Over the years, on this journey of raising daughters we’ve done a lot of learning. Starting with “everything you thought you knew, you didn’t” and ending with…HA, I’m funny, like learning ever ends! We’ve had best laid plans go straight to hell and have had to learn to adjust to surprises along the way. Many of the things we thought we’d do – we haven’t, the things we thought would work – didn’t and things we thought were ridiculous – worked like magic.
By far, one of the most powerful discoveries we’ve made is that we aren’t actually responsible for the actions of our children. You can’t make them eat their peas (seriously, you can jam those suckers in there but they can spew them out just as fast!), you can give consequences for bad behaviour but you can’t stop it. You can teach them the difference between wrong & right but you can’t make them do the right thing. You can love them completely but you can’t protect them from everything. Trust me, you can try until you feel like you might physically die but you can’t stop all of the hurt, all of the time.
God has given us these precious children with a responsibility to guide, educate, love & encourage them as they are becoming the people He wants them to be. We are shaping their futures with who we are and we need to do it so carefully.
The thing is, I don’t feel like fathers are given the same message. You can buy DADD shirts – “Dads against Daughters Dating”, sideways comments of “oh, she’s not going to date until she’s 30”, or “no daughter of mine’s gonna date” easily slip from their lips and the jokes of dads wielding shotguns are endless.
It’s all done in fun, in that twisted way that guys use to show a female that they love her but it’s destructive. The message that our daughters get is completely the opposite of what they need. These words tell them men are bad, & dating is wrong.
The reality is our girls will one day become women, ones who will want a partner, want children, want someone to spend their lives with and deep down we want them for them. They deserve to be loved, cherished, respected, protected and guided by their mate, but if we don’t tell them that who will?
In a world where female sexuality is being exploited our girls need more love, guidance and support from their fathers than ever. They need to be shown that their worth extends past the size of their clothes, or their willingness to take them off. As they learn from us that being confident and self sufficient is strong, they also need to learn that asking for help, leaning into someone else’s strength doesn’t make them weak.
Dads, right now you are the man in her life. You are her world, the strongest, smartest, funniest man she’s ever known and she adores you. Take this time, while she’s wrapping her self tighter around your finger to wrap yourself even tighter around her heart.
Instead of telling her tales of how your going to pull out your shot gun the first time a boy comes over, tell a different story. Tell her how you can’t wait to meet him, to talk with this boy who’s caught her eye. Remind her that you expect great things from him and she should too, if he’d like the gift of dating your little girl.
Rather than being against her dating, be involved in her selection. As she grows teach her, her value in the world and what it feels like to be special to a man. Open her door, pull out her chair, complement her, laugh with her, dry her tears and encourage her heart. Tell her how you know that the right man for her will respect her, will listen when she’s talking and will look in her eyes when he speaks.
She may have to wait to a certain age to be allowed to date, but remind her that in those years leading up to “dating” she has the opportunity to get to know these boys truly. Invite them into your home, let them be her friends and become theirs. Those boys who are friends may never become her dates but they will become your eyes and her guardians. If they do become her date, you’ll be so glad to have taken those years to get to know the men they’re becoming.
Dads these sweet creatures that you call your little girl need you, in a way so much bigger than kissing “boo-boos” and killing spiders. They need your help to determine their future, and shape their hearts, it’s serious business and I’m begging you to treat it that way.
So, next time your little girl says to you “Daddy, Aaron at school is sooooo cute, I have a HUGE crush on him” bite back the urge to crack a joke, bury that cringe deep inside and hug your girl. Put down that shotgun, stretch out your hand and say, “Oh honey that’s great, I can’t wait to meet him.”