Dads, Daughters, and Change: Part 4

Posted: January 26, 2010 in A Day in the Life

Date your daughter.  If you live in the Christian culture, you’ve likely heard this.  But are you doing it routinely?  For me, I know I’ve waited too long when my daughters ask me to take them on another daddy/daughter date.  They get so much from this time together.  True, this is a time when you can treat her like a lady; a time to talk to her about life’s important issues, what’s going on in her life, even teach her spiritual lessons and offer her guidance along her bumpy road.  But regardless of what you do or what you say, your daughter receives a deeper, perhaps more important message:  “my daddy treasures me.  I am valuable to him.  He wants to spend time with me.”  Not only this, but you are also opening the door to many future conversations during more difficult times.

 In everything you do together, illustrate that she should be treated with respect.  By honoring her emotions, her body, her mind, and her spirit you are helping to lay the foundations of her self-concept.  You are also setting her expectations for how a woman should be treated.  Be sure to set her expectations high!

 Talk to your daughter.  Be specific and unashamed.  Things are changing.  Certain types of physical contact are no longer appropriate.  You’re going to stop treating her like a young girl and start treating her like a young lady in physical, emotional, conversational, and other ways.  Don’t leave her wondering why.  She will likely draw false conclusions that something is wrong and that it’s her fault or worse.  Tell her why, but not just that- celebrate with her out loud these wonderful changes that are happening.  This is an exciting time in her life!  If you’re right in your heart about this, then you truly see your daughter as an inside-and-out beautiful young lady.  So paint a picture for her of what you see and when she sees it too, she’s not going to pay so much attention to what’s being left behind.  But she will be excited about the trail ahead.  Then commit to love your daughter no matter what.  Say it to her.  Use words.  Out loud.  She needs to physically hear you confer upon her your unconditional love and acceptance.  Praise her attributes, then tell her you would love her like crazy even if she had none of them.  As guys, we’re generally not talkers.  But there are many, many moments in life where we need to be.  This is one of them.

 Make a habit of continually praying for her as you pray for your family.  Get up fifteen minutes earlier in the morning.  And while everyone is sleeping, walk around the house with your coffee outside each bedroom and pray for each of them by name.  Let your whispers float up through the rafters to the God who loves them even more than you do.

 Make a habit out of reading the Scriptures aloud to your family.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t sound like Shakespeare.  It doesn’t matter if your kids think it’s boring.  Regardless of your family’s dynamic, there is something far more powerful going on than your or their radars can detect.   You can also take advantage of some of the great family devotionals out there to help engage your family. 

Don’t take too long in the waiting!  Days, weeks, months evaporate so quickly.  Before you know it, your daughter is determining who she is based not only on the messages from the world, but also by the messages of what you didn’t say to her.  So take a minute, sure, but get in there and fight for your daughter.  It doesn’t matter if your words are perfect.  Odds are, like me, you’re going to stumble.  But God will meet your heart and your efforts on this most noble mission. 

So why does all of this matter?  Is this stuff really that important?  There are other books on the subject written by men and women smarter than me, so I’ll leave the heavy lifting to them.  But let me just make a few key points here, because the dynamics that we’re discussing here are important, – no, critical – in your daughter’s development as a woman. 

Countless dads have long abdicated their unique role in raising and guiding their daughters.  Don’t be one of them.  Specifically, while your wife is uniquely equipped in the art of nurturing and developing your daughter, your love and presence in your daughter’s life is irreplaceable.  To think that your wife can fulfill your unique role and impact in raising a healthy daughter is as ridiculous as thinking that you can fulfill hers. 

Many women today – women that you know – remember this transition as a turning point in their relationships with their fathers and in their development of self-concept.  Regrettably, some hobble away from this transition wearing the wounds of confirmation that, indeed, daddy does not love them and doesn’t want to be close to them.  Sometimes this is an innocent mistake that even a loving father can make because he doesn’t know how to handle his own discomfort with his daughter becoming a woman.  Other times, a father simply distances himself because that’s what he learned from his dad.  Sometimes, a father never exhibits affection in the first place.  And unfortunately, there is much worse:  the father who sexually abuses his daughter or the father who rejects his daughter outright because he’s begun to see her as a sexual being.  Regardless, when a father detaches, the result is the same:  a daughter who is crippled by the lack of her father’s love and guidance.  Many girls blame themselves for this and will even spend a lifetime trying to fill this void in other, unhealthy, even dangerous ways.  Your emotional and physical presence in your daughter’s life is important at all stages of her life and is especially critical at this one. 

 My wife was recently running off old videos of our children.  It is both remarkable and heartbreaking to me how quickly time passes.  Yesterday I was a nine year old boy playing in the backyard.  I woke up this morning as the father of three children who will do the same.  Tomorrow, my daughter will look out the kitchen window to watch her own children play.  Like us, she too will remember when she was just a girl and wonder at how quickly time passes.  Dads, it just goes too fast.  Did you really understand when you first held your little baby girl in your arms, that you were being marked for a life wrought with joy, fear, pain, wonder, and mystery?  Fatherhood can make high school chemistry seem like a walk in the park.  And yet, would you turn back time and choose not to become a dad?  Of course not.  Sure, this trail is bumpy and a little grown over in spots.  Sure, many stretches of the trail are completely unmarked.  But you’re a guy, right?  You don’t turn back.  You thrive on this stuff.  For the sake of our daughters, let’s each of us forge ahead and cut this path a little deeper for the dads who come behind us.  Don’t forget, some of those dads are our sons.  I have one sleeping in the other room right now.  And every day he watches me.  By doing this well, I am not only raising a healthy daughter for life, but I am teaching my son how to love and guide a daughter whose name God already knows. 

 Your daughter needs you now more than ever.  There is no one else who can take your place.  It’s time to get in there.  It’s time to make a commitment to yourself and to your daughter to be there beside her no matter what.  No matter what.

An article written in 2007 to address the critical role of the father in parenting daughters through all stages of life and into womanhood.

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