My dad didn’t own a shotgun (and I turned out fine).

My dad didn’t own a shotgun. This shouldn’t be surprising. He was a lawyer in a mid-sized mid-western town. He was never into hunting. What did he need a shotgun for?

The way that people often talked to him, it seemed like my dad, who was totally uninterested in weapons, should have had an armory at his back.

My dad and baby Rilla

My dad and baby Rilla

Why? Because he had three teenage girls, at the same time, and apparently that meant he was supposed to have a shotgun. You know, because we were doing crazy things like calling boys and letting them take us to a movie. THE HORROR!


I guess we joked about it. I remember, before entering into the house with a boy, any boy, even just a friend, I would look over to him and say “okay, now if my dad says anything about a gun collection, a knife collection, a baseball bat collection, laugh he is joking.”

But my dad didn’t need a shotgun, because instead he equipped his daughters to decide for themselves. Every single time my dad was asked what he thought about our boyfriends he would respond, “I trust my daughter’s judgement.”

I trust my daughter’s judgement. My dad didn’t need a shotgun, because he had already equipped us to handle ourselves, to trust ourselves, to value ourselves.  He never said a single negative thing about our appearance ever. For real. And he always made sure to touch us a lot. Hugs, lap sitting, affectionate pats.

My dad on my sister's wedding day.

My dad on my sister’s wedding day.

That was really all he needed. What was a shotgun going to do anyway? I was pretty sure the man who had told me my whole life “people who hit people go to jail” was not going to shoot at anyone. Rather than have my dad threaten me into making good decisions, he equipped me to make those decisions on my own. I took pretty seriously who I was going to date, because my parents completely trusted me with that decision. That mattered more.

I guess I am telling this story because my husband is already getting asked, what will he do when our daughters reach dating age? And I get that it is a joke, but I think it is a joke grounded in a harmful undercurrent. Girls cannot be expected to make their own decisions about who they are dating, they need help, they cannot protect themselves. I get that it is supposed to be a joke, but I just don’t think it is very funny anymore.

My lovely husband and the girls he is raising.

My lovely husband and the girls he is raising.

I married a man a lot like my dad on purpose. One who cares for and respects women, especially his daughters, especially his wife. When the time comes for them to bring dates home, I hope we have already equipped our girls with all the weapons they need. Respect for themselves, and a deep understanding of just how much they are loved, by us and by their God. I hope they know, like I did, that they can trust their own judgement, and if they make a mistake they will be no less loved.

I hope my girls don’t need a shotgun wielding dad, because they know the good and solid weight of being trusted with their own judgement.

5 thoughts on “My dad didn’t own a shotgun (and I turned out fine).

  1. YES. My dad raised 6 girls and no boys. There was no shortage of jokes such as that around us, yet he never had any interest in guns or sports and really wasn’t the protective type — at least not physically. My dad was much more concerned about the well-being of our hearts. For a long time, under the influence of “purity culture” and in view of the courtships some of my friends had, I wanted a father who would step into that role of protective patriarch. Now, with some perspective, I am SO glad that he never did. It just didn’t suit him.

    Whenever I doubted my decision making abilities in relationships it was always my father who encouraged me to be myself, to be vulnerable, and to move forward courageously. And he was always there to hug me and wipe my tears if I was hurt. I am so grateful.

    Additionally, I have grown to resent the message that the “shotgun jokes” communicate to us. It implies that all men are dangerous and all women are weak and in need of protection. It’s taken some doing to re-program myself in that regard and learn to begin trusting myself and the men around me. The stereo-type isn’t real. And I wish we’d stop living like it is.

    Thank you, Abby, for sharing your heart in this.

  2. Abby, Nice job making me sound good. After all some day Dr. Phil will need a replacement. You girls did a great job of picking guys especially future husbands so what did I need with fire arms. Also we had Eek to protect you. I still laugh thinking about Eek attached to the pant leg of a would be suitor all the way down the hall. Not bad protection from a cheweeney. (Needless to say that suitor didn’t make the cut). Loving physical touch is critical with in the Father daughter relationship. Your girl scout troops used to hold Father Daughter Dances which I believed was one of the best tools for addressing teen pregnancy available. Nice work Abby. Write on!

  3. Pingback: Happy Lights and Apple Picking: What I am Into September 2014 | Accidental Devotional

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