Girl Dad 2.0: The “D” Word…Dating

Lola MagazineGreg Hicks, Lola Shreveport

When I was first approached to write this column, one of the questions I had was exactly what the readers would want to see.  “Normal stuff and also specifics like how they are different, sports, when they start dating…” and I held my breath.  Dating….

That topic has worried me more than anything else the girls have gone through, and mainly because of my own experiences.  I was a young man, I know how young men think, and I know why they think what they think. I also know that there are some boy moms out there who’ll spin that right around on me and I completely understand.

But I’m coming from a single man’s perspective who is raising daughters in the age of “social media speed dating” where some people seem to always have the next relationship waiting in the on-deck circle.

My oldest daughter, A,  is 15 and just started attending public school as a freshman this year.  The youngest, P, is 13 and would be at the public middle school in the same district.  We spent 8 years at a private school in Monroe and the move was made begrudgingly (on my end anyway).  Everything I heard about the school they would be going to was not good.  The rumor mill was full of horror stories.  From drug use that would rival the largest cities in America, to an unusually high teenage pregnancy rate, this school sounded like it was straight from hell.

I remember one night when I was on the struggle bus with worry, I got on my knees and prayed, “God, I cannot control this or how they act when they aren’t with me.  I’m their protector and now I’m coming to you for protection for them,” I gave it all to Him.  An extremely hard thing to do for a dad like me, but the weight of the situation started to lift.  I know you’ve probably heard that said before, “Give it to Him”, but it’s a real thing and you should try it if you have concerns in life. Who doesn’t?

When A made the high school cheerleading squad, she went to cheer camp with the school in June.  I knew not a person and no one knew me.  We were to just send her off with people we absolutely did not know.  Scary isn’t a sufficient word for how I was feeling.

After that week of cheer camp, friends were made, and I could tell that these young ladies and their families were a lot like ours. Part one went ok…..on to part two.  The first days of school.

School started and I must be honest, it’s been a great experience thus far.  However, those first few weeks I anxiously awaited the stories that would be shared.  No horror stories, they were normal school days, and I was shocked.  Are they telling me the truth or are they hiding something kept passing through my mind. That’s when this public-school graduate asked a public-school question.

“Y’all seen any fights?”.

The eyes in the backseat got big and they spoke of fights that would rival anything Conor McGregor could come up with.  Maybe they aren’t hiding things after all.  Now, the most dreaded topic for a dad was on my mind. When would the boy talk arise?

I patiently waited.

hen November came, my introduction to boys would be tested…. along with my self-awareness as a dad.  I will never forget the setting.  It was a rainy Friday afternoon and I had picked P up at her maternal grandparent’s house after work.  She and I had struggled a bit with communication for a few months so I knew the conversation wouldn’t be the best.  A was at a friend’s house so it was just me and Ms. P.  As we rode down the driveway, I asked about her week.  “It was good,” she said.  “Actually, it was great. I have a boyfriend”.  I felt the vibe of come at me bro brewing from the passenger seat.

I sat there soaking it in.  It’s the moment I knew would come but had dreaded for so long.  Looking back, it was a crossroads kind of moment.  Going the wrong direction could spell disaster for communication with her for a long time.  If I handle it the right way, this could be a game changer.

“Oh yeah?  Tell me about him.”

Trust me, this was the equivalent to how a man feels when asking for directions.  It was painfully hard but unbelievably necessary.

Her mouth went into overdrive.  She talked more to me in that ride than any other ride we’ve shared in a long time.

“Dad, we were all scared to tell you because we all thought you’d scream,” she laughed.

I laughed too but inside I cried.  My past behavior caused my baby girl to be scared to tell me something. A parent’s worst nightmare.  That day I made the decision to change and to be less overbearing and more understanding.  The boy that she’s “friends” with has turned out to be extremely respectful and seems to be very nice to her.  It pains me to know that I could have ruined that with the wrong reaction.

A, on the other hand is still navigating the world of relationships but from the water’s edge.  How I handled P has totally changed how A talks to me though.  “Why do people lose interest so fast daddy?  Like, they’ll come at me and when I finally decide I like them, they’re gone,” she asked me not long ago.

“That’s just how people are baby, but maybe they’re looking for something you’re not.  You go at your speed.  Don’t adjust to anyone else,” I quickly said from behind the steering wheel. She seemed to understand and coming from one who is navigating the whole world of relationships myself, I consider it a win.

Trust me, I know there are some Gen X’ers out there who are having to re-navigate these same waters, reading this and thinking “Oh my gosh, she’s so right!”.  Dating for us in 2023 is just as confusing as it is for our kids.

Now, if I can learn to apply my advice in my own dating life…