I've been asked to share this many times since Father's Day so finally here it is. Hope everyone enjoys! - David
In light of it being near Father's Day, I wanted to share something about the importance of being a Dad to our children. More specifically, since I just published my first book, Notes To My Daughter, I wanted to write something about the importance of a relationship between a father and his daughter.
Any man can be a father; however it takes a special man to be a Dad. It generally takes minimal effort to lay down with a woman and create a child, but being there to ensure our child's development, despite what we as men may or may not think about the mother; that takes effort and emotional maturity.
As a dear friend shared with me, a dad is the first man a woman learns to love. And as a dad, shouldn't we think it's kind of important to at least try to show our daughters what loving a man should look like? I feel it is so important to start our little girls off on the right path, with the right concept and right ideas about what type of man they should want and what type of man is good for them. As a father, we get the first crack to ingrain a lasting good impression or lasting negative one.
Sure, it may seem like a daunting task to many; a task filled with lots of pitfalls and different ways to stumble. It may seem frightening, especially for fathers who didn't have good, solid role models themselves. I get that. But I don't get not trying. If we as dads close our own eyes and think of the worst experiences we had with our own fathers and consciously decide we don't want to treat our kids the same way, no matter what, that's the first step in the right direction.
Oh sure, we may not know another way, but we owe it to ourselves and our little girls to at least try. What we do know, the majority of the time, is what the wrong way was, based on our own feelings about certain things and situations that happened to us. So, we need to "try something different for a change" as my friend Dr. Peggy Norwood would say.
Many of today's men simply either never or rarely try to have a strong relationship with their daughters or we often lack the consistency needed to make the lessons and wisdom we try to share with them stick. Years ago, I heard Al Sharpton speaking to inmates at the Rahway State Penitentiary in New Jersey. One of the things he said was that we need to quit hooking up with women, getting them pregnant, and then walking away like we just had a bowel movement. Disgusting? Completely. But it clearly articulates the attitudes some of us have because if it didn't, there would not be so many children without daddies.
Even Tupac asked in one of his songs if we don't "hate our women." And therein lies the problem for many of us; we get our children mixed up with the mother's of our children. We need to keep those two things very separate.
It is extremely difficult to teach our daughters how to love, and actually get her to listen and buy into what we are saying, when she sees us act so hatefully and disrespectfully to their own mothers. Children don't know how to separate that until they get much older.
In terms of how to deal with some of our children's mothers, well that's an entirely different article....or maybe even two, but that relationship doesn't always have to interfere with the relationship we have with our children and more specifically for this article, our daughters. And surely if we truly don't want our daughters to grow up to become or act like some of their mothers, it makes it even more important for us to stick around and do the work.
Our daughters need to be made to feel secure, important and loved. We can help give that to them by providing as much stability as we possibly can. We can help do that by being comfortable enough with our own manhood to show our feminine side at times. That's right, I said it, our feminine side!
It is very appropriate to let our children see us cry at appropriate times. Not only that, it's healthy. It is very appropriate for us to talk with our daughters about their menstrual cycles, sex, bodily cleanliness and all of the other uncomfortable subjects we, as men, hate to talk about. My daughter started her period when she was with me.
Obviously this wasn't exactly the ideal situation for me to be in. But as I watched my daughter break into tears, I realized she was probably even more scared than I was. Cursing her mother, losing my temper, yelling at her, etc..., none of that would have been a good thing. Further, it would not have made her period go away. So I chose to stay calm.
Oh sure, I had to call my sister-in-law and ask her what type of pads to buy.....and unfortunately......once back home, I had to call her back to ask her how to put the things on because, to me, the instructions on the box just didn't quite cut it and my daughter couldn’t figure them out either. But the main thing is, I was there for my daughter when she needed me and that is something she will remember for the rest of her life.
If we don't have those uncomfortable conversations and moments with our children, then who will? And what will they say? As a man, I truly don't know all the ends and outs about the menstrual cycle. Perhaps I should read up on it, but I haven't. However, that didn't stop me from at least starting the conversations with my daughter and then asking my girlfriend to step in and be the great closer.
The same goes for conversations about sex, cleanliness, hair style, clothing and many other things. Our daughters know we may not know everything, but they will know we were there. They will know that we were supporting and caring enough to try. And that is something that those of us who are real dads will know and those who aren't, never will. This is what counts in life. This is what counts to our daughters. So please, let's be real men. Let's be dads and not just fathers.
The Higher, The Fewer,
The Relationship Between a Father and Daughter:
Father's Day 2013