I grew up in a house full of boys. We had black eyes and broken windows, a garage overflowing with every sports-related implement and a fridge needing constant stocking constantly as our bodies grew and our appetites remained ravenous.
When I became a father for the first time I was somewhat relieved my first child was a boy. It was what I was used to and comfortable with and I knew my knowledge of what it takes to become a man would come in handy.
When my first daughter arrived, I was more scared. Raising daughters was an unknown for me. I laugh now at the old me who thought it would be different. Caring for an infant whether it be a boy or girl is generally the same. I still love them the same way even if their diaper changes require slightly different work. I sang them the same songs at night and attended to their cries the same. I still hug and kiss them goodnight the same.
That’s why it bothers me when I see dads wearing shirts setting rules for dating their daughters. I get weary of the photos of dad with a gun threatening future suitors with violence if they don’t behave themselves. I’m all for protecting my daughters but this implied violence toward accomplishes nothing.
How about we just teach our young boys what respect and love are truly about and give them the tools to make good decisions? We can be better fathers by setting the example for the next generation and not using scare tactics. Our daughters are not unattainable prizes to be won. They are treasures to be cherished.
‘Raising daughters is nothing short of magical’
In a post on Facebook recently, a soon-to-be dad posted that if he and his wife have a baby girl, that he hoped she would be born ugly. Let that sink in for a moment.
While it may have been in jest, the rudimentary feeling is that women aren’t safe from men because we only think of one thing. This thinking, that an attractive young girl is going to have a tough time in the world today, is why we as fathers who believe in our daughters must prepare them better.
Here’s some news for that guy. Locking your daughter up in an ivory tower is never going to go well. Do me a favor new dad, go see Tangled right away. If you have a daughter, she’s going will be beautiful. You’re going to look at her and see yourself or your wife in her eyes or her little nose. You’ll hear yourself in her laugh and spend hours looking at her toes. Those same toes will carry her far away someday.
She’s going to be curious about what is out there and you’ll want to protect her. But here’s the thing, you’ll also want to watch what she becomes. I can tell you firsthand that raising a daughter is nothing short of magical. She will go through an amazing transformation seemingly overnight from the helpless little girl you once held in your arms to the teenager asking for the keys to the car. Don’t keep her from the world.
Both of my daughters are beautiful. They are smart. They are tenacious. I’ve seen those traits before somewhere. Oh yeah, from their mom! I mean, I purposely dated their mother because of those attributes. Instead of being afraid of your daughter garnering attention for who she is, embrace it.
Dads – let’s empower our daughters
I get it, you’re scared. You think that the world is inherently evil and that they can’t fend for themselves. Trust me when I say this. That keeping her from experiencing anger, fear, and sadness will only make her wonder what else is out there.
Instead of relying on threats, let’s empower our daughters. Let’s give them the tools they need to succeed. Your gun will never protect them in the way their humor, wit and creativity ever will. Let’s encourage strong and smart as the norm. Let’s be better fathers by fostering curiosity and inquisitiveness. Let’s learn when to step back so they can be independent women who will make their own decisions and learn from them. Most of all, let’s be there to support them when they fall and believe in them so they get back up.
You’ll do all of this without even realizing it when she is a baby. She’ll be curious about the world. She will want to explore and you’ll let her. Some day, she will be reaching for a block and you will want to give it to her but know you should hold back. You will want her to get there so badly you might be tempted to just give it to her.
Some days she will never get there and she will cry like it’s the end of the world. That’s when you’ll scoop her up in your arms and tell her it will be OK. She will forget all about that block and you’ll be there to console her.
Then there will come a day when she finally reaches that infernal block and raises it triumphantly in her little hand. That’s when she will look at you with the light catching her eyes and you’ll say to yourself, “Everything about you is beautiful.” And she will smile and say: “Thanks, Dad.”
A version of this first appeared on DadNCharge.