I don't think any parent looks forward to their child's early dating years. But we do aim to prepare them to be considerate, empowered and kind—regardless of their gender. So, why do so many of us jokingly uphold the myth that girls can't stand up for themselves and all boys are trouble?

J. Warren Welch, a father of five daughters, had enough of that “sitting on my porch with a shotgun" narrative. And based on the nearly 19,000 shares his Facebook message has received in the four days it's been posted, it seems many others agree.

With a blended family that includes five daughters ranging in age from 16 to 7, Welch said he's heard his fair share of jokes about “protecting" them from potential suitors. He just wasn't buying it—both because he trusts his daughters and their abilities to go out with worthy guys.


“I understand the urge to protect your daughters," Welch told TODAY Parents about his viral message. “I get that. But the kind of posturing by fathers of daughters I was specifically responding to had nothing to do with that 'protective instinct' and everything to do with asserting their dominance over women and reinforcing a belief that women need men to take care of them."

On the flip side, I've also heard plenty of playful warnings that my son better keep his hands to himself—and he hasn't even celebrated his second birthday. Even though I may kindly laugh in the moment, these jokes aren't just insulting to my son, they're insulting to my husband and myself. Like all parents, we're out to raise a kind person who knows how to handle himself and treat others with respect. And if it takes intimidation with a shotgun to put him in place, then we're the ones who have gone wrong.

So when the day comes we send him or any future daughter out on a date, my husband and I will have the same discussion with them: Respect others. Respect yourself. And have fun. Rather than polishing a shotgun, we'll probably be watching a movie with our feet kicked up when they get home.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

Keep reading Show less