I’m writing this from the Starbucks near my daughter’s dance class where I wait for her to finish practice. Having dedicated a post on sons, it’s only fair that I chat a bit about the only gender I know personally from rearing–girls.
I recently read the great article published by Dr. Carol Langlois entitled, “Fathers, Daughter, and Learning Self-Esteem” (http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/01/05/fathers-daughters-learning-self-esteem). She writes that daughters look to fathers for validation in forming their self-images and states that “if not dealt with, these issues will consistently resurface well into adulthood. We will continually play out our role from childhood if we don’t see and correct the negative patterns. Dads, encourage your daughters at a young age to try new things, cheer them on, allow them to make mistakes. Offer advice when asked, look her in the eyes when talking to her, be patient when teaching new things and lend a supportive shoulder for her to cry on.”
When my daughter was born, I made a decision to keep a photo album of pictures of the two of us, one taken each year as she (we?) grew. Some years are missing, and I now want to fill them in from my wife’s photo collection. Those were years I simply forgot about the photo album. I lost sight of the goal while getting caught up in the day to day.
As a father I am ashamed at all the times that I haven’t provided the validation for my daughter of which Dr. Langlois speaks. Personally, I think my daughter is amazing. She’s talented, smart, and dedicated to what she believes. She cares about the underdog, and is anxious to use her creativity. I don’t show her my admiration and pride nearly enough. She is beautiful inside and out. How often my own mental health and busyness have gotten in the way.
The difficult thing from a father’s point of view is that our current generation focuses less on cultivating a child’s character, and more on making a child a “little buddy” for our deprived inner child. When we don’t personally identify with the more feminine aspects of girl-dom, fathers disengage. To say that the relationship that our daughters have with us affects every relationship she will have with every male in her life after us, and even God, is not an overstatement.
Our goal should not be to recreate her in our image, but to reaffirm the person she is becoming. Unlike the relationships with our wives, who compliment us, the relationship with our daughters is one of grounding. Before she even realizes that her foundation should be in God, we serve as her footing as she takes risks. We’re to be the stability. If we’re to be the first of God that she sees, we have to be nonjudging, compassionate, firm, but fair. If our relationships with our wives are to be based on Christ’s love for the church, the relationships to our daughters needs to be based on God the father’s love for his children. Too often our day-to-day gets in the way.
I’m glad God doesn’t get too busy with his work to edify me. He never forgets.