Be Good To Your Daughters
To be quiet and not wake him, we had to let him finish his meal in peace. We needed to be extra careful around his belongings, and when we asked too many questions, we were sent back to our mother for answers. Our interactions always ended with the word, mother… And so began the quest to figure out who this man was, and why I couldn’t bother him the same way that I bothered my mother.
This was my father’s routine with each one of his four girls. Then he had a boy who was allowed to bother him. My brother was allowed to interrupt his meals. My brother almost never heard the words, “Go and find your mother.”
Growing up I watched him constantly, waiting for the opportune moment to tackle him, to capture his attention with an odd dance or a drawing. Of course, this was only when my mother’s watchful eyes were not looking. As I grew older I resented him, silently angry that he didn’t notice my brilliance. Eventually conversations dwindled to routine requests, “Pass the remote, please.” Occasionally he would still ask, “Where is your mother?” My response? Let’s just say that there was no deliberate socializing. However, even in my pretend silence I yearned to figure out who my father was. The growing distance between us haunted me.
As I became a parent of my own, I began to understand what providing for us girls might have been like. I began to read books and theories, allowed different perspectives into my psyche. I began to see the merit in our relationship, the stability he brought to the family. I consciously decided to expand our conversation whenever we met. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only did my father know of my brilliance, but also kept track of everything in my life. He was proud. He simply came from a generation that didn’t speak about it. It had to be pried out of them.
John Eldredge said it well in his book, “You Have What It Takes.” Every little girl is asking one basic question. Little girls ask, “Am I lovely?” Not, “Am I good enough?” At the end of every princess movie the prince realizes that the princess is lovely. He sings and shouts that he delights in her, that she is the one, and everyone else is in awe. Walt Disney’s storyline for its princess movies are specifically engineered to capture the imagination of little girls. This is not a coincidence; it is a science.
Daughters are trying to capture their father’s attention by asking the question, “Am I lovely?” They look to the most important man in their life to answer it – their father. The answer should always be a resounding YES! It is a woman’s confidence that gets her through life, not her beauty or talents. Fathers have a privilege in laying that foundation.
The truth is that if the question goes unanswered, daughters will keep asking it until she gets an answer. Sometimes God answers that inner question, sometimes our mothers. Some of us are still asking the question and always getting the wrong answer.
Have you ever met a beautiful woman with potential just pouring out of her but she was in an abusive relationship? She has no confidence in herself. Psychologists say 9 out of 10 times they can track it back to her relationship with her father. If fathers don’t answer her question, another man will.
A mother shares everything with her daughter. She teaches her to be a woman, but there is room for more. My daughter looks to me to pick out her dresses and comb her hair. She’s always interested in what I am doing. Every time my daughter dresses up, I sing Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t she lovely” and she blushes and dances. Then, without fail she goes to find her father, seeing if he is also blown away. She knows that I would sing her praises even if she were wrapped in newspaper.
I can always tell her father’s reaction upon her return. It’s plainly written all over her face; she is either completely happy or totally forlorn. Either way, she seeks his validation.
In life, a woman wants to be ever in her father’s thoughts, and cemented in his heart. The fear of abandonment can cause a woman to compromise her beliefs. Fathers must let their daughters know that they will never abandon them. That come what may, a father will always be with them to pick up the pieces because they believe in their daughters. That they believe in their loveliness. Daughters will look for spouses who make them feel better than their father did. If the bar is set at zero, then any man will do.
I pull one line from the book as I close, “Identity, especially gender identity, is bestowed by the father. A boy learns if he is a man, if he has what it takes, and a girl learns if she is worth pursuing, if she is lovely.”
Fathers should enjoy their relationships with their daughters, give them confidence, and daughters will do the rest.