I am not sharing on behalf of my daughter or what I think my daughter wishes she got from her dad, because, for the simple fact, I don’t have a daughter. But I am a daughter myself. Though I have a house full of boys, young little men itching to leave their little boy shell behind, I know what it feels like to be a daughter.
So I share from my heart, my experience of growing up in an imperfect home but loved much.
I am the daughter of a godly, strong, wonderful, determined, broken and sinful man, but aren’t we all broken and sinful. My father grew up in a home with lots of siblings, and parents who didn’t know how to connect with him. Parents who from what I could tell loved their children but didn’t have the slightest idea on positive ways to discipline and encourage their kids. When my dad finally had children of his own, he prayed his way through raising us and as we all do, he stumbled along the way.
Some years ago, I decided that I wasn’t going to let the hard moments of my childhood rob me of my joy filled memories. Because after all, life is filled with bitter sweet moments and we grow from the imperfections. I will guard with all my heart the sweet moments not allowing the bad contaminate the good.
Some of things I mentioned below, my father did wonderfully and it brings tears of joy to recall the memories of his love for me-his nena(what they call me at home). Others I share from my little girl heart that yearned to hear these words of life spoken to me. I have mourned the loss and as a strong believer, I have found grace in the midst of the longing. You know the funny thing is that in the middle of it all, I wholeheartedly believe my father loves me. Not for one moment did his lack of, make me question his love, but it did leave me longing.
Fathers– I know you don’t speak the same love language as we do, but I hope and pray that today you would choose to become more intentional with your baby girls and your not so little girls. No one can replace you in our lives.
Don’t underestimate the power that you have to impact your daughter to become a strong and courageous woman. Those seeds of courage and strength are planted by you, but don’t worry others will come along the way and join in the sowing. However, it’s your (and moms) seeds of love that lay the foundation.
Daughters who know they are loved by you and by God, who believe they are beautiful and smart will stand strong against ill intentioned boys, mean girls, hurtful teachers or employers and sometimes even their spouse. These weeds will try to choke the joy out of them and share a different message than yours, so fight against them by sowing your love, your words of life, your affirmation of them.
As women we are forever changing, so these things will look differently in every stage of life we are in, but let this foundation be the ever-fixed mark of love and truth for them.
Our souls are hungry for love and affirmation (this is not a gender thing–it applies to all of us who are living and breathing but it just looks different for us all), if we don’t get it from you–rest assured we will find it in someone else or something else. I don’t tell you this because I think it might happen, unfortunately, I’ve sat through many counseling sessions with countless girls who were lost, being tossed to and from in the sea of boys, alcohol, eating disorders, drugs, cutting… because they longed for attention, love, affirmation, purpose…
What Daughters Need to Hear from Dad
1. I approve of you. In order, to get a good start on this you must realize even though she may look like a mini you and even enjoy the same things you do–as a female, she is wired differently then you. This will help you accept her and not shame her for what may seem like to you as irrational outburst of emotions.
2. I love you. Say it a thousands times over and over again. Show it to her with your actions and facial expressions. You teach us how to feel safe with love.
3. You are smart. My father always affirmed me in this area. My dad not only told me this but he treated me as if I was smart enough.
4. God loves you. This was one truth that has grounded me in the midst of hard times.
5. You have a purpose in this world that goes beyond your beauty.
6. Kindness does not include gossip. I’ve crossed paths with men who enjoy gossip but for the most part women tend to engage in it more. I grew up in a home where there was zero tolerance for gossip. My mom nor my dad engaged in it but my dad was the one who verbally reminded us that gossip was not kind. I recall him driving me and my friends to places and him interrupting us to make us reflect on the words coming out of our mouth. Don’t chalk this off to being a girl thing, it’s not it’s a mean thing that we shouldn’t engage in.
7. I am listening. For the most part we like to talk and we want to know that you value us enough to listen. That we have to say no matter how silly it may seem to you because it makes no sense why I’m so upset by the little girl I just met at the play ground who told me that she doesn’t like my dress. You may want to respond with, “Baby girl, you don’t even know her why do you care.” But instead listen and hug us.
8. I believe in you. I owe my fearlessness to conquer the world to my parents belief in me. My father believed that I could do the impossible and I believed him. Believe in your baby girls and they will grow up with a deep sense of self and courage.
9. I am there for you (I will protect you). This is something we need to hear but for the most part we need to see it in action. When you are there for your wife, you are showing your girl that you are reliable. When she knows that she can come to you with anything, you are telling her–you are there for her.
10. She needs to hear you respect their mom (even if you’re divorce). I had the joy of getting to spend time with a good, godly family in my college years. I loved spending time around them because they loved, laughed and shared of themselves with me. But one thing that I recall was that the dad would make jokes of the mom and daughter at their expense. They laughed, we all laughed, but it really bothered me. Don’t disrespect your wife or your daughter my making them the brunt of the joke, or calling them names at home or physically hurting them. The cycle of women who tolerate men who verbally, emotionally and physically abuse them starts at home in many cases.
11. You are strong, don’t be afraid to try. Yes, she may shriek at the sight of a rat but show her that she can be strong and fearless at a young age. Depending on your child’s temperament and personality it will look different and that is okay as long as down deep inside she doesn’t feel like she is a weakling because she is a girl. Teach her how to cut the lawn, start a fire, skip rocks, jump mounds of dirt, do stunts with her bike, wrestle with her…
12. You are more than boobs and butt. Girls at a very young age for better or for worse learn the power of influence they have over males. So let’s teach them to use their influence to encourage and challenge young men for good. In essence if you’re already doing the above points your daughter is getting the big picture. I remember sitting in a counseling session with a family whose daughter was coming to see me. The daughter had some academic challenges and functioned at much slower pace than the kids her grade level. Her parents were very aware of this so at a young age they admitted to putting her into pageants and modeling school. They basically told me that they knew she wasn’t going to get very far in life, but she was a pretty girl and at least she could have this. I was astounded to hear these words come out of their mouth. This young girl behaved exactly as what her parents believed–she was not smart but she was pretty.
Dads–as you read these things you may find yourself in the same place my own father did, raised in a dysfunctional family and not very many positive role models of what Godly fathers do, but rest assured that your heavenly Father not only has you in His hands and is guiding you but he will shape and mold your daughter into the women she will become, in light of our shortcomings. So relax and start off by trying to be more intentional with two of the above mentioned things and each week add one new thing.
If your daughter is grown and you feel like an apology is due, please I beg of you, please man up to your short comings and write, call her and tell her how proud of her you are and how sorry you are for not telling her. It’s never to late to mend the loss of our little girl hearts. This may just be what your daughter needs to hear to find healing and move forward even if she didn’t realize it was what she needed.
If you are reading this as a daughter who never received one or all of the above, I sincerely want to put my arms around you and say, “Healing will come! But you must be willing to accept your upbringing, mourn the loss, let it go and forgive.” I can tell you from personal experience this wasn’t easy, in fact, it was impossible and only through the grace of God I’ve been able to experience freedom from the hurt I’ve harbored. The hatred is not worth it, it only robs you of joy and truly living.