It’s a good six months until Father’s Day, but I thought it was time to highlight a somewhat low-lighted family relationship – fathers and daughters. Dads do some pretty important stuff for their girls when they become consistently involved. Moms are obviously very influential, but dads do some things that moms just can’t. Let’s see what those are.
Dads give their daughters their standard for male behavior. Whatever male teachers, grandpas, male classmates or other males she may meet in her early life, she will compare them to dad. A girl will form all kinds of non-sexual relationships with boys and men as she matures, and she will compare them to her dad. She will also have sexual ideas and romantic drama with boys and eventually men, and she will compare these to her dad. Even if she isn’t conscious of it, the primary father figure in her life will become her measuring stick for all other men.
It’s well known that girls without a solid father figure relationship usually get involved with sexuality at an early age. A dad can be physically in the house, but if he’s keeping a distance or otherwise distracted (addiction, mental illness, etc), she can still feel lost. An involved father is the best antidote to this problem.
Sometimes when my husband comes home from work, he will do a little rough housing with the girls. They get strung upside down by their ankles, tossed over his shoulder, tickled mercilessly, and get bumped and tossed around. And they absolutely love it. Constant giggling, squealing, pleas for help (and for mercy), and they can’t get enough.
Despite the fact that they think Daddy is like a human jungle gym for these moments, I can see another side benefit to this. During all this rough play where Daddy is clearly bigger, stronger, and more powerful, he also expects them to fight back a little. He encourages them to stand up for themselves while they are under tickle assault, or to hang on tight when they are getting spun around. He brings a little rumble-and-tussle to the girls, and then he shows them how to stay strong in spite of it.
I think this is like magic that only dads can really pull off. First of all, I’m not even strong or big enough to try half the stuff he does. And, I’m a little too much like them to create the necessary David and benevolent-Goliath dynamic. They get a charge, get out of breath, and get a little stronger (mentally and physically) all at once.
Girls go through a dizzying amount of physical and mental changes during puberty. Things get dramatic, embarrassing, somewhat weird, and (gulp) sexual. Girls with hormones don’t always handle all this too well, and I can say this from experience! They can get clingy, emotionally cold, angry, and sad all in the span of one day. Imagine what all that can do to a relationship with a parent. How about a relationship with Dad, who isn’t a girl and feels like he’s now dealing with a total stranger from another planet. And you’ve become the dumbest person she knows (eye rolling).
Dads who are persistent and patient with their daughters through this weirdness do something very important. These dads affirm that they love and care for their daughters no matter how pretty they look, how pretty they feel, how much their emotions have flipped back and forth, or how popular they are. These represents everything they really need in a loving male person. Daughters can count on their dads to really be there and lift them up when they need it. No hormonal teen boy can compete with that kind of devotion.
Dads, don’t give up out there. Do whatever you can to get a little closer to your daughters and stay close. Even if you don’t think you are getting much feedback, just be there. You may not even understand the impact you are having until they are older, maybe a young woman trying to deal with bumps of young adulthood. If you have been Mr Reliable (and patient), you may become the wisest person she’s ever met.
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Last reviewed: 8 Jan 2010