Bruce was the dad to boys, and then along came his little daughter. She made him reassess his standards. He discovered there were three things he wants to be for her.
I had only ever been a father to boys. I love my 3 boys. They have completely, different personalities. But even with their wide range in age and personalities; there are many similarities in how you parent them. With twelve years between my oldest and youngest sons, I have learned a lot about how to parent boys. However, in November of 2014 things changed. My wife gave birth to a baby girl.
My little girl. She showed up the day before Thanksgiving. She pushed this parenting commitment to a different plane. As much as I feel the need to protect my sons, as each has moved closer to manhood, there is an increasing degree of release as I ask them to implement what I have taught them. However, with my daughter, I cannot see that being the case. I believe I will always hold this intrinsic desire to protect her. And not to shelter her from the world, but legitimately protect her from those that would seek to take advantage of and hurt her. Even into adulthood. Call it archaic, but this is how I feel.
I have spent a lot of time thinking on the differences of being a father to a daughter. I recently discussed this with a friend who is writing a book. His book will be a collective of lessons from fathers. Each will share a particular piece of wisdom they have gleaned from years of fathering daughters. This book is sure to prompt productive conversation. We discussed the different roles we need to fill, for the sake of our daughters. As we talked, it became clear there are at least three roles that our daughters need us to fulfill, for their future and well-being.
Your daughter needs her dad to be…
A husband to your wife
It is as important to your daughter, as it is to your wife, that you are a good husband. We need to be serving our wife, placing her needs above ours, and making sure she feels loved and protected. Our daughters will expect from their husbands what they recall from their fathers. The husband that you are to your wife, will be the husband that your daughter desires.
A role model for other men
Inevitably, whether we like it or not, our daughters are going to interact with lots of men. Most of them will not fall into the husband category. Because of this, we need them to know how other men, who are not their husband or family, should treat them. It will be important for our daughters to know how to develop and maintain healthy and safe boundaries with men. We want our daughters to have an expectation for the way men should talk to and about them. We want them to expect men to view them as strong and valuable members of all of our social and professional spaces. Additionally, we need to model manhood, to other men, with the expectation that we are training them to interact with our daughters.
A daddy to her
This is different than being a father. There are memories that you, as her daddy, will share with her. No other man, not even her husband, will experience them. Tea parties, first snuggles, first kisses, first dances; those are yours to share and she needs this. Those moments will mold important aspects of her character and creativity. You will lay the initial blocks of trust and security. You will have a part in writing the scripts, in her imagination, that may one day blossom into a masterpiece. You will tend the garden of grace and forgiveness that she will one day surely need to harvest. You will be the gatekeeper to a home of joy, or one of hurt. She needs a daddy that will build a house of joy.
At the end of the day, whether you have sons or daughters, they need you to fill these roles. Sons will learn from us, how to treat all the women in their life, including their own daughters. Sons need a daddy too. The memories may be different, we trade tea parties for monster trucks, but in principle the lessons are the same. All of our children need us to fulfill these roles.
And to the father who struggles, or has even failed; it is still possible, but it is imperative, that you begin today. There are many available resources to help get you to that place, all you have to do is look for them. Perfection in a day is not expected; but showing up and working towards this goal is the best for both you and your daughter.
Our children need us to be, and deserve, better husbands, better role models and better daddies.