Can we just get rid of the father-daughter dances and mother-son events already?

Melissa Willets
Updated: April 15, 2019
Emma Darvick

Last month, my 8-year-old's elementary school held a "daughter dance." When she asked me to be her "date," I was thrilled. Yes, she has a father who would have been happy to go with her, but as a mom of three, I don't get to spend a lot of one-on-one time with my eldest child either.

When we showed up at the dance, I was one of two moms in attendance. Every other girl brought her father. I glanced over at my daughter, though, and quickly realized she couldn't care less. We proceeded to have a great time, although I'll admit I got a few inquisitive looks from other kids and dads. And the next day, a few of my daughter's peers asked her why her dad didn't come. (It wasn't a father-daughter dance, but most people clearly assumed that the girls would ask their fathers along as their dates.)

Our experience left me thinking about other girls who may not have their fathers in their lives, and how a dance like this would make them feel. Take Atlanta-based single mom Amy Peterson for instance. She recently decided to dress up like a dad to accompany her 6-year-old daughter Grace to her school's annual father-daughter dance, faux beard and all. Except Locust Grove Elementary denied her entrance, saying she wasn't a man. Say what?! The mama was left furious, understandably.

There are plenty of situations like Peterson's, in which one parent is the sole support system for their child, and excluding them from these activities just seems wrong. And even if a child's dad is a great guy who would be ready, willing, and able to take his daughter to a dance, isn't just the idea of father-daughter dances kinda BS? Why is it that schools and organizations across the country have decided to emphasize this relationship above others? Is a mom's connection with her daughter somehow less important?

The same can be said for mom-and-son events; my daughter's school also holds an activity night for this "selected" pairing. Silly, right? Because now it's being suggested that moms and their sons need special time more than sons and their dads.

Some people even think it's creepy to call child/parent events "dates," and creates an oddly sexual vibe around what should be just quality time together.

So I hereby submit that, instead of singling out genders in this way, we should have school dances and events that invite kids to simply bring along an adult who is special to them. Because that's what is truly important: that children know their parents or grandparents or guardians or aunts/uncles (or whoever!) want to be with and support them.

What's your take?

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.

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Comments (21)

Anonymous
June 16, 2019
No one is writing articles objecting to all of the “mother son” dances, so the simple solution is ban “father daughter” and replace it with a “mother daughter” dance. That way everyone will be happy and comfortable and no one will be “creeped out”. Problem solved. What should we evaluate banning next? This is fun!
Anonymous
June 15, 2019
Your article is garbage. Daddy-daughter dances are ways to model relationships. Treating your daughter with respect, telling her she’s beautiful, treating her to a magical night “out” are all things that you don’t need a dance for, yet you can get them all at once. Just because others don’t have a father figure shouldn’t preclude everyone else. That’s like saying because someone is in a wheelchair, we should get rid of stairs. If you were a father, you would realize that little girls do learn to express love to men through their relationships with their fathers. Hugs, cheek kisses, holding hands, etc. are all pat for the course. Dances follow. That’s it. Your comment about “oddly sexualizing” the relationship is absurd. Stick to writing about mommy-daughter stuff. You’re way off base. Ridiculous!
Anonymous
June 3, 2019
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Anonymous
April 26, 2019
I have 3 daughters and 3 nieces, each of them have attended the daddy-daughter dance in the same elementary school over the years (minus my 2 year old - who will also have her own unique experience) and each one of these intelligent and kind young girls have voiced their concern for classmates whose fathers aren't present in their life. At the time of the dance for each one of the girls in our family their father's have been involved and we absolutely wanted them to share this memory. BUT the concerns still lingered for the "not so cookie-cutter" relationships. My niece's father isnt actively present in her life, so even though he said he would be there, she worried he would flake. My 3 girls have the same father, but we never married and around the year my middle daughter had a daddy-daughter dance I was engaged to another man and she asked him to attend her dance because the relationship with her dad was strained at the time. It broke her dad's heart and looking back she regrets not having him there. The other 3 went as routine and as normal as can be. But with my 2 year old it's a whole new ball game. Personally, I hope society has evolved enough at that time that these dances are a thing of the past. I have been on all sides of the fence (including my own - never attending a daddy-daughter dance and being super close with my dad but never felt like I missed out on anything by not having this experience) and I think even the majority of little girls would agree - we could all do without the daddy-daughter and mother-son stuff.
Anonymous
April 10, 2019
In my opinion, continue to have the dances and functions but start new functions and new beginnings. We are so busy being politically correct that we forget to be human.
Anonymous
April 10, 2019
Sad fact is 1 in 20 kids will lose a parent before graduation from high school. Based on the size of your schools/classrooms that means that there will be 4 or 5 kids in every year that loses a parent. That's just based on 2028 stats. Dont think it will be you. I didn't think it would be us either. But my 3 kids lost their dad to a heart attack. NOw think about the foster kids in your classes,ones being raised by family i/o mom &dad. Now we car talking between 4-10+. You are asking for adults to grow up with these ridiculous comments. But it's not about adults. Its about the kids. Have some compassion, kindness and love for their little souls. I pray your families are never one of the statistics.
Anonymous
April 8, 2019
I completely agree. Sure, it's a nice event for those who can attend. But there are so many little girls whose fathers have died, some whose fathers were never in the picture, some whose fathers are deployed...these situations are already very hard on children, but to have that "[filtered]" thrown in your face because all of your friends can go to the dance, but you can't? It's cruel and sets them back even more emotionally and psychologically. And for the schools who don't allow mothers to attend in the absence of a father - THAT'S BS. To those who say you shouldn't cancel an event just because it excludes people - that's BS. If your company decided to hold a lavish company picnic for all their working parents, but those employees who did not have kids were not invited or allowed to participate in the event, they'd be pretty pissed. "But the families in attendance had a great time! They won door prizes, got free food, got extra bonding time with the executives. It's totally fair that it's offered to only those with children...because they enjoyed it. How dare you take that away from them?" Perspective.
Anonymous
The corporate analogy is ridiculous, but since you went there.... corporations have events *all the time* where you can bring a “guest” but *cannot* bring kids. So how do you manage to rationalize that as being ok?
shannasn
April 8, 2019
I’ve always thought these were creepy - dads aren’t dates, they’re dads. That’s an appropriate, generational boundary, so even in healthy, intact families, a father-daughter dance is WEIRD. Then, throw in the complicated relationships with step-dads, mom’s current boyfriend, some guy who’s always hanging around and SUPER helpful with the kids (🤨)...just a whole setup for creepy. You wanna have a fancy party for kids, have one - have a dance, have a tea, whatever, but kids interacting with peers, not on a pseudo “date” with a grown up. Surely you don’t need the school, the church, or the scouts to organize your time with your child, right?
Anonymous
April 8, 2019
I am honestly mad at myself for reading this article. It’s not singling out genders. It’s giving that special father-daughter time to the child. I have nieces, friends, neighbors who don’t have an active father figure. But they still attend these dances! With their MOTHER. Why does the name have to change?? It’s not meant to be a FAMILY dance. It’s meant for fathers and their daughters. Just because you, as an ADULT, need to feel better should not mean the rest of us have to make changes to support your feelings. BE a big girl for your daughter.
Anonymous
April 9, 2019
You DEFINITELY missed the part where the mother was denied entrance! AND a daughter can and should have special father daughter time more than one night a year. As someone else commented, the school shouldn’t have to organize a date for you!
Anonymous
April 8, 2019
Guess you missed the part where the one mother was DENIED entry with her daughter. Not really a fun time for her kid, then, huh? And, why should she suffer because of her situation? Settle down there, and stop being so selfish. I mean, you may be big, but you seem to be far from being a mature and compassionate girl.
danacapps
April 8, 2019
I have a very hard time with ideas that ban or cancel things because they are hard for a few individuals. I understand your feelings. I do. But I also have been at these dances (to sell concessions) and see what an amazing time it is for fathers and daughters. Why should they lose that? It’s ok for things to not apply to everyone. Some of the seeetest images there were girls with grandfathers or uncles or another male figure in their life. I truly am sorry if this is a hard time for you. But if we cancelled everything that didn’t apply to all; we would be left with nothing. Life really isn’t all equitable. But it’s ok. We learn and grow.. I certainly hope we can realize that.
Anonymous
April 10, 2019
They wouldnt be lose quality time with their father. The idea is for the child to being whatever adult is important or alive that they care about. That’s it. I feel like you didn’t even read the article or you completely misinterpreted it.
Anonymous
April 9, 2019
A daughter can and should have that bonding time with the male figures in their life more than one night a year! One night in the spotlight doesn’t cut it.
Anonymous
April 8, 2019
I 100% agree with this. If this dance isn’t for you, if it “creeps you out” as one other commenter said, then don’t go. My now 12 year old daughter went to their grade school father/daughter dance every year and cherished those days with her Dad. She loved the special day with him and as a girly girl who loves getting fancy, she loved the time her and I spent shopping for a fancy dress and having a full day to doll up and have someplace to go. She still laughs about the year she painted her Dads fingernails at the dance. And one of her best friends’s families didn’t support the father/daughter dance, so you know what? They didn’t go. But they didn’t demand the school to stop having it because of their views. I agree this is a hard situation for some and I am also truly and sincerely sorry for that. But as stated above, that doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t be able to attend if it’s something that brings joy and special memories. “Life really is not all equitable” yes and amen. And our kids need to learn that too.
Anonymous
March 1, 2019
Why is it that the majority always has to sacrifice something that they want or that they enjoy for the few. And I find it amazing that you would say that schools emphasize the relationship between father above all others paired that is absolutely not true. Is that white on my daughter's invitation to me it says father figure? I bet you they ask the mothers to go it would you say a mother figure. Reminds me of when I had my daughter at the hospital they have a board will you can put down the mother's name but for some reason they didn't have a place to put the father's Room I just said mother in right next to it and said significant other. I thought this was complete bullship sorry for the language that's not right to always punish the Majority because you are afraid to offend the few is ridiculous. Just let people be who they are but there's a daddy daughter dance let it be a daddy daughter dance you can find someone to take your daughter a friend of yours or an Uncle or a grandpa or something. Our dads allowed to be involved in anything? We are always at work we are always the ones who are away from home trying To make ends me to support our families. We sacrifice a lot. A lot of time away from home sometimes on the road. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this period and I am amazed that somebody would even complain about something like this.
Anonymous
February 12, 2019
Can you just leave these events alone please? I"m a father and I treasure these special times to treat my daughter, show her how a man is supposed to treat her and be a positive male role model in her life. Is nothing sacred anymore. Quit complaining about these daddy/daughter times, it's just another attack on men and masculinity. Unbelievable.
joannepiper513
April 8, 2019
My dad, who was a great dad, loved these too. But I always thought they were rather creepy and still do, many years later. You treat your daughter how she should be treated by how you treat your wife, her mother. There are many other valuable times you can have with your daughter that make her feel valuable to you without the implied "date/ dance". My dad took me to work with him, talked about his work, took me to symphony, or on hikes. All that was was wonderful. The date/ dance never made sense to me. I would never be his "girlfriend" and the schools pushing this on us was wrong.
Anonymous
December 30, 2018
I completely agree. My daughters school have a Father-daughter dance and a mother-son event, I have 2 daughters so I wasn’t going to either event. The H&S just couldn’t wrap their minds around my argument on the relationships they were choosing to emphasize - I love that that was your last comment. In the end, this year I went to both events, amid plenty of stares and I survived the process of getting the mother-daughter event on the calendar. Thanks for this article, I feel vindicated :-).
Anonymous
June 16, 2019
Going to guess there’s no “father son” dance and dads aren’t allowed at the “mother daughter”. Why not just make it easy and ban everything featuring “father”, replacing it with “mother offspring”? This way the only people that ever complain are happy?