I’m the man of the house. Literally the only man. I have two beautiful daughters and an even more beautiful wife, so by my count it’s three of them to every one of me. Heck, we’re even thinking about getting a dog and they want to get a female! And living with three ladies I am learning stuff no man should know, but I think I’m the better for it. So for all the dads out there who are blessed with just daughters, let me give you the executive summary of what I’ve learned so far.
Forget everything you know. You were asked to grab a blue headband, and you got a blue headband … but not the teal one. And yes, you should’ve noticed there was teal around the top of your 5-year-old’s socks, so just apologize and get the teal one.
Moral of the story: There is only so much your children have control over, so if you need to double back and get a teal headband. And do it with a smile because your child is learning to assert herself and you don’t want to stymie her growth in becoming a leader.
Protect them from outside forces. This one seems like a given, but I’m not talking stranger danger. I’m talking about all the media that bombards them on how to look, think and feel about themselves. It’s everywhere. And it’s a problem.
Moral of the story: Your daughter is unique, and she shouldn’t get her validation from TV or YouTube. You need to let her know that that part of society doesn’t define her and it’s OK that she creates her own path. Be her knight in shining armor.
Don’t protect her. That makes little sense with what I just wrote, but you have to let her make her own mistakes. Jumping on a slip-and-slide without any water will only happen once. Or deciding to wear a long-sleeve shirt on a 90-degree day has a way of working itself out without you having to say a word the next time the mercury climbs that high.
Moral of the story: I’m not saying don’t protect her from great bodily harm, but if you’re always on your daughter when she’s making decisions, she’ll never be able to learn how to make those decisions without outside influences. And you’re not always going to be with her, so you never know where she might look for guidance.
Don’t sell her short. My daughters amaze me every day with what they can do. From figuring out math homework to problem solving on the playground, they can handle themselves. Unfortunately there are obstacles that society puts in the way of women succeeding to their full potential (e.g., the wage gap), but younger girls don’t see those hurdles and nor should they.
Moral of the story: We can’t control society, but we can help our daughters realize they can do anything they want, and how they react to those obstacles is as important to their success as overcoming them. I tell my daughters that if someone says they can’t do something, ask that person why. If their answer is “because you’re a girl,” do it and prove them wrong by doing it.
Take my advice with a grain of salt, I’ve only been a Dad for a little over eight years and I suspect that a dad with a longer resume than mine is smiling and shaking his head and calling me a rube. The true moral of the story, at least for me, is to give my daughters the tools they need to blaze their own paths, no matter where it takes them.
– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.