Does fatherhood matter anymore?
Wisdom is justified by her children. What our daughters become tomorrow is very much tied to what we invest in them early on. My wife and I have decided that around 99% of the anxiety we feel in the home is the result of wanting to do something else apart from spending time with our kids. I have three little girls and a boy, all under the age of 10. They’re beautiful kids and I love them very much. But I’m also selfish. It’s a contradiction, I know, but I would often rather spend time sitting here in front of my computer blogging than spend a half an hour playing Leggo with the kids.
This is no minor matter, and I know it. Research over the years has demonstrated that the quality of father-daughter relationships invariably affects the relationships these women may likely have with men throughout their adult lives. The relationship daughters have with their fathers may also affect the ability to handle stress, as well as their self-perception.
Having worked in the mental health field for many years and, in particular, specializing in anorexia nervosa in girls and women, I am all too aware of the commonality between mental health and father-daughter relationships. With that in mind, I have tried to implement time each week where I can invest in my daughter’s lives. I’m not just killing time each Saturday when I meet with my girls. Instead, I want to invest in them a dignity and a confidence that will go with them throughout their lives.
Being a Model of Manhood
I’m aware that it’s a popular pastime to bash masculinity. Nevertheless, I want to provide my girls with the best model of decent manhood in the hope that they will love it, and look for a man who possesses those same qualities or character.
I want my daughters to accept nothing less from a man than complete honesty. So, I am trying to be an honest man.
I want my daughters to accept nothing less than a hard-working man. And so, I am trying to be a hard-working man.
Of course, I realize that my girls may decide not to marry a man at all. But as long as they’re living in this world, they are going to have to navigate and negotiate with men, and I want them to conduct those negotiations and build those relationships with confidence and integrity.
Being a Model of Intimacy
There are justifiable reasons that masculinity has received such a beating over the last few years. There is a kind of masculinity that has been dishing out abuse for way too long. In Australia, where I live, such cases are still being exposed through our own shameful, but necessary Royal Commissions. In a culture where women are often mistreated by men, a suspicion develops wherever we see intimacy between a man and a woman. This is especially true when it comes to the bond between a father and his daughter.
For fear of recriminations, many fathers have begun to distance themselves from their daughters. This poses a dilemma for many fathers. If I am a distant or an indifferent father towards my daughter, then there’s a good chance she will marry a man who is also distant and aloof.
Young girls need intimacy. They need to know what genuine affection looks like. They need to be able to tell the difference between appropriate affection and inappropriate affection. I want to affirm my daughters in their appearance, their ability, and their intellect. A father’s mood can seriously impact his daughter’s own emotional stability and power to make good decisions. I want my daughters to know that their father loves them and I plan to show it with hugs and kisses and affirmations.
My premise is that the more I teach them what healthy intimacy and affection looks like, the more capable they will be in identifying inappropriate and abusive intimacy later on in life.
This is what daddy-daughter day looks like in our house. Whether it’s a swim at the beach, a game of tennis, or working in the veggie garden in our backyard. Every encounter with my daughters is an opportunity to present them with the kind of qualities I want them to be drawn to later in life. Every encounter I have with my daughters is an opportunity to model true masculinity. The kind that will serve and protect and cherish.
My hope is that as they grow up and see these things in me, however imperfectly, they will learn to love them and adopt them as the standards for their own lives. I am hoping they will judge the men they meet by worthy standards that I have tried to set as a father.
But, and this is crucial, such standards will only be embraced as I take the time to be with them and they take the time to treasure them.