A father’s role in raising amazing daughters

Cross posted from: The Eagle Online

From the moment our children are born till the day they leave the house and strike out on their own, it is amazing to observe how they grow, learn, and develop into adults. As a father of two daughters this process scares me to death, but I do want to have strong, independent, and creative daughters!

Some background …

My mother (a teacher herself) spent a lot of time with me and my siblings building us up to believe we needed to be strong, independent, kind, creative, and flexible. This lesson was generally delivered through family stories, often based on her memories of her grandparents. Most often, stories would be told of my grandmothers, and I was brought up to both admire and respect the powerful role that women have had in my life and in the history of my family. It is that powerful and important presence that I wish to build up in my own daughters.

Recently while reading some of the RSS feeds on my iPad, I ran across an interesting blog called “From Dates to Diapers.” The entry was entitled “50 Rules for Dads with Daughters” (http://www.fromdatestodiapers.com/50-rules-for-dads-ofdaughters). Naturally, the entry caught my eye, and as I read I felt that author Michael Mitchell did such a nice job of encapsulating the joys and challenges of being a father of girls that I would share with you a few of his rules, and my own reflections.

#1 “Love her mom. Treat her mother with respect, honor, and a big heaping spoonful of public displays of affection. When she grows up, the odds are good she’ll fall in love with and marry someone who treats her much like you treated her mother. Good or bad, that’s just the way it is. I’d prefer good.”

Educators see a lot of good in their work but nothing brings us more comfort than to see families come to the school as “team.” Respect, love, and mutual trust are observable and evident in the most closely knit families, and if and when issues arise, it is those families that have that bond that tend to fare better. Our wives and partners are key to our successes, as we are to theirs, and the respect and admiration we show toward them is seen by our girls. If they see it, they will grow up expecting it for themselves, and they should!

#3 “Save the day. She will grow up looking for a hero. It might as well be you. She’ll need you to come through for her over and over again throughout her life.”

Whether it be help with homework, solving a computer problem, taking her shopping, or just simply sitting and listening, your job, Dads, is to be there, be supportive, and when possible, to be her hero. If you need to be reminded what that means, see rule #1.

#4 “Savor every moment you have together. Today she’s crawling around the house in diapers, tomorrow you’re handing her the keys to the car, and before you know it, you’re walking her down the aisle. Some day soon, hanging out with her old man won’t be the bees’ knees anymore. Life happens pretty fast. You better cherish it while you can.”

In the hustle and bustle of the expatriate experience, we tend to live from one plane flight or business meeting to the next phone call to the brief and precious vacation or weekend. I can’t count the number of fathers who have told me that the most frightening moment in their life was when their kids were born. I have some news for you guys. Just wait till they enter middle school, or graduate from high school! Heaven forbid getting married. Let’s all commit to reminding each other to enjoy our time we have with our children.

#9 “Of course you look silly playing peek-a-boo. You should play anyway.”

The “Date with Dad” days that have been held here on the Pudong campus are great examples of silliness and relationship building. My favorite memory of those days is having the opportunity to run, jump, play, read, and laugh with my daughters, all in the company of hundreds of other fathers doing the same thing with their children. A little peek-a-boo is a good start, but come on, guys, don’t stop being goofy even when they are in middle school.

#12 “It’s never too early to start teaching her about money. She will still probably suck you dry as a teenager … and on her wedding day.”

Ugh. There is that “W” word again! But financial independence is very important in the lives of women. I certainly do not want my girls beholden to some man to pay her bills and take care of her. I want her to be able to take care of herself, and financial literacy is a key component of that independence.

#18 “Tell her she’s beautiful. Say it over and over again. Someday an animated movie or “beauty” magazine will try to convince her otherwise.”

Our girls are bombarded with images of models. When I was an elementary principal I remember parents coming to the school concerned about their girls not eating, or talking about plastic surgery. And I have heard children say cruel things to each other about their bodies. Our girls will almost certainly be subject to these same images and pressures, and it is our job as their support system to be the voice of reason and support. Not only should we tell our daughters that they are beautiful, but that they are smart, strong, creative, amazing, loving, and caring each and every day of their time with us. The message here is that it is our job to drown out the bad images and bad voices with the voices of affirmation and strength.

This ties into rule #22. “She’s as smart as any boy. Make sure she knows that.”

#36 “Few things in life are more comforting to a crying little girl than her father’s hand. Never forget this.” We fathers have to admit that we also hate to hear our daughters cry, and holding their hand helps us too. This of course leads to #46 “When in doubt, trust your heart. She already does.”

#42 “Let her know she can always come home. No matter what.” Parenting never stops, even when they “grow up.”

By showing respect, love, and honor to your parents, you will show your children that they should do the same for you — to be always welcome in your home.

#47 “When your teenage daughter is upset, learning when to engage and when to back off will add years to YOUR life.”

If you succeed in doing this, be sure to let us in on your secret!

And …

#50 “Today she’s walking down the driveway to get on the school bus. Tomorrow she’s going off to college. Don’t blink.”

It is so easy to get all tied up in academics, the rush of our daily lives and our own goals and aspirations. As we approach spring break, I suggest that us Dads (and Moms too!) take a step back and just look at our kids. Check them out and take a few mental pictures of who they are, who they are becoming, and what beauty and life they have brought to you and your family.

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