Let’s not mince words – my dog, Rocco, is a punk.
There. I said it. He’s wild, uncontrollable and has little to no regard for anyone other than himself. In essence, he’s exactly the kind of character I want my three daughters to stay away from.
Oh daddy, look at his pretty eyes!
Sure, I suppose that’s where it starts with Rocco (and perhaps future boyfriends). The eyes will draw a person in, the same way Rocco, the con artist, fooled us. As a puppy he didn’t just look at us. He stared into our souls, gave us visions of love and laughter for our children. It’s as if he spoke to us, Take me, I’ll be a puppy pal like no other. Rocco totally fooled us, of course.
He even fooled the puppy trainer when we enrolled him in a 6-week course. There we learned to have him obey basic commands, like sitting and lying down. The catch to all of this was that we needed to reward him with treats. So naturally, Rocco figured it out pretty quickly that he wasn’t into being a good boy unless he got something out of it. The class should have been called Puppy Bribery 101.
Sure, Rocco “earned” a certificate for passing his course, but there’s been no retention of what he was supposed to learn. It’s as if he just went through the motions, like some scoundrel. He can be deceptive, too. During the day when nobody’s around but me, Rocco can be an uncontrollable nightmare. When the kids are home from school he turns into a lovable plush toy, eating up all the attention. The other day, as my daughters were doting over him, Rocco turned to me and winked. True story.
But he’s just so cute, daddy!
Rocco is kind of a metaphor for some of the would-be suitors my daughters will face. And as is usually the case with fathers that have to size up said suitors, I’m the only one that sees what kind of a jerk Rocco can be, mainly because I did some dating in my past life. I know how boys can be, what we want (no matter the age) and what we’re willing to say or do in order to get it.
You see, girls, boys have the potential to be a lot like your dog, I’d tell them. They might be cute and lovable on the outside, but they have the potential to make a huge mess of things. Some of those messes can be pretty filthy to clean up. But you’ll do it anyway. And then they’ll say sorry while looking at you with those puppy dog eyes and make a mess all over again.
I know. Some of you reading this right now are probably thinking that I’m looking waaaay too into this whole thing. And perhaps you’re right. But ask any father of daughters and they’ll tell you that there comes a time when we really start thinking about this topic. We think about how we’re going to protect them. Because let’s face it, some boys can be, well, dogs. They have the ability to draw a person in yet stray to the person that gives them the most attention, forgetting the most important qualities that make for true relationships, like friendship, respect and loyalty (and before you start yapping about how dogs can be loyal, just give me a steak and I’ll show you how loyal your dog can be). Like dogs, boys will run away, never to be seen or heard from again.
A few weeks ago I ran into a girl that married a childhood friend of mine, a friend that I had not seen in years. When I asked her how he was doing, she had no idea.
“I don’t know where he is or where to find him,” she said. “He just disappeared.” The girl was with their son, a spitting image of my friend, and both just looked at me, waiting for me to break that awkward silence.
“Why would you need him when he left you the best piece of him?” I responded to her, referring to their boy.
Fast-forward to last weekend when I caught Rocco digging up a hole I had just filled in for, like, the thousandth time and it hit me. You have to be the example. In some weird way I have to be the example that my daughters see and learn from. It’s in the way I communicate with them, how I treat their mother, even the relationship I have with my own mother. My daughters have to see that and learn from it.
Now, I realize I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself here. We’re talking about a guy who, quite frankly, can be a moron for large chunks of the day. And I was certainly no saint when it came to dating. The scariest thing would be for me to open the front door and find that my daughter was going out with a guy that reminded me of… me. Maybe if I play my cards right while they’re still young, this won’t be such a scary thing after all.
I love visiting schools and talking to kids. I’m currently writing a collection of short stories and essays called Your Poor Mother: The trials of raising 5 sons. My next children’s book, Pancakes For Dinner! will be published by Waldorf Publishing in 2017.