I vividly remember standing on the top of the stairs in our house, my mom on the landing, when she told me the most painful words I’ve ever heard spoken by my father. “He said he’s just going to give up,” my Mom told me. “He doesn’t know what else to do.”
I was rotten to my father during my teenage years, but It took awhile for me to figure out why. We were both naturally inclined toward the same activities, but he was better than me at all of them and he wanted to teach or coach me so that I could get better. But all I felt was pressure and I just wanted him to be my dad and revel in how wonderful I was. My Dad came to all of my activities, often even practices, and I just pushed him further away. The poor guy was trying everything he knew to do, but it wasn’t working. He had the best of intentions and was only trying to help, but it didn’t work. I’m certain he had no idea what the problem was.
My Dad was quiet and not a big communicator, so we never really talked anything out. Instead, I just acted out in disrespect toward him. Whether he did temporarily give up on having a positive relationship with me or just thought about it in a moment of defeat, I’ll never be sure. But, when I heard those painful words, my thoughts were defensive—although never spoken aloud. “That’s fine with me,” I thought. “ I only really need a father so he can walk me down the aisle, anyway.” Man, was I ever wrong about that! The truth is, I wanted to believe that I didn’t really need a father because I didn’t want to go through the process of healing the relationship. I wanted him to initiate the healing. He didn’t know how.
I have since learned that fathers shape their daughter’s lives in many powerful ways. Fathers should never discount their influence, even when their daughters pushes them away and make them feel as unimportant as a scab. Daughters need fathers.
If you are a father, remember that she wants you to prove you care and will stop at nothing to pursue her. You also shape the foundation for her relationships with men. If you show her she’s worth pursuit, she’ll believe it, and she’ll hold the guys in her life to higher standards (which makes your life easier, too)! Don’t believe me? Read the book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker. It contains some startling statistics.
Fathers, be careful what you say. First of all, your daughters are listening. We desperately seek our father’s approval and will read into everything you say, searching for support or rejection. Young women need to know that they are loved unconditionally. Even if you say something beyond the earshot of your kids, chances are your comments will return to them in some form. At some point someone is going to say something within their earshot…”I heard Paul say she’s really stubborn,” “Sounds like there’s a little too much estrogen here for Tom,” ”You finally got your boy!” I can’t stand it when fathers hint or blatantly state that they want boys. Do you have any idea how hurtful that is to your daughters? I never questioned my father wanting me, but if I thought for a second he had hoped for a boy, I would be devastated. Even adding a comment like, “I love my girls, but…” onto the statement doesn’t make it okay. Never, ever say anything that could indicate you possibly wish your daughters were boys. We are far too sensitive and need to know that our fathers want us.
I love my father, and I know he loves me. We hashed things out in a really awkward conversation, mediated by my mother, which started to turn things around toward the end of my teen years. Years later, the most healing words ever spoken by my father were again relayed through my mother. “She’s just got it all, hasn’t she,” my Dad boasted to my Mom. I still remember how special I felt when my Mom told me what he had said about me. My father thinks I’m great! He thinks I’m smart, beautiful, athletic, musically inclined, a good person, and that I have a great personality. Who would have thought? He never told me that.