I take my 3-year old daughter out on dates every couple of weeks. She picks the sort of restaurant we would visit, the activities we engage in, what we have for dessert, and what kind of music we listen to while driving. She dresses up and we spent the evening together. My daughter and I go on dates regularly. We watch movies together, we go for walks, we have tea parties, we talk, and spend time together doing all sorts of other father-daughter activities. She asks me often to take her out and spend time with her because she enjoys it. I enjoy it, but I have another objective. I am teaching her about what a relationship with men ought to look like. I touched on this previously in the first Raising a Real World Superhero article, but it’s important enough that it merits deeper consideration. For starters, it’s scriptural. Proverbs 22:6 offers the best principle for this practice:
Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
By teaching my daughter what she ought to look for in a male relationship, she will learn how a man ought to treat her. Spending time modeling relationship is far more effective than simply telling her how a man ought to treat her, because it is training her. The time a father spends with his daughter trains her in the first lessons she will learn about men and what male relationships ought to look like. I want to do the best I can to teach her what loving, attentive, and supportive relationships with a Christlike man ought to look like. I want her to learn that a man ought to cherish her and treat her like a princess, who is a child of God.
In the last 3 years, I have learned, through effort and focus, how to make my daughter feel like the treasure that God sees her as. I am writing to share some of the basic “dates” I go on with my little girl, with the hopes that they will inspire other dads to engage their little girls and teach them how a man of God ought to treat them.
1. Dinner and a day together: When Abbey and I go on dates, she gets to pick everything we do. This usually begins with her picking what dinner will be. For some reason, she has decided that Chinese food and eating with sticks is the best thing in the world. A year ago, she loved eating at McDonalds and playing in the play land. I don’t like McDonalds, but I eat where she wants because I want her to know it’s special. We eat and talk. She tells me stories. I ask her questions. She gets my full attention. When given a choice as to what she wants to do after eating out, sometimes she wants to go to the comic book store, or to the book store, or to buy bows at the girl stuff store. She picks and she gets my attention the whole time. Please note that I don’t buy her everything she wants, but she does get my full attention.
2. Tea parties: I am not a fan of tea parties, but we do them regularly. Stuffed toys usually attend. There is usually cookies and snacks. We drink tea, eat cookies, pretend, play, and talk. Usually setting up the tea party is as fun for her as having the party. Sometimes I read her stories. Most tea parties last about an hour, and she loves them.
3. Camping: Camping is a bigger production, but is a huge deal to her. She is only 3, so camping isn’t usually as much an outdoor adventure, as it is an opportunity to stay up too late, eat junk food, watch cartoons, look at stars, and sleep in a tent. We sometimes just camp in the yard, while other times we camp in the mountains or parks. It doesn’t matter to her. Camping with dad is an adventure. When her little brother gets older, she won’t get to do this alone anymore. For now, it’s a favorite of hers.
4. Movie Night: This week, my wife had an evening out with some gals from church. This left me home alone with the kids. We rented a cartoon movie and I let her pick dinner. She decided we would eat popcorn for dinner, drink soda, and eat cookie dough for dessert. We talked about the cartoon, she hid under the blanket at scary parts, and she told me she loved the whole evening.
5. The Park: An afternoon at the park is one of her favorite things to do. I push her on the swings, I talk to her, we chase each other around, and she gets my full attention for the duration of our time there. Sometimes we go for ice cream or get fruit snacks at the grocery store. Sometimes we go for walks. The important thing is spending time.