Slate Plus members get more Care and Feeding every week. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.
Dear Care and Feeding,
I am the father of two daughters, ages 3 and 6. I am very affectionate with my children and want to continue cultivating a close bond with them. Recently, my oldest daughter has discovered the idea of marriage and loves looking at wedding pictures of my wife and me, and other family members.
My problem is that she likes to play pretend wedding and try to kiss me on the lips saying “We are married” (I don’t participate in any playing/ceremony but as the only male in the house become the default husband). It makes me uncomfortable and I turn my head so she kisses me on the cheek, and usually say something like, “Dads do not marry their daughters” in a light-hearted way. It seems like a reasonable boundary to draw but I am afraid she will feel rejected or not understand, and I’m not sure if my response is adequate. What would be the proper way to explain the difference in types of affection?
Stranded by Airlines, They Risked It All With Total Strangers to Get Home
It Turns Out the “Adult” Sex App Really Works for Women. But There’s a Catch.
Ban Babies From First Class on Planes? I Have a Better Idea.
My Delirious Evening With a Microwave Cookbook for Sad Single People
This is a great opportunity for you to talk to your daughters about the varying types of loving relationships that people can experience. Explain to her that fathers and daughters (like mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, or grandparents and grandchildren) love each other very much, and show affection toward one another, but that it’s a different kind of love than what two people who are married have. Both forms of love are beautiful and important, but they look different in practice. People who are married tend to have what is called a “romantic” type of relationship, which means that they want to be in each other’s lives and create a new, chosen family together. Relatives cannot have romantic relationships with one another; instead, they have “familial” love, which is a special bond all on its own.
Let your daughter know that your love her very much, and that you love to show your affection toward her with hugs and kisses, but it is simply a different kind of affection than what you have for her mother, and that it would be inappropriate (a word she is old enough to become familiar with) for a daddy and daughter to have the same kind of love. Explain that it would be better to play “wedding” with dolls or stuffed animals, as opposed to a daddy and daughter. She’ll likely let go of this fixation in time, and so long as you remain affectionate and present, there’s no need for her to feel rejected by you.
More Advice From Slate
We know we messed up. We did not tell our daughter (now 22 years old) that she was adopted. I know the current best practice is to tell children basically from birth, but we didn’t, and with each passing year it became more impossible to tell her now. And so we just pretended it would never come up.