Songs About Dads - Papa Don't Preach

Song: Papa Don’t Preach - Madonna

“Hey, put your shoes on”

Tears!  Crying!

This is a scene that happens here and there with my daughter.  I grew up with brothers, and so the whole thing about being careful not only what you say, but how you say it, is pretty foreign to me. 

“So I made my daughter cry when I asked her to put her shoes on this morning, that ever happen to you?” I asked my friend who has three daughters. 

“Oh man,’ he said, looking as though the weight of the world was on his shoulders, “every day”

It’s new to me, the instant tears and emotion thing.  But I get it, (kind of).  I get that it’s really easy for me to be too harsh.  I mean, if I think about it, I don’t like it when people are harsh with me, right? So why can’t I try and be a little more gentle and a little more understanding?  So, I’m trying to realize that I can come across to harsh sometimes without realizing it.  I’m trying to learn to curb my tone and how I respond. 

But, here’s the thing that I think most of us Dads get caught up on:  sometimes we’re right.  

Sometimes we’re totally justified in saying, “Hey!  Get your shoes on or we’re going to be late to your thing!  It’s your thing!  If we’re late to your thing you’re the one who’s going to be upset!”

Tears!  Crying!

Or, “Hey!  Stop doing that thing I’ve asked you a million times to stop doing!”

Tears!  Crying!

But look...lets say we’re right.  Let’s say we yell and smash shit around the house and stomp around or whatever and then our daughters (or sons) finally relent and do what we yelled at them to do...then, what?  We won?  

Is that what we really want?  

It’s not.  So I’m trying to figure it out.  

It’s like in Stranger Things season 2,  when (SPOILERS!!!!) Hopper is hiding Eleven in the cabin and she won’t listen to him.  It’s such a painful scene to watch because of how relatable his response is. Both of them are new to this, he’s never had a daughter (or, rather, never had much experience raising a daughter) and she’s never had any sort of real Dad, and so when she doesn’t listen he just smashes shit, throws things around the cabin (which she hates living in  but is the only place she has), culminating with his smashing her tv, her only source of entertainment and a sense of communication with the outside world.  They do a great job of showing him realizing that he’s gone to far, but by then, its too late.  Damage is done.  In his frustration he completely smashed not only what she loved, but, worst of all, perhaps their relationship.   

Or take The Little Mermaid, remember when the King gets all furious that she is...collecting forks or whatever? (I don’t recall, honestly) and, again, smashes all her stuff?  (“Betcha on land, they understand/they don’t reprimand their daughters”). 

There are probably a million pop culture examples, and all of them are too realistic because its a scene that’s been played out a billion times in every household between every dad and daughter. The daughter is upset and responds emotionally and the father is unable to put his frustration into words and yells and breaks stuff and maybe feels better for a moment but then that realization comes that this is only breaking their relationship. 

Regretful things can be said, things can be literally and figuratively broken beyond repair.  

But lets take some solace in the end of Stranger Things 2, when Hooper and Eleven make up.  I think we can all learn, and I think apologies can (hopefully and usually) be made and accepted.  I think, friends, we can do this.  I think we can be better Dads than that. 

Aaaaaaaaaaaand so today we’re looking at the first song in this series sung from a daughters perspective.  It’s a little tough, I want to do it justice but I’m a little hampered by my never having been a daughter and all. we go!

This weeks song, “Papa Don’t Preach”, is an old one. And you may have heard of the singer, Madonna. (Look, I went into this thinking everyone had heard of Madonna but then I realized I was old and holy crap, there may be people reading this who don’t know her). So, kids, aaaaaaallllllll the way back in the 80s, she was probably the most famous, and maybe the most controversial, pop star in the country. 

This is also the first in our series of songs that pre-dates me a bit.  I only kind of knew Madonna of the 80s.  I was a pretty young dude and not really the target market.  I knew Madonna more from the 90s, when she wore cone boobs and had the “Sex” book. That was a little creepy.  But she also starred in “A League of their Own” and that movie was pretty fun and cute.  She was pretty ubiquitous in pretty much all culture in the 80s and 90s.  

Growing up in church culture in the 90s, it was pretty impossible to avoid the culture wars, and Madonna was an artist you did not listen to.  You see, kids, in the 90s it was cool for christians to hate pop culture icons as though whatever they were peddling was worse than christians openly hating people.  I heard a guy preaching once and he said he’s been praying for Madonna since the 80s.  Honestly, I think thats a better approach to the whole thing.

The song “Papa Don’t Preach” is really, insanely catchy. In fact, I’ll go on record now saying that all old school Madonna is super catchy and that a fair amount of the 90s stuff was cool too (I’m not going to lie, “This Used To Be Our Playground” was stuck in my head forever).

In the song and the video a teenage daughter is telling her Dad that she’s pregnant and that she wants to keep the baby.  

She’s just begging to be heard in this song.  It’s the whole thing.  

It has to be a terrifying to be a pregnant teenager at any time, even more so in the 80s.  And her coming to her Dad must be the scariest thing she’s ever done.  

Papa I know you’ll be upset/because I always was your little girl” 

And so, while I hope my kids can avoid ever getting in trouble like that all together, I really want to ensure that I’m the type of Dad that they feel they can talk to if need be for any situation that comes their way. Even if they know they’re telling me something I won’t be excited about.  

And, I think the ground work for that starts now. I’m really trying to ensure that I can have patience, and listen, so that when tough situations come up I will be the kind of Dad that my kids can talk to.  

So, there will be times when my daughter cries when I ask her to tie her shoes.  And I have to learn to be okay with that.  And to have patience.  So that if she’s ever in a scary situation, she knows she can call me, and that I’ll listen and have her best intentions at heart.  

“Papa don’t preach, I’m in trouble deep.  Papa don’t preach, I’ve been losing sleep...”

I don’t want my daughter losing sleep on anything, ever, that I can help her with.  I especially don’t want her losing sleep wondering if I’ll even be there for her if she does open up to me.  

So, I’m working on being there for her. I hope all of us Dads with daughters are.  It’s not enough when she’s 16 to suddenly pop our head into their bedroom or to text them and announce, “Oh, hey!  Just FYI, I’m here for you!  Let me know if you need me!  Text or email or whatever and we can totally work it out!”  Then walk out of the room. It doesn’t work that way.  It’s a trust that we’ll have to build now.  

Finally, I found it interesting that Madonna always saw this song as one where the Dad would be there for her.  I went into it thinking it was the opposite!  I was pleasantly surprised. 

We can do it, Dads! 

Further stuff:  I guess both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice took up this song as endorsing their position. Make of that what you will. 

Further further stuff:  The Dad in the video recorded a response song, from the Dad’s side, called “Papa Wants the Best For You”, which is a pretty sweet thing to do.