Fathering daughters is harrowing work, especially considering my background in the self-defense and safety field.

I am intimately aware of the dangers girls and women face from boys and men.

I know how poorly many males view and treat females, from considering them chattel on the extreme end to merely considering them inferior and whose sole purpose is to please her man on the lesser extreme.

I understand the potential harm and disrespect my daughters might face, yet I refuse to jump to the typical dad-conclusion, “my daughters can’t date until they are 35 and I won’t let them so much as look at a boy until they’re in college.”

Nor am I a member or D.A.D.D. (Dads Against Daughters Dating).

However, when my 8 and 6 year-olds started the dating talk around the kitchen island this morning, I had second thoughts.

“Dad, what age is it good to start dating? 15 or 18?” (I did hear my own father’s voice in my head say, “35!”)

“That’s a good question,” was all I could come up with.

Luckily, she asked her second question. “Its it better to have a cell phone or a boyfriend?” (I knew this was more than just innocent inquiry)

“Neither,” I almost blurted out, but held my tongue.

“I think a boyfriend because you can make a connection with another person, but with a cell phone you are just typing on a screen.”

She was making her case to be allowed a boyfriend, and I know exactly who she has in mind because she then said,

“But if your boyfriend winds up going to a different school, you need a cell phone to keep in touch.”

Now lobbying for both.

Then she went on, “(boy’s name) is kind and funny and nice and is cute, so I’d want a boyfriend like him when I’m 15.”

Already planning several years ahead.

So, should I lock my daughters up in a tower and order chastity belts from amazon.com?

As much as that sounds like a good idea, it’s actually the worst thing I could do.

My eldest is already off to a good start choosing male friends who are kind to her and without pretense. Denying her experience would only maker her worse at choosing the right type of boy to be with when she is older and ready for that.

The best thing I could do for my daughters is two-fold:

Second, I need to give them safe opportunities to interact with boys on friendly, kid-terms so they can learn to discern healthy from unhealthy relationships. The more innocuous interactions, with self-reflection about the boy, the better.

By the time they are teenagers, they will have developed a strong sense of who is dangerous and destructive versus who would make a good partner.

They also will have learned to repel the former and attract the latter.

I know I can’t protect them forever, so I need to arm them with all the skills (socio-emotional and personal protection, if ever needed) they will need to survive and thrive, especially when it comes to intimate relationships, where most violence occurs. That’s a huge part of my job as dad and the only male in the household.

First, and Most Important, I need to give them the best role model, the best standard, I can possibly give them as they interact with these boys, ME.

I want them to want someone who is like dad, because of how they grow up watching my relationship with their mother.

So when Petra finally got her chance to speak, she said exactly what I wanted my daughter to say.

She said to Siena, “you mean you want a boyfriend who treats you the way daddy treats mommy.”

It’s working.