God is not without a sense of humor – or he has a firm grasp of irony. For the early part of my adult life I had no desire for children. Not because I was egotistical and wished to remain the center of my world; the thought of parental responsibility scared me senseless. I had convinced myself all children grow up to be degenerates where boys skip school and get into fights while girls sneak hoochie clothes in their book bags and slip out of the house after everyone has gone to sleep. I just knew if I were to become a father I would spend the better portion of my remaining years bailing a son out of jail and babysitting a daughter’s love child.
It should be noted that most who meet me say I’m very optimistic.
While being responsible for children terrified me in general, the thought of having a girl forced me to reconsider the mythical Spartan ritual of child selection. I looked at it like this, I could always resort to beating the crap out of a boy to put him on the straight-and-narrow or send him off to some militaristic boot camp if necessary, but what options do fathers have with girls? As far as I was concerned it would have been a perfectly wonderful life if no female were ever produced from my loins – until I had one.
My first child, not planned, was none other than a beautiful long lashed angel. From the moment I laid eyes on her chalky whiteness I was absolutely in love – and my life would never be the same again. Today there are only two females with whom I have difficulty telling ‘NO’. If my daughter grasped for a moment the tightness with which I am wrapped around her decade old finger she could already have a car.
After her birth I never again questioned why my father was so generous to my sister. Case in point, my first car was a piece of shit ’78 Datsun B210GX with rusted floorboards and no A/C that he picked up for $600. My sister, on the other hand, landed an almost brand new Dodge Shadow with air conditioning and power windows. Apparently her safety and comfort plus the car’s reliability were of more importance.
I’m convinced when a man has a daughter his outlook on life should change entirely. I once had a fondness for The Swimsuit Issue and the occasional Playboy – now I go ballistic at seeing a Cosmopolitan or Vanity Fair cover in the grocery isle that shows more of the model’s skin than a nun’s habit. I’ve also become hypersensitive to what she watches; especially shows which center too much on appearance, beauty, or exhibit the occasional ‘boyfriend’ dynamic. The Bratz are Satan’s spawn.
As her father I feel this overwhelming sense of dread as my sole responsibility to be the counter-balance to a culture that will do it’s best to tell her value and worth begins and ends with her looks. Shopping malls across America are filled with untold numbers of tween and teen girls who have already drank that Kool-Aid and my anxiety hits new levels when I consider what she has waiting for her outside the purity of her elementary school hallways.
I’ve met and dated enough women to form this conclusion. The small minority I’ve known who grew up having strong, healthy, and honorable bonds with their fathers all seem to possess a higher self worth and place their value on something contrary to the vast majority of women. Just to be clear I’m not talking about ‘daddy’s girls’. I know plenty of these types who still demand a pedestal even though daddy’s been dead for 20 years – they’re lost and spoiled. Instead I’m talking about the one whose daddy not only told her she was his princess he instilled in her how value and self worth ultimately come from something more than her reflection in a mirror.
Through his complete acceptance and guidance she was given the confidence and wisdom to successfully avoid the traps and pitfalls boys – and later men – would attempt to snare her in. From him she realized she didn’t need to seek validation from strangers in unhealthy ways because her value was in something more than mere aesthetics. He accomplished this by continually reminding her, through his deliberate words and deeds, that she simply needed to
“look right here”
Meaning anytime she was tempted to take destructive paths to gain temporary approval and ultimately experience unnecessary heartache she should keep her eyes looking square into the one man’s who would always honor and respect her for who she is. By looking to him she learned how boys and men ought to treat her and she has the confidence and self-respect to demand nothing less from them. And in so doing she possesses the strength to take a step back from the edge of disaster while everything and everyone says otherwise.
Being that type of father is an admirable albeit intimidating responsibility, the result of which can be far-reaching. I believe, for me, it’s a journey that will go far beyond the occasional daddy/daughter dance or ubiquitous ‘date night’. It will require an intentionality on my part that will often be uncomfortable. Because one thing is for certain, the opportunities for her to take detours will be many and the consequences from heading down the wrong path potentially life shattering. I believe every little girl must know she’s worthy in the eyes of a man, especially her father, and that the man values her unconditionally; and I’m convinced if the girl goes long enough without either she’ll find what she’s looking for in – or from – someone else.