My husband leveled this question to an anxious young man as he shifted in his seat at our dinner table. He gave the pat answer; he was interested in her mind, liked her personality, yadda yadda yadda. Yeah, right. I remember teenage boys and my husband was one. We knew what this kid liked about our daughter and her mind wasn’t at the top of his list.
We got the idea to interview our daughters’ dates from a radio show, Family Life Today. The host, Dennis Rainey, was compelling. He had a successful ministry to families and had raised six decent kids. Since we were totally clueless about this stuff, we decided we might as well do what he said. We were all for protecting our precious little girl from lecherous boys. Our wispy blonde-haired baby would one day blossom into a beauty and we intended to be ready. No “knuckle-dragging Neanderthal” (direct quote from my Dad) was going to put his paws on our girl. Additionally, I never met a teenage boy who couldn’t benefit from a healthy dose of DAD. We set our resolve and began our campaign early
We enlightened her to the fact that she was too precious for us to just hand over to any guy with a car and a movie ticket. We prepped her for the embarrassing fact that before she could go out alone with any boy, the young man had to ask DAD for permission. Then, DAD was going to ask him a series of questions and inform him of our expectations. She accepted this readily at the age of eleven, as boys were still really gross. When she got her braces off and entered high school, the sharks began to circle. We were very glad for our firmly established dating conditions. What we couldn’t know then was how this practice was going to pay off in the lives of all our children; sons and daughters alike.
Our simple requirement caused the children to evaluate whether a dating relationship was worth pursuing. It weeded out the riff-raff. The prospect of “alone time” with DAD scared off a few candidates. Awe… too bad. This was not a crushing blow to our daughter, since she never actually spent enough time with these boys to become attached. We got the golden opportunity to point out the qualities she really should admire in a young man; honesty, forthrightness, courage, respect, etc.
Since we are equal opportunity parents, we required our sons to ask permission from the father of any girl they wanted to date, even if the he didn’t require it. When our boys were small, we taught them to respect their sisters and me by holding doors, waiting to eat until we were served, opening car doors, etc. Their Huckleberry Finn lives, filled with frog catching and fort building, would soon end. Girls might be boring and weird now, but that would soon change. If our sons were going to respect and value women, a glaringly absent character trait in today’s young men, we had to teach them to “man-up” and be OK with being different. A girl has to be pretty special for them to risk the encounter with an unknown DAD. Our policy was a success. To illustrate this point, one of our guys was completely enamored with a lovely young lady from their high school. We reminded him that he needed to ask her father for permission to date his daughter. He said, “I know, I’m going to…soon.” Time went on and we stopped hearing so much about this girl. When I asked my son about her he said, “She wasn’t the girl I thought she was.” Interesting.
Just so there are no grand illusions, interviewing your daughter’s date is pretty awkward for all involved; sweaty palms, shuffling feet and stilted conversations abound. But, we think that our kids are worth the chagrin. A young man pursuing one of our daughters will never doubt her value to her parents. He is less likely to treat her with disrespect when he knows that DAD expects him to be a gentleman. As an added bonus, I have had mothers profusely thank me for raising such polite sons. One prom date told her mother, “Mom, he held every door for me, EVERY DOOR.” That’s what I want to hear. There won’t be some angry DAD coming after one of my boys with a shot-gun. (another quote from my Dad) One young man, actually passed the DAD test and won the heart of our oldest daughter; she will be married in a few months. We have no doubt he will be an excellent husband and father. Our daughter has very high standards.
Old-fashioned? Perhaps. But with the rising statistics of teen pregnancies, drug and alcohol abuse, and a culture where parents are “throwing up their hands” wondering what went wrong, we prefer to view ourselves as cutting edge.