I Love That You Love Your Daughter — But Please Don't Villainize My Son

From the first moment I looked into my newborn son’s hazy blue eyes, I knew that I would do anything to protect him. He was so new, so delicate, and though I only had 25 years of my own life experience at the time, I felt in my soul that it was my duty to guide him and keep him safe. I silently promised him then and there that I’d do my best.

Fast forward 17 years and three more sons, and I still feel the same — about all of them. Though I can’t shield my boys from everything, and it’s important that they learn their own lessons — sometimes the hard way — I still feel everything that they feel.

There’s a quote by author Elizabeth Stone that we’ve all heard time and time again, because it so perfectly sums up what parenthood is like: “Making the decision to have a child — it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” And it’s true. What hurts my children hurts me, probably deeper than they’ll ever understand … or at least until they’re parents themselves. Whether they’re slighted by a friend, don’t make the team, or are in the throes of a full-on heartbreak, I feel the sting as acutely as if it were happening to me.

I understand the instinct to protect. I do. But that being said, there’s a tired old cliché that as the mom of sons, I’d really like to address: the threatening, “dad with a shotgun” trope. It’s ridiculous on several levels, as outdated as corsets and pantaloons, and as stale as a month-old loaf of bread.

Let’s use Tom Brady as the most recent example, who posted an Instagram story featuring a photo of a Halloween prop tombstone that read, “Anyone who dates my daughter.” He captioned it, “I want to be crystal clear about this.” Yes, it’s a joke. But it’s just perpetuating an antiquated stereotype of girls and women as property — and the stereotype that “boys only want one thing” — which is not fair to any of these kids.

I’m throwing Tom Brady under the bus here, but the reality is that he’s far from the only dad (famous or not!) who makes these wisecracks. Prom and homecoming photos are posted with the gun-toting dad looming ominously. Memes are made about “whatever you do to my daughter, I do to you” and shared far and wide: in a jokey way, sure, but with a serious underlying theme that harkens back to something that’s actually super-horrifying.

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