Every year about this time my watch list for themes around the words daddy and father fill up with news of communities celebrating Daddy-Daughter Dances. It always warms my heart because I know the importance of daddies in the hearts of daughters and the thought of a special time to express this joy and model how girls should be treated by boys in an age of “Me Too” seems like such a positive thing.
I never dreamed that even this venerable institution could be brought down by the objections of mothers who want to attend with their sons or fears of the hurt that could be caused by a child who is LGBTQ or what a gender exclusive event could mean to Title IX. Having spent a significant portion of my life trying to engage fathers into the lives of their children, I’ll have to admit my first reaction was disgust.
Daddy-Daughter Dances are the stuff songs are made of—just ask any of the 40,000 plus people who viewed Craig Cardiff’s beautiful song or JJ Heller’s ballad about them. Both artists describe the positive feelings and longings of little girls and daddies turning their hearts toward one another for a special evening. Reviews report the tears shed as the words sink into their hearts.
Volunteer PTA President Marney A. White guided her school through a very democratic process designed to survey opinions and create a 21st Century gender friendly, inclusive event to rid her school once and for all of the evils of the Daddy-Daughter Dance. While President White had considerable concern for the possibility of even one child who might be offended by being excluded from this event, her words were less inclusive for the angry person who angrily disagreed with the doom pronounced on the event. Labels and accusations were leveled, apparently in both directions.
This most recent example of inclusion continues the slide toward ending many of the events and programs planned to equal the playing field for fathers in the female dominated arena of education. I spent some time a few years back as a speaker for the WatchD.O.G.S. program. My role was to encourage schools to hold a pizza night for dads to engage them as volunteers one day a year in their schools. The program continues to be widely popular around the country. One thing that often occurred after I spoke was a piercing question about why the event couldn’t include moms. The question was usually asked by a mom serving the pizza who originally thought the event was a great idea. After witnessing hundreds of dads gather for pizza and lamenting the last PTA meeting where only a handful of women met, I understood why it was a legitimate question. Everyone wants that kind of success for our kids.
The simple answer to why we need those pesky gender exclusive events is that men won’t attend a parenting event. They will send their partner. I hate it, too but that’s the truth. If you want dads to come, the event must be for them.
Must we end anything successful because it targets an audience we want to include? Is the problem really the Daddy-Daughter Dance or the policies that turn moms away at the door when they try to crash the party? It certainly seems some have chosen to throw the baby out with the bath water on this one. I just hope WatchD.O.G.S. won’t go the way of the Boy Scouts and the Daddy-Daughter Dance. A little common sense could have cured the real problem here.