Dads, Daughters, and Change

Posted: January 26, 2010 in Dads and Daughters, Family, Parenting

There is no better time than a chilly, Autumn morning.  I pour a cup of coffee and walk barefoot across the cold tile floor to my office.  Everyone is asleep – everyone but me.   My heart is stirred and I can sleep no longer.  Like the trees outside, my world has entered a new season of change. 

My oldest daughter, now in her tenth year of life, no longer calls me daddy.  She hasn’t for a while.  I am simply dad now, a small change signaling greater change to come.  For this sweet little girl has entered into the early springs of womanhood.  I am just now beginning to process what these changes mean for her, and for me.  She no longer climbs all over me the way she used to.  I hold her a little differently now.  I am more mindful of where I touch her body.  Things have changed. 

She didn’t ask my permission to become a woman.  How many fathers, like me, would not grant their daughters passage to the road that leads from girl to woman?  How vast the number!  For to grant such a wish is to give permission to break a father’s heart.  Each step, each breath, each new word, every inch and new bit of knowledge, every change; all are traveling companions of heartache.  As a man, I do not welcome heartache easily and so I am reluctant to go where I must.

Perhaps you’re like me.  Even though I’m a grown man with three children, I feel 15 many days.  Like me, you may not feel ready to take on these new challenges and changes or certainly, to welcome heartache.  But ready or not, your daughter is not going to wait for you.  You’re her dad and this means processing and honoring the greater responsibility you have to go through this with her.  And remember, as Woody Allen put it:  eighty percent of success is showing up.

Let me be clear here.  Fatherhood is not a journey to be taken lightly.  And it doesn’t get easier as you go.  This new leg of the trail is not for the faint-hearted.  If you’re not ready, then perhaps you have not processed this yet.  Let me help you.  Your girl is not little anymore.  She is no longer a baby girl.  There is much that you must leave behind.  You must do this in order to embrace what is to come.  There is a real process here of leaving behind, of loss.   It is appropriate to grieve this loss before you are ready to welcome what is to come.  So take some time and process this.  Step away, take a walk, talk to God and let Him talk to you.  It is important for you and for her.  Are you ready?  Then say goodbye to your little girl. 

Now say hello to this young lady.   And be greatly encouraged.  For though you leave much behind, there is so much more wonder to come that neither you nor your daughter has imagined.  For who can guess the heart of God?  Who can imagine like Him?  You are entering a new stretch of the trail now – one that only God can fathom.  But more importantly, God has gone ahead of you and your daughter, clearing the path in advance.  So don’t drag your heels, pining for what was.  Dig in, get a foothold, take your daughter by the hand and press forward together toward something grander.  C.S. Lewis put it this way:

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around…when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

You’re not the only one that wants to cling to the past.  Like you, your daughter will tend to cling to the old behaviors that she is most familiar and comfortable with.  Remember that as difficult as this change is for a father, it is far more difficult for her.  As the dad, you’ve got to take the lead here.  As in all of fatherhood, there must be a continual reassuring of your love for her and a constancy in your loving discipline.  At the same time there must be a gentle pushing away of the former behaviors and a welcoming her into the new.  But what are you welcoming her in to?  You may not know yet, and that’s okay.  You’ll need to do some homework.  Your daughter is worth it.  There are two instrumental sources to help you.

Read more in “Part 2” of this 4 part series.

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