The birth of my first child was such a transforming experience in my life. Due to complications during the birth my wife had to go immediately into surgery, which
meant that I was left alone for three hours with my brand new beautiful little baby daughter.
How to put into words those first three hours of life spent with my beautiful baby daughter? I held her close and simply could not take my eyes off her face. She was perfect! I was totally and utterly in love with this little girl, and could not believe that my heart could love so much. Indeed, it was like a whole other dimension of my own humanity suddenly opened itself up to me. She was so beautiful, so vulnerable and so incredibly precious.
I often reflect upon those first three hours of my being a father holding my little girl. Perhaps it was also the paradoxical feelings of anxiety at the time regarding the unknown of my wife’s situation in surgery, but during those three hours I had a profound and intense sense of my fatherhood role, and the nature of this role in relation to my daughter.
In previous posts, I have talked about the critical importance of the father’s role in leading their sons into manhood. Often less is said about the role of fathers with their daughters, but it is certainly no less important.
My daughter is now 11 years old, about to make her Confirmation at Church, and flat out growing up way too fast! My impulse to protect her in life has not changed one bit from when I first held her. But how do I continue to protect her as she launches out into these years of becoming a young woman?
I think often for us Dads the temptation is to feel that there is not really that much we can do with our daughters during these critical tween and teen years, and that in any case our influence is not that great. Well, the evidence in fact shows that we have a massive impact in the lives of our daughters.
From infancy girls draw conclusions about what men are like from the key men in their lives, and the close involvement of fathers also impacts the quality of their physiological development.
The research also shows that that future romantic relationships to occur in a girl’s life will be influenced by the way she perceives and interacts with her dad. If he rejects and ignores her, she will spend her life trying to replace him in her heart. If he is warm and nurturing, she will look for a lover to equal him. If he thinks she is beautiful, worthy, and feminine, she will be inclined to see herself that way.
So the key challenge for me if I am feeling somewhat helpless to know what to do with my daughter, if I feel somewhat out of place with her particular interests or if I can’t figure out her latest teen mood swing – is to remember that she needs me, probably more than she or I will ever know.
These tween and teen years are not the time for Dad’s to withdraw. For me this means making an extra effort to genuinely listen to my daughter and understanding what is going on her life. I also try to be intentional about giving her regular affirmation about her achievements, about her many talents and how much of a beautiful woman she is becoming.
This is the time to engage and know that even in these simple and ordinary ways, I am actually fighting for my daughter’s future wellbeing and happiness.
Also published in My Family, My Faith