I recently read, in the headlines, about a new study showing that fathers who do more domestic chores have daughters who aspire to nicer careers (click here for article).
I had also read about the importance, for dads, to remain present for their daughters (as opposed to becoming distant) at puberty and after. Some dads might feel uncomfortable during those stages, but girls still need daddy at that point, and maybe even more than before!
This echoes what Dr. Phil (yes, him!) said about the best way to prevent promiscuity and/or pregnancy in teenage girls: a present and attentive father at home, because this ensures that girls will not seek male attention at any cost outside the home.
(Whether you like Dr. Phil or not, I think he had a point there. He was also the one to encourage men to redefine their notion of success outside the boundaries of work - being a great life partner and father is as important to success as having a great career. I can only agree.)
But I don't need any studies or experts to tell me how important a father is in a girl's life. My own experience speaks louder than it all.
You see, I was blessed with a very special father-daughter relationship.
Mind you, my father was not perfect. Nobody is. But that itself taught me something. It taught me that we all have our own baggage to deal with, and that it permeates everything we do, including parenting. That we all give what we have, but that we cannot give what we don't have. That no matter what that baggage is, there is a way to handle it and move forward.
Dad, you made a difference in the woman I became in so many ways:
- By sharing your love of the outdoors and of "roughing it"; thanks to that I am not afraid to get dirty; I can put up a tent, start a fire, use a compass, and generally speaking enjoy a "low-maintenance" kind of life.
- By sharing your love of water in general, and of swimming and lifeguarding in particular; thanks to that I had the best student and summer job ever!
- By sharing your love of physical activity, and by taking me on father-daughter dates such as afternoons of hiking, downhill skiing, or simply a game of tennis; thanks to that I am still active to this day.
- By sharing your love of the intellectual pursuit, more specifically the importance of 1) science, 2) critical thinking, 3) accurate and precise vocabulary; thanks to that I have an insatiable hunger for knowledge.
- By sharing your love of the spiritual pursuit through yoga, meditation and spiritual readings; thanks to that I see further and deeper than the visible and the tangible.
- By being enthusiastic, funny and witty; thanks to that I know that humor is a great antidote to tension and worry.
- By telling me I was smart, mature, strong, capable, and beautiful, and that you were proud of me... over and over and over again; thanks to that I am confident in my own value and abilities.
- By being so open about discussing feelings and opinions; thanks to that I have become emotionally fluent, and not afraid to share my thoughts.
- By being strong enough to say "I'm sorry" when you had been impatient and shown your annoyance at my own imperfections; thanks to that I expect respect and openness in all relationships.
- By teaching me how to treat others with dignity and kindness, especially the boys who had a crush on me when that crush wasn't returned; you taught me that males can be vulnerable and that it's not okay to take advantage of that vulnerability; thanks to that I - hopefully - treat others better.
- By not judging my - sometimes poor - choices in boyfriends, but then being the first to comfort me when those relationships ended; thanks to that I "might" be able to shut my mouth when my own daughters introduce me to their first love!
- By showing your love and affection and support to mom daily, which set the standard I would be looking for in my life partner later. (I have been with him 16 years now and he hasn't failed my - high -expectations! He's also, guess what... a great father to our two daughters!)
Dad, the only thing you really did wrong was to leave my life way too soon. But you still managed to teach me something through it:
- That I better enjoy the presence of my other parent while she's still here (hey mom!)
- That people are never really gone, even when they are not in this world anymore.
Dad, I don't know if you can hear me, but I definitely still talk to you, and sometimes, well, it really feels like you are still talking to me too.