I am standing with both of them, the one that looks like me on the left and the one that looks like her father on my right. They are tall, tall as me, and full of the willowy grace of hastily retreating girlhood.
He regards them. He smiles and says: “I’m glad I don’t have daughters.” He means it as a compliment. A lighthearted joke. We smile back and laugh.
I smile, yes - but I am thinking it was funnier the first time someone said it. When they were perched in a shopping cart in tutus, all of two-and-a-half feet tall. How many fathers of sons have said this? How many times? I’m glad I don’t have daughters. Glad. I’m glad about it.
Why, I want to ask? Why glad? Are sons so much easier to raise? There are two of those under my roof as well. What is it about daughters that their absence in your home is a relief to you? Is it their emotions? Sons have those, too.
But I can see the answer as you look at my girls: how can that sweetness be brought safely to adulthood? Men you understand – the paths of their thinking, the patterns of their acting. If your sons act rashly with women the consequences can be minimized. If my daughters act rashly with men the consequences can be massive.
You think I should be afraid. You ascribe truth to the common crass joke that with a son you only have to worry about one set of sex organs, but with a daughter…
I reject this analysis of the risk. I reject the fear-mongering apparitions of predatory sons and pregnant daughters as motivators for my parenting. These are the substance of a philosophy that believes a pregnant daughter is the worst thing a parent has to fear. This is far from the truth. My greatest concern cannot be that they reach marriage unsullied and unharmed - it must be that they grow to love God above all else. If they make mistakes on the road to adulthood, even mistakes with permanent consequences, we must face them bravely and run to their Savior for forgiveness and help.
Do you think that your sons are at less risk to be harmed by wrong decisions? You take too much comfort in their lack of a uterus. You have calculated the risk only in physical terms. There are always consequences for sin - some of them just gestate longer. If you considered my daughters as valuable as if they were your own, you would raise different sons. In all likelihood, one day you will have daughters. Raise sons who choose them well.
I am glad I have daughters. You must hear this: Glad. They are strong and smart and serene. They know what their bodies are capable of. They know what men’s bodies are capable of. They are not afraid of your sons. And neither am I. They will know if your sons are worthy of their attention because their father’s example has hard-wired them to recognize character. Instead of intimidating someone else’s sons at the front door, he has wooed the hearts of his daughters every day of their lives. I am glad I have daughters, and by God’s grace the father of their husbands will be glad I had them, too.
You do not mean to offend or challenge. I know this. My head measures your words and finds no fault, but my heart measures the culture that has taught you to repeat these lines. You catch me at a vulnerable moment.
They are running - running, I tell you – toward womanhood. No more tutus and sequined shoes. The heavy-lashed eyes of their dolls have long grown accustomed to the darkness on the highest shelf in the closet. On a day not far distant those two rumpled beds will remain neatly made side by side in the room they share. There will be no more jumbles of hangerless clothes, no twisted cords of curling irons, no fine dust of beauty products adhered to the sink top with a film of hairspray. They will be gone. Let it be known that there has been gladness in their growing and going. Let it be known that I have been glad beyond measure.
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.