For the most part my parenting style, such as it is, leans towards the laissez-faire. For me, the art is in giving in to any request or conceding in any argument as soon as is physically possible and then only ever intervening when I absolutely have to, which is usually to give the kids money or a lift, or, more often than not, both. But how I wish I could intervene when it comes to my 15-year-old daughter.
It’s not about her school work, which is exemplary, or her personality which, as anyone who’s met her will tell you, is absolutely delightful. It’s not her bad habits or the fact that you can barely see the floor in her bedroom for discarded sweet wrappers and crisp packets, underwear, damp towels and all manner of other detritus.
No, it’s just the way she dresses. What she wears isn’t an issue when she’s at school because she doesn’t have any choice in it, but once she’s out of class it’s a different matter entirely. I’m getting to the point where I don’t actually want to see what she’s wearing before she leaves the house, not because I want to avoid the possibility of a confrontation but because I know I’ll be shocked and appalled in equal measure.
What does she dress like? Well, imagine a Love Island reject spilling out of a nightclub in the early hours of the morning. It’s masses of make-up, tight tops or even tighter little dresses. Her birth certificate may say that she’s 15 but she dresses like a 21 year-old and, I’ll be honest, it makes me feel deeply uncomfortable at times.
It was so much simpler when she was younger – not that I ever had much of a say in what she wore. My wife always made sure that she was immaculately turned out. Sometimes, we would joke that it looked like she had just stepped out of a Boden catalogue.
These days, though, it’s more Boo-Hoo than Boden. My wife says it’s nothing to worry about and that all the girls of my daughter’s age dress like that these days. But I see some of the other kids in our area and can only wish that my daughter boasted the same quirky sense of style that some of them display, rather than the one that she, and all her circle of friends for that matter, seem to favour. I get that you don’t want to look different when you’re 15 and that you want that sense of belonging you get with your mates, but I just wish her clothes weren’t so, well, trashy.
For a father, it’s not nice seeing men stare at your young daughter. I have had discussions with her about what I feel is and isn’t appropriate but, fair play to her, she quickly puts me in my place and, quite rightly, tells me she’ll wear whatever she wants. It’s her decision, after all. Besides, there will invariably be bigger battles to fight in the years ahead.
But it’s a difficult one for a dad – and I’m struggling. Do I want her to be herself and feel free to wear what she chooses? Of course I do. Do I wish she would wear something else?
Honestly? Yes, I do.