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If the advocates of the purity balls really want to foster father-daughter relationships, there are a number of ways to do this that I believe would be far more healthy and that would not encourage a precocious concern about sexuality in little girls or imply that the father-daughter relationship should be focused on the daughter's sexuality. Here are a few suggestions, some of them more appropriate for some ages than others:
- Father-daughter tea parties. Lest you think this would only interest the pre-school set, I need to clarify that I am not talking about sitting around drinking pretend tea out of plastic cups. I'm talking about a fancy, elegant, memorable event such as a friend of mine threw for her mother on a milestone birthday: each table was set with beautiful china; we all dressed in our most beautiful dresses; the food was delicious and a sight to behold, etc. The tea party could be preceded by etiquette lessons, so no one would feel awkward or afraid of doing the wrong thing. Some groups are already holding similar events for middle school age youth; I think this would be a wonderful thing for fathers and daughters to do together --- and it would avoid the romantic prom date atmosphere. (Note: little girls could enjoy themselves and feel like princesses; older girls could enjoy being able to be both nostalgic and "grown up" at the same time; the important thing would be not to ruin the atmosphere by bringing up the topic of sex!)
- Take your daughter to work day. Yes, I know some fathers are reluctant to participate in what they view as some sort of feminist scheme. If so, just avoid taking your daughter to work on that particular day, and take her to work --- and out to lunch --- on another day. Obviously, not all fathers have the sort of jobs that lend themselves to this. However, a lot of little girls would really love to be included in their father's lives in this way.
- Let your daughter take you to ______ day. Ask (don't force!) your daughter to include you in some activity she enjoys and would like to share with you. I've known some fathers who do this, and who have bravely and cheerfully gone along with shopping trips to the mall, getting pedicures ("Daddy, no one will ever know you got your toenails buffed, trust me!"), playing dress-up, swinging on the swings at the park, going horseback riding, going ice skating, taking part in a "parents day" at a martial arts school, hang gliding, etc., etc.
- Introduce your daughter to your hobby. It's amazing to me how many fathers never think of doing this with their daughters. Take your daughter golfing; she doesn't have to be able to play at your level! Show her, and explain to her, why you love puttering around in the garage so much. Teach her how to play basketball. Do crossword puzzles together. Include her in your "fun" side.
- Camping. One church that I know has a father-daughter campout each year. It doesn't have any sort of sexually charged agenda; it is just a time for fathers and daughters to "rough it" together out in the beauty of nature. They include some creatively competitive games, pitting father-daughter teams against each other. The highlight is a rather strenuous hike that only the strongest can actually finish. Fathers and daughters encourage and help each other to endure and persevere; there are milestones along the way that are celebrated as achievements. It's a big deal to finally be able to complete the entire hike together --- and those who do so are given a special memento. (Some father-daughter duos actually train for this hike beforehand!)
- Father-daughter service projects. This could be done as a group, or just as individual fathers encouraging and teaching their daughters how to serve others. I've heard some really nice testimonies of fathers and daughters, for example, visiting nursing homes together.