve never been a daughter, but I did watch a lot of Full House growing up so I’m pretty sure I got it. Now that I am on the daddy side of the daddy-daughter relationship, I can affirm that there is a difference in the relationships I have with with my daughters than I have with my son. Not that I love them more or anything, its just different. Subconsciously, I probably do end up treating them different than my boy. Extremely consciously, they love me. A lot. Sometimes too much.
Ok, maybe “too much” isn’t the right thing to say. Perhaps too completely would be more accurate. They love me like a daughter loves their dad, but they also love me like a cartoon princess loves a cartoon prince, and the way a teenage girl in a rom-com loves a teenage boy. Right now they are too young to grasp the difference between the different types of love, so they model not only the love they receive, but also the love they see, and lump it all together in a big awkward love ball. (Which by the way is a great name for a band.)
When they see my wife and I hug or kiss, they have two reactions – eeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwww, or jealousy. They are either completely appalled that mom and dad would smoochy kiss, or feel the need to run over and insert themselves between us to break up a hug because “hey, that’s MY daddy!” And I get that. It’s all playful and fun, and it has been and forever will be weird for a kid to see their parents being romantic. However, it starts to get weirder when they start to confuse being romantic with what an appropriate goodnight kiss is when I tuck them in.
My younger daughter is almost five, but since the time she was three (or whenever she saw her first prince kiss a princess), she developed the habit of wanting to kiss like in the movies. She’ll take one hand and put it under your chin as if to guide you in. In a way, adorable. In a larger way, kind of creepy. Especially now that she is getting older. It would send a really weird vibe if she leans in to plant one on me when I’m dropping her off for her first day of kindergarten. Kid that eats glue is just a doofus, kid that wants to make out with her dad is whole new set of problems.
She has also started applying movie quotes to show affection. Pretty much all day long my kids run around and shout stuff from shows or movies while they play. Quotes from Super Kitties, while annoying, are fine, and I’m pretty sure 60% of what my six year old says is song lyrics. But quotes from the gold-digging bitch fiancé from The Parent Trap? Not so much. I didn’t notice the first time when she leaned in for a kiss in her usual hand-under-the-chin style and said “oh Nicky.” I figured she was just being silly. Then it happened several more times and I was officially creeped out. I mean sure, it’s a little flattering my daughter sees me on the same level as a young(ish) Dennis Quaid, but I was creeped out on out on two different levels.
First, she wanted to kiss me, her father, the same way that romantic interests in movies do. Again, she is still little and doesn’t grasp that the love between us is different from the love between a mom and a dad or a fat kid and cake. But still, ew.
Second, and this part actually bothered me more, is in the little story she’s constructed in her head she has cast herself as the antagonist in somebody else’s love story. She wasn’t acting like the person who actually gets married to Dennis Quaid at the end of the movie. She was acting like the pretty lady who wore pretty dresses – who just so happened to be the worst person in the movie. Do better kid.
My older daughter is pretty much in the same love boat, except it is not so much exciting and new as it is awkward. While not outright mimicking a single character, she is definitely confusing the love she sees with the love she feels. Starting a few weeks ago, she has been wanting her goodnight kisses on the lips. At first, ok, little peck, no biggie. Now its like she’s a high school boy on a crappy date and I’m struggling to turn my head so she lands on my cheek at the last second. And even when she does land on the cheek, she lingers. And clings. Like an adorable lamprey.
Now I’m in an awkward position. I don’t want to tell her she can’t kiss me. I want her to be able to express appropriate affection and see that as a healthy part of our relationship. So I tell her that’s not how you kiss your daddy, but so far that nuance hasn’t sunk in. She knows she loves me, and she knows she wants to kiss me.
I always wanted to make a point of showing my kids affection, but did I do too good of a job? The next time one of them leans in for a kiss do I offer them a hearty handshake instead? Replace a hug at school drop off with a wink-and-a-gun? What new confusion would I create then? They’d go from thinking I’m the male lead in their personal little rom-coms to wondering if daddy doesn’t love them anymore? Maybe I’ll just get rid of the external influences. No more movies or shows where people kiss. Or hug. Or fall in love at all. But also nothing with fighting – they watch Raya and the Last Dragon and they are sword fighting around the house for a month. So, I hope they like Winnie the Pooh.
I get that in a world were there are dads and daughters that legit have terrible relationships, that this is a parenting first-world problem. My daughters think I’m so funny and handsome that they can’t help but love me (clearly they take after their mother), boo-hoo, right? But the next time one of them sandwiches my face between their tiny hands and starts to lean in for a smoochy kiss, would it be to much to pull a Billy Madison and scream “No, I will not make out with you! Did you hear that? This girl wants to make out with me in the middle of story time! Ya got Piggy and Gerald over here talking about god knows what, and all she’s talking about is making out with me! I’m here to read everybody, not to make out with you! Go on with the Gerald!”
I’m curious to try that, but my luck they would think its hilarious, would insist on making it part of the bedtime routine, and they’d beg for it the next several hundred nights in a row. I’m just too damn lovable.