After long streams of four-year-old run on sentences, ramblings, stories, and observations, I looked up at my dad and asked, “Daddy, do I talk too much?”
With a smile, my dad said reassuringly, “No sweetie. I like hearing what you have to say.”
* * *
Both of my parents were absolutely wonderful. I was truly blessed with a rich and loving childhood. While both of my parents made a huge impact on who I am today, I want to focus on daddies. While my father was a positive influence on my childhood, not all of my friends had this experience. I’ve sat down with many of my very best lady friends who have shared with me the struggles they faced and still face due to a relationship that could have, should have been beautiful, fruitful, and uplifting. Daddies have the potential to have such a huge impact on their daughters – and they will whether they intend to or not. And, sometimes us daddies don’t realize the impact until it’s too late. Today I want to remind the daddies, from a daughter herself, of what your little girl sees with her eyes, hears with her ears, feels with her skin, and what’s carved into her heart, mind, and soul.
- You teach her how to view her body.
When you’re with your guy friends in the evening sitting in the living room, and your sleepy, tired little girl gets up out of bed scared and slowly creeps into the living room holding her teddy, what does she hear you say with the guys? What does she see you watching? When an overly large lady walks in the store, what do you say under your breath, what are your facial expressions?
Children are perceptive, they remember (and understand and process) more than you know. A little girl will learn about her body from a male’s perspective first from you – in how you treat her and talk to her, but also how you speak about and view other women, including, and most notably, your wife – her mama. I’m not speaking simply about “lust” – but also body image, size, color, shape, skin texture, the whole gamut. Help her learn that her body is her own and is to be respected and valued. Teach her not to be embarrassed or ashamed by her feminine form. Teach her that her body is beautiful in whatever skin color, size, or shape. Teach her how to take care of her body, but not to become obsessive and abuse it. Teach her that she doesn’t need to look like a pin-up to have the affections of a respectable male. Teach her that breastfeeding is beautiful and acceptable – and don’t make rude comments toward a lady who chooses to do so. Yes, have intentional conversations, but SHOW her in your actions, in your speech, and in what you own. Do you tell her mama she’s beautiful even when she’s sweaty and without makeup? Do you keep your eyes on your beautiful daughter’s face as she’s talking to you at the pool when an attractive woman walks by in a bikini behind her? Your actions speak volumes, but so do your words. Lack of words can also speak volumes, and can sometimes unintentionally communicate shame and embarrassment. Talk to your daughter about her body – truly. You should. And show her how a real man treats women.
- You teach her positive touch.
The first male, more than likely, she will receive touch from is you – perhaps the first time you hold her in the hospital after she was born. That first caress is life changing. The hugs she receives from you when you get home from work, the pat on the back when she’s feeling blue, the high five when she catches her first softball all teaches her positive and acceptable, loving touch. She NEEDS this from you.
Unfortunately, some fathers are uncomfortable with touch – until it comes to discipline. The touch your daughter receives from you should not only be when she’s done something wrong – grabbing her to put her in time-out, pulling her abruptly off of her brother in a fight, etc. A daughter needs to learn positive touch from YOU (not her teacher, not a boyfriend, not a brother) – from YOU, least she internalizes that she should only be touched by a male when he’s mad or lusting . . .
- You teach her the value of her mind and aspirations.
Set aside time to intentionally talk to your daughter and take interest in what makes her eyes glow. Pursue her mind. Ask her questions; answer her questions; read her books; get involved with homework; take her to work and let her shadow you. Teach her that her mind is to be cultivated and valued by men – teach her that she is every bit of worthy of becoming a doctor, an engineer, a police officer, etc. And when she takes interest in this, do not laugh, do not tease – believe in her.
The key word here is INTENTIONAL. Looking back on your life, you don’t want to remember all the times your daughter came up to you as a toddler, begging for you to read her a book – but you told her, “Not now, daddy is watching football.” Or then as a middle-schooler she came to you to ask you about life and instead, not putting down your magazine, you nodded and said, “mhm,” “yeah,” “that’s great sweetie.” In the long run, your conversations and engaging her mind will have a huge impact on who she is – and how seriously she expects a man to take her dreams and pursuits. Put down the remote, and pursue her mind.
- You teach her about dating and marriage, how a woman should be pursued.
In this culture, marriage is advertised all around us girls from a young age – from dress up, to Disney movies, to TV shows, religion, everywhere. But, where us girls will experience marriage first hand is watching you with mommy. Your relationship with your wife (or girlfriend) will resound and echo in your daughter’s heart and mind for the rest of her life. Yelling at your wife will cause not only your wife pain, but also your daughter, as bringing home flowers for your spouse will make your daughter’s heart sing as well (until the teenage years when she throws up in her mouth!). She will learn how a husband (or boyfriend) should treat his wife (or girlfriend) first from you – and her years and years of experience watching and learning about marriage will take place first and foremost in your home. Pursuing your wife, and learning to be a team, to love one another, to deal with stress, to talk through your problems will do just as much for your marriage as it will for your daughter’s future – not just her future marriage, but any situation she works closely and as a team with a male.
Show your daughter how she should be pursued whether it’s dating, the first year of marriage, or years into a marriage. Pursue your wife in love, respect, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Assist your wife at home with chores. Value and cultivate your wife’s mind and hobbies too! And if your marriage is bad, don’t give up and don’t give in to petty name calling, yelling, and the cold-shoulder (how childish!!). In fact, honestly, I don’t think you should EVER yell at your spouse in frustration, when they’ve made a mistake, when they’ve forgotten a task, etc. etc. There’s no reason to – there’s NO fruit that comes from it except to cultivate abuse, intimidation, manipulation, and to drive a wedge in your marriage. And no, this isn’t “idealistic” – I’m a product of a few generations of family that yelling at one another is absolutely unacceptable. YES we make mistakes, and this doesn’t come easy for all of us. Seek counsel if you see this trend. Seek counsel from a male role model who is a good example and will hold you accountable and offer constructive criticism, speaking into your life. Put your spouse first. Put your family first. Cultivate the relationship you said “I do” to “for better or for worse” and the little girl who grew from this relationship will be cultivated in love too.
If divorced, realize that your x-wife is still her momma, someone she still loves. Calling her mama (who she sees as half of herself) a “whore” or “worthless” or “ugly” or any other name will directly affect her own value and insecurities – to hear the man she loves call the woman she loves such ugly names. Yes, your x-wife could be wrong, and could have done awful things, but speak to your daughter like an adult. Explain to her what went wrong and why it hurt you, sure. But, be mature. Be the adult, not the child.
Lastly, teach your little girl that marriage does not have to be the ultimate goal for her life. Teach her how to be a strong, independent woman. Teach her that mommy was already complete and valuable without you, but that you chose to be together, to be a team, and to pursue each other out of love. Instead of joking about a third grade crush, talk about the science project. Instead of only buying her kitchen sets and Barbie and Ken, buy her a toy chemistry set as well! Marriage is beautiful and valuable, don’t get me wrong . . . but teach her to be secure with or without a man.
- You teach her about your faith.
Let me get a little ugly on this one before being encouraging: Here’s where actions definitely speak louder than words. What does your lifestyle say about your priorities and your values? If you claim to be a Christian, going to church every Sunday without fail, and then proceed Monday through Saturday to treat your wife poorly, to ignore your daughter, to yell at your coworkers, to hide porn magazines under your bed, there is one thing she will learn for sure, she wants NOTHING to do with your so called ‘god’ if that’s the type of man a Christian is (which I would argue you probably aren’t a Christian at all . . . [neither are you a car if you stand in a garage and claim to be one] but let’s continue.).
This is a resounding story I’ve unfortunately heard from both men and women in my life – watching their father attend church, put on a suit and a face, then do nothing to practice what he preaches at home. If you’re a man pursing the Lord, it’s a lifestyle, not a fancy church date. Does your daughter see you in the Word (and are you learning from it)? Does she see you serve your wife selflessly (and do you desire to do so)? Does she see sound leadership in your family from you? Does she see you show kindness and respect to strangers? Do you have a prayer life? Do you pray over your family? Do you pray with your daughter? Do you teach her your values in word and deed? Do you support and respect your wife and other women? Do you have other men in your life that know you intimately and hold you accountable in your daily walk? Do you understand your faith and believe in its principles and values NOT to gain some earthly reward or title but to gain Christ? And if not, and you desire to be here in your life, ask God, who is the provider of all things, to help you and humble you (Matthew 7:7-11). Realize you can’t simply “fix” yourself – humble yourself before the Lord and be faithful to prayer and reading the Word, and your heart and mind will begin to change (Ezekiel 36:26-27, Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 1:17-21, others). Pursue Christian community, not just on Sunday, but throughout the week – invite people into your home and your life, holding you accountable and being mutually encouraging (Hebrews 10:24-25, Galatians 6:2, Proverbs 27:17, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Psalm 133:1, Romans 12:4-5, etc.). Be encouraged that you are NEVER too far for the Lord to change. The most loving, healing, faithful Father will give you strength to be a father when you place your life in His.
There is so much more I could say here, but unfortunately not many of us have the leisure of sitting down and reading a blog post for 45 minutes – so I’ll leave you with the gist of the matter. If you would have given me that kind of time, thanks, you’re really sweet. 🙂
Last, NONE of us are perfect. And no dad is super-dad. As dads, you will overreact. You will be too harsh. You will be too tired. You will be too trusting – or not trusting enough. You will be too stubborn. You’ll get bored playing princess or tea party, but more than often, if you are pursuing her, and you keep the above in mind, she will remember the good, she will have grown for the better, and she will look back and smile and look forward with joy and hope. She may be a moody teenager and want nothing to do with you in high school, but she’ll come back to call you her best friend when she’s in college. Don’t lose heart, dad. You got this. And you have the sweetest little lady to cherish.