My family is currently experiencing an outbreak of a condition most parents dread. No, I don't mean the 24-hour stomach bug – although it sometimes lasts about as long and has similarly repulsive symptoms. Instead, my two older daughters have come down with a serious case of the boyfriends.
I knew it would happen eventually, but I was hoping it would be closer to when I reach the latter stages of decomposition. It seems like yesterday when I was the only male of any species that my three daughters were interested in, and all other boys were still "icky." (They still are icky, by the way, but as girls age, they develop a resistance to boy cooties.)
I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this disturbing turn of events based on my own history of dating. Ever since I "married" my girlfriend during kindergarten recess in a beautiful but brief ceremony involving rings made of Play-Doh and a minister wearing a Big Bird T-shirt, I've had a keen romantic interest. I won't even get into the amorous exploits of my teen years, except to say that they were an acid-washed denim blur of Polo cologne fumes and Richard Marx ballads. But these experiences don't make it any easier to accept that my little girls are growing up, and I'm that much closer to wearing black dress socks with shorts and suspenders.
Nowadays, when a hairy-legged interloper first comes to the house in hopes of taking one of my daughters out on a date, I always give him my famous "dad talk." This conversation includes a reminder that when my daughter is in his hormone-inflamed presence, he is responsible for all aspects of her welfare. The young dude-person is only allowed to respond in the affirmative, followed by "Sir," "Your Excellence," "Your Eminence," "O Captain! My Captain!" or some other appropriate honorific. I then offer to show him my collection of frozen cadavers. Ha! No, really, I just assure him that I know all of the good places to hide a body.
Once one of my daughters leaves on the date and I finish blubbering, my wife and I begin obsessively tracking her with the nifty Life360 app on our iPhones. For those of you still using a phone that requires you to extend an antenna, Life360 is a smartphone application that enables you to see the exact location of your child's smartphone at all times. (I'm still waiting for the upgrade that allows me to deliver a mild electric charge to my daughter if she gets too close to her male counterpart's make-out zone.)
When the date finally concludes and I see the headlights of the friend-boy's car from between the window blinds, through which I've been squinting for the previous 10 minutes, I usually find an excuse to go out front – like a sudden need to pull weeds, in the dark. I know it sounds overprotective, but I feel it's my responsibility to ensure that the only physical "sharing" going on in the car involves a phone charger.
So far, I'm pleased to report that the young men my daughters have dated are well-behaved and polite. (I also know their parents – and have access to embarrassing childhood photos.) More importantly, I'm very proud of the lovely, sensible young ladies my daughters have become. And I want them to know that even when they're all grown up and married with children of their own, I'll still be here for them, wearing my black dress socks with shorts and suspenders while I pull weeds in the front yard.