Splashing in Puddles: How to Be a Father to Your Daughter

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About David B. Van Heemst

David B. Van Heemst lives in Kankakee, Illinois with his wife, April, and their five daughters. Maggie and Ellie are ten years old, and Anni, Libby, and Jessie are four years old. They enjoy bike riding, going to the park, reading books, and playing games.


  1. wellokaythen says:

    I wonder if trying to be her hero for the rest of her life is the best approach. That could set up a very unhealthy dynamic and set up incredibly unrealistic expectations for yourself. You can’t be a superman. Of course there will be moments when she needs you, and moments where she looks up to you. But, you still get to be a human being. In fact, you have to be a human being. You have to accept that some day in her development she will no longer think of you as infallible and will start to see you as a person with flaws. My concern is that, if someone has an overly romanticized view of fatherhood, there can be a huge letdown when reality rears its ugly head. Some dads may go in for the ego boost of being a child’s hero, which is setting themselves up for disillusionment later.

    No, I don’t have kids. This is speculation on my part. I could actually be right about this anyway, despite my handicap.

  2. I think that by operating under the belief that as children develop and recognize the infallibly of fathers, that it somehow lessens the “hero” is flawed. The day I realized that my father was imperfect wasn’t the day he stopped being my hero. In fact, realizing that being my dad in actuality was not as simple as I believed made me admire him all the more. It also helped me to understand that imperfections did not stop me or anyone else from being the “hero.” In my opinion, the idea that heroes, regardless of who they are, need to be perfect is more damaging then the idea that my parent could be a hero. Its much like the phrase, “Being brave doesn’t mean not being afraid” only in this case it is “being a hero doesn’t mean not making mistakes”. This is only my opinion, as a daughter of a single father, who watched him struggle through being a parent more often then simply gliding through. But to me, the effort and the fact that he cared enough to try is what makes me idealize him. It taught me that same work ethic as well as the knowledge in other relationships, that my partner may not be perfect but as long as he is trying, what can be more admirable.

  3. Great writing …. I have a daughter and a son. Strange that the “hero” came into play in your writing. My 28 year old daughter said just that in her Father’s day card to me …. That I am her hero. Wow, it threw me in that I never saw myself asa her hero. She’s my “pinkin” and will forever be my little punkin. My life changed when my daughter was born, she is very special to me, I just never saw that anything I’ve ever done would warrent the “hero” status but what ever I did, I’m glad I did it.

  4. Don’t sweat over what ‘being a hero’ means. Just get in there, be there. You won’t be able to help it. Here’s the thing, though: Now my daughter is grown, 31, a woman I admire and respect. She’s taken the hard trails and stayed true to her heart. Now, my daughter’s MY hero. ~J

    • My name is Ronald i have a four month baby and i love her sooooo much and i thank God to give me her and a gorgeous woman but i need types of to be their for her

  5. Tim Salinger says:

    I guess I’m the grump here, but I don’t see anything in this article (book excerpt) besides the admonition to be a reasonable human being. Does anyone really need to be told to pay attention to their children? (to “turn toward her” and “make her a priority,” in the author’s words). Do I need to read a book to learn to “value” my daughter? Apparently this author did, as he complains –twice!– that “no one told us” what to do. Welcome to parenthood, David! No one told our wives how to be mothers, either. (And no one told our parents, or their parents, etc.)

    Has masculinity so transformed the experience of being a man that we forgot to be reasonable human beings, and subsequently we are surprised to discover that paying attention to our kids is a good thing? I don’t think so. Does Mr. Van Heemst really think that our fathers didn’t care about our sisters? That our grandfathers didn’t care about our mothers and aunts? David presents a straw man — a straw father– and so that he can congratulate himself for outperforming it.

    As I embark on my journey of raising my own daughter, it would be helpful to hear real-life examples of challenges faced, mistakes made, triumphs shared. But this treacle is worse than unhelpful — it tries to make us feel great for just showing up. Now, showing up is an important first step, but it’s not nearly enough, to be considered a “good” father. It is the baseline– that which allows you to call yourself a “father” at all. Michael Chabon does a good job describing how very low the bar is set, for being considered a good father. We don’t need the bar lowered any further by Mr. Van Heemst, to include simply “being there.”

    I don’t doubt that the author is a good father, but I’m saddened that he thinks that his “goodness” is a function of not being a lousy person. Try harder, David. The rest of us already are.

    • No I completely agree with you Tim. I thought it was pretty much fluff. ‘Be a hero’ and ‘put your kid first’ – well yeah. Bonding is important – again well yeah.

      He’s parenting kids under 10. I don’t think he has a ton of examples of serious issues faced.

    • I completely agree with you. As a woman, I have always been expected to make my children a priority, WHILE kicking ass at my job, WHILE looking like a model, WHILE fawning over my husband like a pornstar would. The problem is, no one told me how to do it. It was a study for me, it took time, energy and determination. It took me losing sight of what I wanted from life. This poor man, all of this is expected from him now that he is an adult with children. Someone should have given him a baby doll when he was a little boy and told him it was his job to keep the doll safe, clean, and happy but that he also had to get straight A’s and make everyone he ever met adore him. Someone should have taken away all the fun he got to have to “teach him the ways.” Then he might be prepared for the challenges of adulthood – or fatherhood. How about we try our best? Love ourselves and love our children. My dad is not a hero. He is a dad. And he is a phenomenal one. “Hero,” to me, implies an element of fiction. There is no fiction in the mistakes my dad made and continues to make. There is human nature and love. That’s what a little girl needs.

  6. Great article. A quick response to those questioning the hero idea… It really is quite important. I am one of the few people of my own generation who grew up with a great father who was my hero. This article easily could have been about him. Now that I am older and have my own child, I do see him as the human being that he is, however, that makes me think even more highly of him. Having a father who is not just a great father but a great husband to my mother has given my sister and I a huge advantage over those women we know who did not grow up with that support. Neither of us rushed into marriages, despite plenty of offers, both of us are confident and more than willing to pursue the things we love; we value ourselves and even more importantly, we are not afraid to stand up for ourselves the way our father stood up for us in the past. Far too many women in our age group really cannot say the same.

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