The increasing trend of women becoming bread winners and the shift in the way people work (telecommuting, less work-day per week, etc.) has resulted in more fathers becoming “stay-at-home-Dads.” This development suddenly puts the term “parenting” on the menu of these otherwise absentee parents-the bumbling, inefficient, clueless Dads (at least, that’s how the media constantly portrays us.)
I provide for my family, ergo I’m a good Dad…
It’s natural human tendency to model our behavior upon what we see around us. Thus naturally, as men, we learn a lot from observing our own fathers. In the yester years, it was the father who went out to work. The roles of teacher, care-giver, nurse, and friend fell squarely on mummy’s shoulder. All daddies had to do was provide the check at the end of the month.
It was also common for dads to be closer to their boys as they easily identified with them. Also, there was a belief that they needed to be there for their sons to serve as a good “role model.” Who else would teach them how to kick a soccer ball properly or fix the leaking faucet? The girls? Mom can definitely see to them. After all, what do we dad’s know about Barbie dolls and dress up parties.
Unfortunately, such myopic misconceptions hold till today. And if you continue down this path, before you know it, your baby girl would be all grown up, without you ever really knowing her. Don’t be surprised when on her wedding day, you are hit by this sudden realisation that you didn’t really have much of a relationship with the beautiful lady you’re walking down the aisle with. And at that point, trust me, neither your money nor your gifts can ever compensate for the time and moments you never had with your precious princess.
Experience is the best teacher, but if you don’t have it…
As if parenting itself is not overwhelming enough, having to deal with little girls who are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice,” can be nothing short of daunting. Unlike mothers, who have their own past to relate to, we men find it difficult to understand what goes on inside these seemingly fragile and beautiful beings. Come to think of it, we still don’t understand them several decades later, when they’re wearing make-up, high heels (wink-wink) and bossing us around.
How do we relate to Mary Poppins “tea parties,” vain little Barbie dolls, fussy pink ribbons, and a lot of other girlie-thingies that we don’t even know how to start describing? One would wish they could be as easy as little boys-our little boys are like fish in the water with things we already like: football, tussles, baseball, bikes, basketball, rough plays, soccer, and more rough tussles.
But girls….they can be very sweet one second and, in a bat of an eyelash, they can start screaming like all hell’s breaking loose. And you stand there helpless. You start soul-searching. Am I that bumbling, incompetent parent? Am I too lax? Or am I too strict and rigid. What should I be teaching them? These insecurities and our misconceptions give us more reason to limit our participation in our little girl’s upbringing.
While we, fathers, could never take the place of Mom, we play an entirely different role in our little girls’ lives. Studies have shown that girls whose fathers play an active role in their upbringing have a certain confidence that is lacking in those who do not have an involved father. It is believed that girls who don’t have this type of father in the family are more likely to be constantly looking for male approval. These interesting studies suggest that girls who did not enjoy love and support from their fathers tend to seek out other males to replace this experience they didn’t have with their fathers.
We don’t have to try to learn what to teach our daughters, we just have to be there for them. And that makes all the difference in the world.
But girls are fragile like porcelain…
While it’s easy to presume that our daughters are fragile like a porcelain vase, trust me, she is not. I believe this misconception is what deters most fathers from being close to their daughters. Playtime, is one of the best (if not the best) way of nurturing a close relationship with our children. We could just play enough Chinese checkers or Monopoly with our girls. The more we take them as fragile (could be translated to “weak”), the more they tend to miss out on a lot of things.
Teaching our little girls to be physically active, playfully chasing them around, play catch-even basketball or football-could inculcate in them the spirit of athleticism. Instead of making them focus on how their bodies look, cultivating love for physical activity would make them focus on what their bodies could do.
This love for active physicality is one of the most important gifts we fathers can give our daughters. We all know that boys and girls who are into sports are less prone to destructive vices like alcohol, smoking, and drugs. Girls who are more physically active start young, with their Dads playing with them.
Daughters are God’s gift to Dads
Daughters are not the only ones who benefit from a positive father-daughter relationship. Notice how you tend to calm and mellow down when you are around your baby girl? As for me, nothing is lovelier than my daughter’s smile. Nothing is more wonderful than hearing my little girl say to me, “I love you, Dad.”
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