The love a father shows his daughter has as strong an effect on her as the relationship he has with her mother
Editor’s note: this is the second in a series of letters excerpted from Shoebox Letters – Daughters to Dads, a collection of over 30 letters from daughters to their dads about the role that their dad has played in their life. Heartfelt storytelling told through the unique letter format, the book provides readers a rare, personal glimpse into the life between the writer and the father.
I know I don’t always tell you how wonderful of a father you’ve been but hopefully you get that from the little things I try to do to make sure you know I love you. You have done an amazing job of not just being a father but fathering a daughter. You are more than merely the person who paid my tuition or reminded me that I “didn’t need that chump anyway” whenever one of my relationships ended. You are the man who set the standard for what I would accept from the men in my life and for that I am eternally grateful. I always knew our relationship was special but it wasn’t until I became a young woman, seriously dealing with men and establishing boundaries for how they would deal with me, that I really understood the magnitude of your importance in my life and in the development of my character.
I remember the point when I realized how important it was to have grown up with my father as the man in my life. It was around the time I was applying to business school and I had become really good friends with some really outstanding young women. From the looks of it, we were all cut from the same cloth‚ all bright, young, attractive (if I may say so myself 🙂 and headed into graduate programs at some of the country’s most prestigious institutions…Harvard, Northwestern, Duke…you name it. As time went by and we became closer friends I learned more about them and saw how they interacted with men and more importantly, how their interactions were affected by men. We were all looking for the same thing: someone to love us, someone to settle down with, and someone to call our own. The variable that became strikingly evident was what I called the “father factor.”
I began to realize that while we all had our issues with the guys we dated, no one ever disrespected me or treated me as badly as they often treated my friends. This was because, as a result of my relationship with you, I knew the minimums a man needed to deliver and recognized when they weren’t being met. I always considered “if a man can’t do more for me than my daddy does then why put up with him.” So, when he wasn’t treating me like a lady I was okay saying “when.” This alone made my twenties much easier and less dramatic.
But Daddy, I have to tell you something. While you were an amazing father, you were a terrible husband and witnessing your disregard for my mother, your wife, has had an effect on me as well. As I have become older and am now considering marriage, I realize that I have subconsciously developed this overwhelming flight response when situations with the man I love are not ideal. It’s not because I don’t want to be his wife but because I don’t want to turn out like you‚ unfulfilled in my marriage but too afraid to be on my own to leave. People often say that women marry men like their fathers. I hope that’s true. What scares me to death is that the man I marry will be less like my father and more like my mothers’ husband. I know it seems contradictory to feel this way and I don’t know how to explain it much better than I have. On the one hand, because of you I have standards and boundaries. On the other hand, I lack patience and resolve.
So what do you do with this? Honestly, I just wanted you to know how your influence and your role in my decision making processes has evolved in a way I had not imagined. I don’t love you any less or think any less of you. It’s just interesting to understand the many different ways you have impacted my life. You are one man with many roles and I truly have always felt how important your role as a father is to you. I guess the real shocker is that I now also feel how unimportant your role of a husband may have been as well. Just something to think about.
I love you.
From more on the Shoebox Letters and series editor Clay Brizendine, check out the foreword excerpted from the book and a Q&A here.
Here is the first letter, Daughter Praises Dad for Unconditional Love
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