contact Michelle

For more information about any resources I have to offer, please contact me here!  I'd love to hear from you!


Portland, OR
USA

I exist to help dads learn to communicate and engage with their young adult daughters.  I provide resources from my vast amounts of research and experience with dads and daughters, and this is the place where you'll find the tools you need to become the hero you've always wanted to be.

HDBH_MW1.png

Blog

From Parenting to Partnering: How to Be A Father to Your Adult Daughter (Guest Blog by Hannah Ellenwood)

Michelle Watson

HannahBLog.png

I am excited at the opportunity to share about my experience of navigating adulthood with my dad. More specifically, I’ll be opening up about how he’s helped me so that any dads in that same season with your own daughters can hear it straight from me---a 26-year old daughter, who has learned (and am still learning) to live as a healthy, independent woman.
 
The transition from 'teen' to 'adult' was a thrilling and scary time beyond what I had ever anticipated. And the reality is that we daughters NEED you---our dads---in that transition more than ever.
 
I’ll never forget the day I packed up and moved across the ocean for college. Because I grew up as a missionary kid in the Czech Republic, my parents had taken me to the airport to see me off, but they couldn’t come with me. I was thrilled and absolutely terrified at the same time. My mom was in tears while my dad just laughed, smiled and said: “I honestly couldn’t be more excited for you to go!” 
 
I remember feeling a little offended at first – I wanted him to be sad I was leaving. But then he continued:

IMG_0643.JPG

"I’ve spent the past 19 years investing in you and praying for the woman you would become and now I get to watch you live out who you are. I have full confidence in you and full confidence in God, who is in you. And I am SO PROUD to be your dad."

He wasn’t celebrating the fact that he was getting rid of me. He was celebrating meand this new season that he was releasing me into---independence as an adult woman. And though he was sending me off, I always knew he would be available to me when I needed a place to land.

And this is why I want to give you some practical pointers today.

Let’s be real. As exciting as it is to release your daughter into becoming an independent woman, it’s also a bit awkward and can feel clunky to navigate. The reality is, though, that she still needs you and this may be the first time in her life that she realizes just how much.

It’s key for you to partner with her as she navigates this new world of adulthood.
 
Here are some of the significant ways my dad has done that with me over the past seven years. I hope they spur you on to think of practical ideas for how you can partner with your daughter in this season of her life:
 
1. Pursue her– I know it can be tricky to figure out the balance of being involved as a dad with not being too involved. I’ve talked to several friends whose dads have seemed to just go silent once they left the house. They all say they wish he would reach out more and pursue them with more intentionality. I love when my dad connects with me on FaceTime for no other reason than to catch up. It makes me feel so valued – and it tells me he enjoys our conversations and sharing life with me. He’ll ask me about my week and catch me up on his. It speaks volumes to me that on his drive to or from the office, or while he’s relaxing at home, he’ll pick up the phone and call. I love that he thinks of me!

2. Learn the stranger– Just because she’s out of your house doesn’t mean you should stop learning your daughter and the person she’s becoming. I can tell you one thing for sure – nothing about our twenties is clear. We are more confused about who we are now than we’ve ever been. I’ve changed directions for what seems like a hundred times. I’ve come face-to-face with my ugly sin. I’ve found new things that make me come alive. I’ve discovered more of who I was created to be, but I’ve struggled with it just as much. So, dads, keep leaning in and learning the stranger-- and by that I mean ask good questions. Listen with compassion. Give her space to change and grow, but be a student of her as she does. I have really appreciated the questions my dad asks me as I figure life out. They are asked in the context of who I am and who I’ve been, and they help me thoughtfully consider who I am becoming. And I know that he’s learning right along with me.

15317759_10157845403395321_7388458103916756147_n.jpg

3. Know your daughter– As you learn who she is, show her that you know her and relate to her from the things you’ve learned. It is so easy to continue relating to your daughter as the little girl you raised. And while she still is your little girl, she’s also becoming a woman, influenced by her new community, her work, and the city she lives in. She’s her own woman. It goes a long way when you allow her to be the woman she is becoming; when you’ve taken the time to learn who she is today and choose to relate to her from that point.  She may start caring about social issues she didn’t used to care about or get involved in activities that she's just now discovering she likes. She may approach relationships differently and need you to help her navigate all the change.

4. Celebrate who she is– As she is changing and becoming the woman she was created to be, find ways to celebrate what you’ve learned about her. Send her a text telling her what you are proud of. Take her out to dinner when she accomplishes a goal. I remember one day my dad sent me a text out of the blue telling me something he had observed in me over the past couple of months and simply said he was so proud to be my dad. He doesn’t do it all the time, but when he does, it has the power to transform my whole week. I see myself differently when I get to see myself through his eyes. 

5. Be there to catch her and hold her when she fails– She will make mistakes. I’ve made so many. In fact, just a few weeks ago I realized I owed three times more than what I thought I would with taxes. It was my first time filing under self-employment – I didn’t know what I was doing. The news shook me. I immediately texted my dad because I needed him to "save the day". He was boarding a five-hour flight. But he knew that I had the potential to worry myself into a pit that would be hard to get out of, so he bought wifi on the plane just so he could keep talking things through with me and speaking truth to me. That small act of love made me feel deeply loved and cared for because I know he never gets wifi on the plane. It truly meant the world to me. Your daughter will probably make mistakes like this too. And she will need you to be there to catch her, love her, encourage her while speaking truth to her when she feels lost, lonely and confused. You have incredible power to remind her what is true and who she is. 

Dads, we - your adult daughters - still need you. 
We make mistakes and have a lot we're trying to figure out and it can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. We are going to trip and fall on our faces, and we need you to be there to love us when we do. 
 
And it’s okay if it feels clunky trying to figure this out. It feels clunky to us too. But the fact that you’re pursuing us with intentionality says everything.
 
And the rhythms you set for engaging us now set the tone for our relationship as adults - and now is the best time to start practicing. 

"I Want More of My Dad"

Michelle Watson

I’m at the age where attending funerals is becoming more commonplace. And truly, there’s nothing like an end of life celebration to bring everything into perspective.

Awhile back I attended a funeral for a dear friend’s husband. There was hardly a dry eye in the place as one of their sons shared story after story about what his dad had meant to him.

While choking back tears, he invited us all to dig a bit deeper as he said, “I think everyone in here could say, ‘I want more of my dad.’”

Read More

Dads, Don't "Should" On Your Daughter

Michelle Watson

Dads, don'tshouldon your daughters (1).png

By now, Dads, you know that I love giving you “insider trade secrets” so that you are more equipped to decode your daughters. Today I’m adding another tool to your fathering tool belt to support that goal.

I don’t know what it is about the word “should” that makes it a power word on my planet of Venus, but I’m telling you that I literally hear this word all the time!

Here are some examples of things I’ve heard from women just this week (for real!):

  • I should love this time of year, but I just don’t.
  • I probably should have dealt better with that situation and not let her get to me.  
  • I don’t know what’s wrong with me…I should be grateful for all the good things happening in my life, but I’m just so depressed.
  • All of my friends are doing things right---like saving money, moving towards marriage, buying a house, getting pregnant, and on it goes. When I see all that’s going right for them, it makes me think of what I’m not doing and all the things I should have been doing long before now. I’m way behind where I want to be and won’t ever catch up.
  • I know I should care about the people in my life, but I hate all the drama and I’m sick of caring this much because it takes me down.
  • I guess you get stuck on a path in life of where you think you should be.
  • When I get around my friends, I constantly compare myself to them and think that I should be more like them. But the truth is that I feel like a fraud. I don’t fit in because they’re all prettier, richer, and more accomplished than me.
  • I should be getting up earlier and spending more time with God, but I never get that right either.
  • I am so stressed right now and feel so much pressure constantly to make everyone happy----at work, at home, with my friends, etc, and it seems that someone is always disappointed in me or mad at me. I know I should be doing more, but I can barely keep my head above water as it Is and hardly have any time for myself.

Dads, let me ask you a question: Does your heart break like mine as you hear these collective voices of self-condemnation that are doused with a thick dose of unrealistic expectations, smothered by the constant pressure to measure up?

For me, as I worked my way down this list, I noticed a mounting heaviness, even some sadness, as each self-deprecating sentence unfolded. Every one of these women feels like she’s not doing enough or being enough while seeing herself as falling short when she compares herself to those around her. It all amounts to: SHE’s not enough.

In fact, it’s this comparison game that is destroying her self confidence, her happiness, her inner peace, her joy, her optimism, her perspective, her energy…and on it goes.

I’m guessing you’ve heard similar messages from your daughters.

Let me share with you how I typically respond to these kinds of statements when I am sitting in my counseling office or meeting with women I mentor. Here’s what I say time and again:

“Don’t ‘should’ on yourself.”

 As you can imagine, initially there’s an awkward laugh…and that’s part of my strategy for lightening the atmosphere in the room, even if just for a minute. When a woman starts down the dreaded “should” path, my desire is to guide her to see what it’s doing to her. And I’ve discovered that most women don’t even know they’ve said these words until I’ve pointed them out! 

Now here’s the best part: I notice that a positive shift begins to happen when a woman clearly sees the amount of undue pressure she’s putting on herself.

There’s an even greater shift when she admits that she’s caught in a destructive cycle where she can never succeed, never relax, never enjoy life, and never get out from under the tyranny of her own self-degrading messages. Then I love seeing her breathe a sigh of relief as the truth starts setting her free.

19224981_10158824619020321_1249091382444473561_n.jpg

Now that you’re more informed about the mental struggles that tend to barrage us as Venusians, I want to point out that even though you as her dad don’t intend to add more pressure when addressing things that need changing---whether it’s that she didn’t respond right or do what she was supposed to do or didn’t answer right away you when you asked her a question…or…fill in the blank---the reality is that your daughter is often weighed down by your “should” messages.

 

What she hears is that she’s a failure and a disappointment to you. And since she already believes that about herself much of the time anyway, it’s oftentimes more than she can bear.

And yes, her attitudes and behaviors are things that need correcting and shaping at various times and in certain situations…BUT REMEMBER:

  1. It’s all about timing. Wait until you…and she…are in a good emotional space where you are able to convey your message well, which increases the chances that it will be received positively by her. Otherwise, it’s a recipe for disaster.
  2. It’s all about noticing. Before speaking, take the time to listen and find out if there’s something deeper going on that may be causing her to be sour or unpleasant. If she’s already had a bad day, decide that now isn’t the time to “should” on her. Come back and talk to her later if you want to reach her heart. And you’ll see that it’s always a win when you speak to her heart – the deeper part – before speaking to her behavior or attitude.
  3. It’s all about validating. Make it your goal to hear her side of the story while seeking to understand why things went down the way they did. Wait to give feedback until she’s open, and with this slight course correction in WHEN you respond, HOW you respond, and WHAT you say when you respond, you will increase the likelihood of a successful interaction.

If you’re a dad who doesn’t want to “should” on your daughter anymore, decide today to delete the word “should” from your vocabulary, and instead, find other words to make statements, ask questions, or nudge her to action.

And just in case you’d like to have an alternative script in hand for the next time a situation like this presents itself, here’s a way you might try saying it to her:

“It seems like you have a lot weighing on you right now. I know when I’m stressed and feeling pressured to do everything right, I get overwhelmed too…maybe in different ways than you, but stress still impacts me somewhat the same.

 I’d love to better understand what you’re feeling and thinking, so if you’d like me to listen or help, I’m here.”

Why not try it out and let me know how it goes. Better said, I really think you should try this and then let me know how it works!

What Men Think About #MeToo : The Top 6 Reactions

Michelle Watson

GuestShaunti6 (2).png

My brilliant and wise friend, Shaunti Feldhahn, lends her voice to this ongoing conversation about sexual harassment against women. As a social researcher, she sheds light on what men have to say about the #MeToo movement. I believe you’re going to resonate with her findings and love her work as much as I do!   —Michelle

Suddenly, the lights turned on. Sexual harassment has always been there, in the shadowy corners of Hollywood and corporate America. Many people talk about honoring women yet have long excused (or winked at) abusive behavior.  But the Harvey Weinstein case flipped a switch. Suddenly: klieg lights. Suddenly: people are actually losing their jobs.

Wow.  

This is a sea change for our culture. This is a moment. And as a social researcher (who for 15 years has been hearing the innermost things people think but rarely say) I wanted to know what folks’ private thoughts were about this. I generally know what women think (a combination of relief, giddiness, and serves you right). But I was particularly curious what men think about the #MeToo tsunami.

Here’s what I found.

photo-1508225957744-04aa7ca4cfac.jpeg

Thought #1: I had no idea
I interviewed three men in an airport a few days ago. They were tired after a long day at a board meeting and eating a hasty Chinese food dinner before catching flights home to Seattle, Dallas, and Atlanta.  Their top reaction matches the top reaction of nearly every other man I’ve interviewed: I had no idea.  I had no idea it was this pervasive.  I had no idea you as women had to deal with this so consistently.  I feel so bad.

Not long after the #MeToo movement started, one man told me, “I think my female co-workers have tried to tell me about stuff that happened in other jobs, but I just assumed it was isolated. Sort of the same thing you’d feel if someone told you they got hit by a car. ‘Oh that must have been so painful. Glad that doesn’t happen very often!’”  

As one of the airport road warriors put it, “I’m still trying to figure out how to wrap my head around the fact that there’s been this whole parallel reality that I knew nothing about.”

photo-1511376979163-f804dff7ad7b.jpeg

Thought #2: So now I’m angry — and I’m glad I have permission to say something about it
One thing I learned about men during the For Women Only research study, is that most men have a deep compulsion to provide for and protect those they care about. While most of that compulsion goes toward providing for and protecting their family (71% of men say it that is always or often on their mind, in case you’re curious), that same instinct wants to protect all those who are more vulnerable.  Which is what makes this doubly galling for all the good guys out there.  Women were being hurt right under their noses: and because they had no idea (or didn’t realize what a big deal it was), they failed to protect them.

Many of the men I spoke to were angry. Not in a “I’m going to go all Braveheart on you” sort of way, but in a quieter, simmering, “I’m now going to be on the lookout for this” sort of way. There was a sense of purpose: that if they saw it now, at least they could do something about it.

Thought #3: Shame
A lot of men have realized they’ve seen truly abusive behavior right in front of their eyes and downplayed or discounted it as no big deal. Like seeing one gregarious, raunchy boss who regularly did things like look at a news article about safe sex and joke to the gang – including the one woman – that having safe sex meant providing kneepads. Seeing… and never saying anything about it.

These men are now reckoning with the reality that what they personally observed (or heard about) was not just a coarse, unprofessional approach but in some cases true abuse. That over time those behaviors have real consequences for a woman’s thoughts, fears, worries, and even job prospects. That by downplaying it they failed to protect women who needed it (per Thought #2). 

Many of these men are doing some soul searching. How could I ever have thought that it was not that big of a deal?  They ask themselves. How could I have ever thought the woman should have to be the one to just ignore it or brush it off? Would I want some guy saying that stuff around my daughter? Would I want my wife to have to play along in order to not rock the boat? Would I want my daughter’s colleagues to excuse it just because its always been that way?

Famed director Quentin Tarantino, who worked with Harvey Weinstein on nearly all his films, had a telling mea culpa in a New York Times interview.  He said he had heard the rumors that Weinstein was a bit lecherous, but “I chalked it up to a ’50s-’60s era image of a boss chasing a secretary around the desk… As if that’s O.K. That’s the egg on my face right now.”


Thought #4: Who’s next? I’ll bet there are some men quaking in their boots right now. 
The question that many of us are asking — “Who’s next? Which domino will be the next to fall?” — is definitely in the minds of the average guy. And just like with women I talk to, I hear a savage satisfaction from men in knowing there are some abusers out there who are going to their jobs every day, wondering whether or when they will be reported for previous actions. 

One guy put it well. “It’s the same thing that you feel when the bad guy gets it at the end of the movie. If I was working in a corporate environment, and I had a skeleton in my past, I’d be living with a lot of looking over my shoulder.” After all, the first punishment of the guilty mind is waiting to be found out. 

Thought #5: But this means I have to restrain genuine affection for, respect for, and togetherness with female colleagues
There’s an inevitable downside to any good movement, and this is it for this one.  Nearly all the men mentioned this concern.  A single law partner who is genuinely interested in exploring a personal relationship with a junior associate is going to hold himself back.

She might be sensing some attraction and hoping he’ll reach out, but if she’s junior, she sure won’t say anything – and now he might not either.  An honorable man who would otherwise suggest that a female colleague join him to close the Boston deal is going to think twice.  After all, it will only be the two of them in the hotel.  And forget those genuine but platonic workplace hugs.  

As one guy ruefully put it, “It’s the law of unintended consequences.  The course correction needs to happen, but I worry that the men who care the most – who already were being careful – are the ones likely to hold themselves back even more!  And that could drain away the feeling of camaraderie at work.  I hope the pendulum doesn’t swing too far.”

photo-1453838956707-38a7aa3cd62d.jpeg

Thought #6: Finally, the good guys win… or at least aren’t losing
And finally, I’m also hearing an interesting, very private thought from many of these men. If they have not played it fast and loose over the years, if they have tried to be honorable, if they have been respectful of women … they have often watched men who did the opposite rocket past them in their careers.  So as one man put it, “I am all for this moment in history.  I think it is grand. Because it feels like, for once, the good guys aren’t losing. So many of the bad guys got ahead by disregarding the right thing in a lot of ways.  By trying to be straight up, a lot of good men got sidelined.  But now, finally, there’s a cost to the wrong attitude.”

Another had a more personal observation, “I hope you can share that there are a lot of men who try to honor our wives, and women in general. We take that seriously. We may not be getting recognition for that.  We may have done poorly in comparison to other guys because we wouldn’t join the locker-room crowd. But that’s okay. I love that I can go to sleep at night with a clear conscience.”


Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 9.05.00 AM.png

Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average, clueless people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, and For Men Only). Copyright ©Shaunti Feldhahn. Used with permission.

Dads, It’s Time to Start a Movement Today

Michelle Watson

Blog.TitleGraphic.2.2FINAL1.png

I once heard it said that “movies suspend reality for a period of time and open up new possibilities.”

This past week I watched something unfold on the small screen that wasn’t exactly a made-for-tv movie; instead, it was a real life drama. And it opened up something in me, namely a drive to speak up and speak out.

Like much of America, I witnessed the live news coverage of female victims speaking out against their sexual abuser, Dr. Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State, Olympic and USA Gymnastics doctor. What I discovered was that my reality wasn’t just suspended; it was activated. And yes, it launched in me a desire to be vulnerable and transparent with you today.

A couple of years ago I had a phone conversation with a dad who had just read my book, and I remember him saying that as he read my words he kept wondering if there was more to my story. Then he got to page 206 where I briefly talk about my wounds from my grandfather and it was then that he said I made more sense. He had wondered where I got my passion for fathers of daughters and hearing my backstory gave him a bit more context.

To be honest, I didn’t think it was all that important for dads to know much about my sexual abuse history from my maternal grandfather and others. In my mind it seemed unnecessary to include more than a small section about it in my book since my focus is on equipping dads to dial in to their daughter’s hearts. But today I am rethinking that decision.

Maybe you do want to hear my story.

Maybe you do need to hear my story.

And maybe my honesty will give you a window into what sexual assault does to women. So I am here today, emboldened to ask you as dads to enter into this conversation with me.

Sadly, many of your daughters share in this same reality because they too have been violated. In fact, I just listened to a powerful speech by a singer-songwriter named Halsey who shared these words at the Women’s March in NYC two weekends ago: “It’s 2018 and I’ve realized nobody is safe as long as she is alive, and every friend that I know has a story like mine. And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment.” 

 Dads, the truth is that sexual assault is an epidemic. And hard as it may be to hear, your daughters are being exploited and abused, violated and raped, and it’s time to make your voices heard to defend them, protect them, support them, believe them. Even more, we need you to challenge the men in your tribe while leading the way in saying, “This has to STOP!”

Last week I was transfixed as Rachael Denhollander, the final woman to testify out of 165 witnesses against Dr. Larry Nasser, boldly raised her voice to confront her abuser, all the while talking about accountability, repentance, forgiveness, and living by what the Bible says. I had tears streaming down my cheeks because I could relate to her story and imagined myself standing next to her as she gave her testimony. I was so moved by her words that I was compelled to post the most raw and real version of my story that I’ve ever shared on Facebook. [You can read the entire post here].

Here is an excerpt:

"To hear Rachael stand up and address her abuser head-on made me think about the time in my journey where I wished I could have confronted my grandfather. But he was dead by that point. So I wrote a letter in my journal that I pretended was going to be printed in the Granite Falls (MN) Times. I wanted everyone to know that the man they saw as a positive contributing member of their community (as a Bible teacher, a radio show host, a “man of the cloth,” a school board member, and a farmer) was also indeed a pedophile and sexual offender.

I chose to forgive him then and release my anger to God. That decision has held and I do not hold unforgiveness or bitterness towards him or any of my abusers. As a result, Jesus has met me in my process and I have been released from my attachment to abuse. My abuse no longer defines who I am."

CNN.Rachel.Blog.jpg

Today when Rachael finished her testimony, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina highlighted that she was the first woman to come forward and lead with courage. She then added that Rachael was “a five star general in this battle and the strongest person who has even been in my courtroom.”

I pray that today is a turning point day in our nation’s history where those who are victims of sexual assault will no longer be silenced, but will be believed and honored for their strength and courage.

I pray that today is a turning point in our nation’s history to stop sexual predators like my grandfather, no matter what rank they hold in our society.

Like Michigan Assistant Attorney General, Angela Povilaitis, said today, “We have seen how one voice can start a movement.”

Let today be the start of a movement where women’s voices are heard and where we no longer hold the secrets of evil that has been done to us. We are more than that.

Let today be the start of women coming together to stand united in supporting each other to embrace the truth of who we are in God’s eyes.

Let today be the start of new era where as empowered women we use our voices to stand up for the rights of those who have no voice, where we love well, and love BIG...which is the best way we can turn the tables on that which has sought to destroy us.

Let today be the start of a movement."

And now I implore you as fathers to join this movement.

  • It’s time to hear the stories of your daughters when it comes to knowing how they are being treated by men.
  • It’s time to ask questions in a non-judgmental way about what guys are doing to them and asking or demanding of them while giving your input about their value and worth.
  • It’s time to open up lines of communication about this topic---even if you’re uncomfortable “going there” with your daughters.
  • The time is now to stop cowering in fear, afraid that you may say it wrong, and instead step up and talk to your daughters about their sexual choices or experiences, assuring them that they deserve to be respected and that you are in their corner no matter what.
  • The time is now to tell her that “Dad has no problem stepping in to protect you, and all you have to do is say the word and I’ll be there.” [I know a dad who just did this with his adult daughter, so this really is possible and powerful].
  • The time is now to stop doing anything in your own personal life that objectifies women and contributes to this larger societal problem---from discontinuing pornography use to examining your own treatment of women to refusing to engage in emotional affairs or any sexual activity that dishonors your marital vows or relationship commitments.

I’ll close with quoting the words of my friend Armin in response to my Facebook post last week. As a dad to two young daughters, he is a fierce protector of women, and with his permission I share his words with you. I truly believe that if more men stood in agreement with Armin then sexual assault against women as we know it would end because the honoring of women would be championed by great men like him…and you.

“I wholeheartedly believe that this sorry excuse of an era is coming to an end. A new dawn is on the horizon where survivors will not have to be silent for the fear of shame, rejection, judgment, condemnation and more. People will finally stop turning a blind eye or ear just because it’s ‘uncomfortable.’ The actions of brave women like yourself, the many women of Hollywood, and many more are finally seeing the fruit of bold courage after thousands of years of the same thing. I applaud you and all the women like you.

 It’s sad that it has to be ‘trendy’ for people to get behind those who have been persecuted for this movement to take place. But regardless, it has begun and there is nothing that will stop it at this point, as long as people don’t stay silent. Thank you for being the bold, courageous, loving, and inspiring leader that you are. Absolutely honored to know you and call you friend, Michelle Watson. Boldly forward!”

The time is now for every daughter to have her father standing alongside her, united in solidarity, as together they powerfully use their voices to tell men everywhere that sexual harassment, exploitation, assault, and violence against all women will no longer be tolerated.  

The time is now for every daughter to speak out and tell her story without fear, confidently knowing that her dad will be the first to believe her while supporting her through her healing process.

Dads, it's time to start a movement on behalf of your daughters today.

 

 Rachael Denhollander photo courtesy of CNN.

Don't Be Sorry (Guest blog by Taylor Smith)

Michelle Watson

BLog.TitleGraphic.1.19.FINAL.png

Taylor Smith is a dear friend and I have invited her back today to write another guest blog. Her story today is guaranteed to touch your heart and I’d love to hear from you after reading her powerful words where we’re all reminded to live each day as if it were our last.     — Michelle

 

It was not the kind of question I was expecting as we sat there, hands sticky with drips of ice cream running down our fingers.

It was not the kind of question I’d ever asked myself,

or had someone else ask me,

let alone a 14-year-old.

It was not the kind of question I wanted to think about,

or even acknowledge,

and yet, here I was,

face-to-face with a young teenage girl, being asked a question about a reality we will all one day face.

“What would you do if you knew it was your last day on earth?”

I closed my eyes.

‘What would I do if I knew it was my last day on earth?’

I wanted to answer right away with something that would be all-encompassing of my values,

something that would be richly and epically proportioned,

something that would be wise and an example to her and her two younger sisters sitting right next to her,

but,

my mouth was like a desert.

jennifer-pallian-173715 (2).jpg

I had nothing.

She took another bite of fudge brownie ice cream and said,

“I know what I’d do.”

I leaned in. I was curious. Something absolutely childlike and fanciful was soon to follow, I was sure.

But it wasn’t.

“I would ask for forgiveness,” she said. “I would go around and ask others for forgiveness.”

I set down my cup of melting ice cream.

This was no 14-year-old answer I’d ever heard of.

No eating cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

No meeting her favorite movie star crush.

No taking all her friends and family to Disneyland.

No. This answer was nothing childish.

“Have you ever asked for forgiveness before?” I questioned.

“Yes,” she said, taking another bite of ice cream.

“Was it easy for you?”

She put down her ice cream, too.

“No,” she said. “It’s difficult, and scary, but it’s what we’re called to do.”

Suddenly, I realized that any answer I would have given would have been a bit trivial, in comparison. Because -to be honest- my answer would have been more self-focused, more about satisfying my emotions and last-moment desires.

Her answer, “forgiveness,” was anything but selfish.

It was everything selfless, humble and sacrificial.

I owe a great deal to my honorary sister, Dative, for the question she asked me, and for the answer she gave,

for it has confronted me with something that makes most people start to squirm:

asking for forgiveness.

The reality is, because we’re human, we are hurting people all the time.

Most of the time we don’t even know it,

though sometimes we do,

and guilt may begin to rise up within us, compelling us to act.

In response to that guilt, we often say, “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry” – if we were to give that phrase currency, how much value would you attach to it?

I can say I’m sorry like it’s my job.

Bump into you in the grocery store aisle, “Oops! I’m sorry!”

Accidentally spill a bit of coffee on your papers, “Oh my word. I’m so sorry!”

 "I'm sorry" is worth pennies to me, passing through my hands before I even know they're gone.

"I'm sorry" is worth pennies to me, passing through my hands before I even know they're gone.

Speak a little too loud at the meeting, “I am soooo sorry.”

“I’m sorry” is worth pennies to me, passing through my hands before I even know they’re gone.

But asking, “Will you forgive me?”

That weighs a whole lot more.

 It’s not a question I dole out very often,

because it comes at a great cost: my vulnerability.

“I’m sorry” is a one-way street statement. It’s a band-aid quickly patched and left to hope the wound might heal, eventually.

“Will you forgive me?” requires a dialogue. It’s the burning antiseptic, tweezers pulling gravel out of flesh, inviting the healing process to begin.

Forgiveness necessitates empathy, humility and courage.

When answering her own question, “What would you do if you knew it was your last day on earth?,” Dative didn’t say she would go around telling people “I’m sorry.” There’s a difference between saying “I’m sorry” and asking for forgiveness.

‘Don’t be sorry,’ Dative’s words seemed to tell me. ‘Be vulnerable.’

How did Dative, a 14-year-old, arrive at the conclusion that the final 24-hours of her life she would spend doing one of the most vulnerable things you could do?

If I were to venture a guess, I believe it’s what has been modeled to her from the place where she grew up, a place that has shown her how true healing, restoration and reconciliation comes from radical forgiveness – a country called Rwanda.

It has only been 23 years since the Rwandan Genocide, when nearly 1 million people were killed in 100 days. And yet, if you were to visit Rwanda today, I’d be hard pressed if you didn’t come away with the word “peace” on the forefront of your mind.

Why?

Forgiveness heals seemingly fatal wounds.

 Dative knows this.

She’s lived it.

And if she knew it was the last day of her life,

she would do the costliest thing she could think of,

because she knows it yields a priceless reward:

healing, peace, freedom.

I bet most of us could share a personal story of forgiveness.

And upon further reflection, I bet we could all think of someone whom we’ve hurt, or wronged, and know that deep down, it’s probably the right thing to ask them for forgiveness – but probably not today, or tomorrow, or ever?

Dative’s question gives us an opportunity most people will never get – to plan how we would spend the last day of our life. For, how many of us will know when it’s our last day? Or when it’s our friend’s or brother’s or mother’s last day?

I have never been more caught off guard than when my dad passed away from a heart attack in 2008. When I think about the last 24-hours of his life, while I didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye, I did have the opportunity to practice forgiveness.

blog quotes.png

During the four years after my mom died, my dad did some amazing things with me and for me, but he also did things that left me hurt and wounded. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was burning up waiting for my dad to come ask me for forgiveness. However, I realized that during those four years, I undoubtedly did things that hurt him, too, and how I had an equal opportunity to come to him and ask for forgiveness.

 

So I did. I went up to my dad and said something to the effect of, “Dad, if I’ve ever done anything that made you think I love you any less, or that I didn’t desire your happiness, would you forgive me? Our relationship means far more to me than who is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’”

How on earth my dad and I had that conversation in his last 24 hours, I have no idea. But God knew. And believe me, I haven’t forgotten it.

I don’t know when my last day on earth will be, and truth be told, neither do you.

In what I believe was a divinely-appointed conversation in an ice cream shop with my honorary little sister, Dative, I’ve been reminded that I have a choice to live each day as if it were my last – to not go to sleep at night with bitterness or guilt on my heart, should I not wake up and have the opportunity to ask one of the most meaningful, powerful and radical questions I could think to ask, “Will you forgive me?”

If I can be so bold,

don’t be sorry.

Be vulnerable.

Be humble.

Seek forgiveness.

Give forgiveness.

For you have been forgiven.

 

 

Be the First

Michelle Watson

Older Graphics.png

So here we are at the beginning of a new year, that time when we all turn the page and look forward to a fresh start. Some of us might even dare to believe that anything is possible as the script for 2018 is yet to be written.

When I think about the concept of firsts, especially when it comes to fathers understanding their daughters with more precision, I want to highlight what a big deal “firsts” are for us as girls.

To prove my point, you could ask any adult woman when she had her first crush.  She’ll immediately tell you because that memory is frozen in time and available for a fast recall whenever prompted.

Ask her about her first kiss, her first dance, first prom, or first breakup.  They’re all filed away.

Now let’s change it up a bit and address more than just romance or heartbreak.

You could ask her about her first job, her first paycheck, first car or first bad grade.  Yup… all stored in the vault.

Here’s how I see it. If your daughter is wired to remember firsts, then why not capitalize on that reality by being the first to do it right and get it right…all en route to her heart.

Dad, what if you made it your goal in this new year to create memories for your daughter by deciding to “be the first.”

glenn-carstens-peters-190592.jpg
  • Be the first to tell her you lover her every single day so she never has to wonder if you do.
  • Be the first to choose kindness because it’s a virtue you want her to exemplify.
  • Be the first to set the bar high in modeling what a good man looks like, so all other men will be compared to you.
  • Be the first to tell her you’re sorry.
  • Be the first to show her that strong men can cry.
  • Be the first to model what humility looks like.
  • Be the first to write her a note telling her what you find special about her.
  • Be the first to take her on an adventure.
  • Be the first to buy her a “just-because” treat.
  • Be the first to take her out for an extravagant meal.
  • Be the first to wipe her tears and hold her in your arms when her life goes sideways.
  • Be the first to listen rather than lecture.
  • Be the first to “hold her anger” without reacting harshly in return.
  • Be the first to initiate deep conversations about spirituality, God, Faith, politics, goals, and even your life growing up.
  • Be the first to model a healthy spiritual life so she can follow your example.
  • Be the first to give of your time and energy to serve her.
  • Be the first to invest in launching her dreams by funding a project she is passionate about.
  • Be the first to applaud her successes from the front row.

Why be the first?

It’s the best way to show her what love looks like when backed by action. Better yet, she’ll relate to all other men based on what she experiences with you.

nordwood-themes-467442.jpg

Dad…you’ve got the whole year ahead to lead the way in loving your daughter first. Decide now to make this a year of firsts, beginning by choosing one thing in the list here to do today!

Put It In Writitng (A last minute Christmas gift that's guaranteed to be your daughter's favorite!)

Michelle Watson

Title.Graphic.Blog.12.15.OptionB.png

Dad, if you plan on being in line with the millions of other men across the country who will have waited until the last minute to get their Christmas gifts, then you’re going to want to keep reading.

Why? Because I have a Christmas gift idea for you that your daughter will love!

Better yet,

  • It won’t cost any money
  • It won’t require driving to the mall  (“you’re welcome!”)
  • It will only take about an hour of your time
  • It’s guaranteed to be one of her all-time favorite gifts

Do you want to know what it is?  WRITING A LETTER.

One of the greatest presents you can give your daughter is to affirm her through writing. In a world where written communication is increasingly digital (texts, emails, tweets), a letter scripted in your own handwriting is sure to stand out as unique.

helloquence-51716.jpg

Let me share a story with you that highlights my suggestion.  

In the summer of 2016 I had the privilege of attending FishFest in Salem, Oregon. What made it extra special was that it was my first public appearance with KPDQ, the station that hosts my radio program, The Dad Whisperer.

It was a day I’ll never forget, due in part to the 104 degree weather, but also because it was meaningful to be a part of connecting with people while being entrusted with their stories. I also gave away copies of my book, which was a fun way to share them as a resource with our listeners.

Early in the day I talked with a dad who told me that his 17-year old daughter was living with her mom in the Midwest. He said that he made it a point to text her a few times a week because it was how they stayed connected. I affirmed him for consistently investing his daughter and then decided to say a bit more (I know…BIG SURPRISE!)

I encouraged him to write letters to his daughter periodically, adding that when a dad writes something in his own handwriting, it stands out from technology. I acknowledge that I may have misread his body language, but I got the sense that I’d said enough. So we smiled and said goodbye.

aaron-burden-64849.jpg

An hour or so later, a beautiful woman in her late 50’s came to pick up her copy of my book since she was another winner. She told me that she even though she had two sons she was looking forward to reading it, promising to give it away, when finished, to a dad of a daughter who could use it.

It was then that I took a risk by asking a question in the hope of opening up a “deeper conversation.” I decided to inquire about her relationship with her dad.

 She readily shared that her father was a quiet man, clarifying that they didn’t have much of a relationship because he worked a lot. Then her tone changed and she broke into a beaming smile while telling me one specific memory.

“When I was in eighth grade, my dad went out of town for business. It was during that one particular trip that he wrote me two letters. I don’t quite know why he did it, but I’m glad he did.”

 I had a sense that I already knew the answer to my next question but asked it anyway, “Did you save the letters?”   

 Without hesitation she confessed, “Yes, I sure did….and I still have them.”

 I immediately told her that I knew just the man who needed to hear her story. She graciously gave me permission to share about her treasured letters with this other father who I believed would benefit from hearing a personal story about the importance of a dad’s written words to his daughter. I later found him and we talked a bit more.

Suffice it to say, this woman’s story bears repeating in that it serves as a powerful lesson to fathers of daughters.

Dad, put your words of affirmation, acceptance, kindness, belief, encouragement, promise, and praise into writing because your daughter will treasure what you say to her for a lifetime.

john-jennings-438856.jpg

Now let me reveal one more reason why a letter from you will have significant impact. It’s due to the fact that I have saved every single card my dad has ever made me…and I have a lot of them! I count them among my most valued possessions.

The time you spend now putting your thoughts, feelings, wishes, hopes, and dreams into written form will pay dividends long after you’re gone as she reads and rereads your words.

Whether you’re a dad who has already begun this practice or you are a tentative newbie, I want to share a few ideas to support your pen-to-paper challenge.

Here are a few dad-to-daughter letter-writing ideas to add to your repertoire:

  • What is one of the first things you remember about her from when she was born and you looked at her for the first time?
  • What beauty did you see in her then and what beautiful features do you see in her now?  (Girls love hearing about their eyes, smile, and the unique features that you see as beautiful)
  • Write about a favorite childhood memory you have of her.
  • What strengths do you believe she has, both in terms of skill and in her person (her character, personality)?
  • Write about a favorite childhood memory you have of her.
  • Tell her specific reasons you’re proud of her.
  • Write about what obstacles you have seen her overcome—emphasize such qualities as courage, resilience, strength, commitment, endurance, and power.
  • Write about dreams you have for her future, whether in the form of your wishes for her or things you pray about for her—do this without preaching or lecturing, only encourage.
  • Tell her what it means to you to spend time with her.
  • Communicate why you love being her dad in this season of her life (add current things about her age right now that you’re aware of and highlight them as positive).
  • Let her know that you will always be there for her, telling her what it means to you to be her dad.

Dad, why not take the time right now to put your love for your daughter in writing.

And as you give her the gift of a letter from you this Christmas, I guarantee that it will be one of her favorite gifts…EVER!

 

 

 

P.D.C. (Public Display of Connection)

Michelle Watson

Older Graphics.png

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a group of dads when the conversation turned to their daughter’s mood swings and their common experiences in not knowing what to do much of the time. Understandably, this Venusian dynamic creates a challenge for most every dad when it comes to figuring out how to navigate the “changing weather patterns” with no “meteorological training,” if you know what I mean!

Every dad admitted to often feeling lost without a road map when it comes to pacing with the twists and turns of teenage and young adult female development.

As I sat there listening to the added pressure these dads feel when struggling to decode the verbal and non-verbal cues of their daughters, it was clear that they all wanted to engage and pursue their daughter’s hearts despite the challenges. Their camaraderie led the way for openness around admitting their confusion over sometimes being invited closer while at other times being pushed away.

Over the last eight years of interacting with dads of daughters, I have discovered that men thrive when they talk with other dads who struggle with their girls in similar ways. Through the process of discussing honestly what’s really happening at home, I’ve noticed that some of the false guilt that seems to unconsciously build up begins to diminish. Even more, men simultaneously feel less alone while many of these interpersonal realities are normalized.

As we talked about ways to connect even when it’s hard, I shared that adolescent girls, in particular, may not always like physical touch from their dads because they may be embarrassed if their friends are watching or might think they’re too old for cuddling, hugging, or hand-holding.

But I suggested that especially during stressful times what their daughters really might need is a hug so that she feels wrapped in safe arms that are holding her when she’s overwhelmed with life. And this isn’t just my opinion; it’s actually backed up by research, which states that when we give or receive a hug it releases oxytocin in our brains, an antidote to the effect of cortisol, the stress hormone.

 Hugs release oxytocin in our brains and relieve stress.

Hugs release oxytocin in our brains and relieve stress.

Since they were still tracking with me, I continued.

“Dads, it’s vital for you to consistently find ways to connect with your daughters, both inside and outside your homes, because daughters need their dads to teach them what safe touch feels like (in ways that honor her individual wiring—with some wanting less physical touch and others preferring more). Make sure to never pull away and detach during those harder years or your daughter will be left to wonder why she’s not worth your time and energy.”

It was then that I described the importance of appropriate physical touch and I actually meant to say the words, “public display of affection” (P.D.A.). But it was one of those times where my words got mixed up, and instead what came out of my mouth was, “public display of connection!(which I’m now referring to as “P.D.C.”).

 I love when “happy mistakes” like that happen because those words have stayed with me ever since. This has led me now to ponder the question: What would it look like if every dad consistently initiated points of healthy physical connection with his daughter in public places where life is on display?

For me, one of the best ways my dad and I share “P.D.C.” is during our annual Perfume Day event every December (which you well know by now if you’ve been reading my blogs for any length of time). It’s one of the highlights of my year where we get dressed up, go out to lunch, and my dad treats me to perfume at Nordstrom. More importantly, it’s special that my dad enters into the whole experience with absolute JOY! And it never gets old to have multiple female sales clerks say that they wish their dad would do something similar with them.

 And yes, my dad and I walk hand in hand (or arm in arm) around the store. I feel comfortable with this kind of public display of connection because it says that my dad loves me and values me…and vice versa!

It seems to me that if every dad figured out a way to publicly demonstrate relational connection to his daughter, she would feel his love in a way that would go straight to her heart. And she would know that her dad wants the world to know that he’s proud and grateful to be her father. (Additional benefit: it gives a message to boys that this girl has a dialed-in dad!).

 We as girls thrive when we feel connected to the people we love. And we wither when there’s disconnect. Just notice the amount of time your daughter spends in the center of relational crises and it will prove my point. It’s either her drama or the drama of her friends that takes her away from staying balanced.

 Daughters sometimes push their dads away while secretly wishing he'd connect with her.

Daughters sometimes push their dads away while secretly wishing he'd connect with her.

I truly believe that every daughter needs her dad even when she doesn’t always know that he’s what she needs. In fact, daughters sometimes push their dads away while secretly wishing that he’d not give up even when she makes him work to connect with her emotionally and relationally.

Dad…it’s up to you to take the initiative to connect with your daughter’s heart. You have the responsibility as her father to find a way to reach her. I know it’s not always easy, especially when you feel disrespected or ignored, yet that doesn’t excuse you from still needing to move towards her.

As we head into this busy month of December, be the dad who finds a way to publicly put your love for your daughter on display in ways that let her know she’s one of your greatest loves!

 

 P.S.  If you’re not sure where to start, feel free to follow my dad’s lead and initiate Perfume Day with your daughter. Here’s the link to my blog where I’ve shared the story…   https://goo.gl/svwWKC

Or you can listen to my dad and I talking about our favorite annual event on my radio program, The Dad Whisperer…    https://goo.gl/9fTrzZ

Enjoy!

Dads: Six Essential Love Do's and Don'ts for Your Daughter

Michelle Watson

 By Guest Blogger, Dr. Meg Meeker

By Guest Blogger, Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker and I have become friends over the past couple of years as we share a similar passion for equipping fathers of daughters to dial into their heart space. I believe her words will inspire you to be better dads by hearing her insights into your daughter’s unique needs. —Michelle

Men love differently than women. That’s why you scratch your head in confusion when your daughter or wife cries and insists that you don’t understand. They want you to know what they want, like, and need, without ever telling you. You, on the other hand, love deeply but differently.

As you work on your relationship with your daughter, you must remember that different things will make her feel loved than what make you feel loved.

First, she feels loved when you pay attention to her. When she comes home from a soccer game and you ask if she wants to go have ice cream because you want to hear all about the game, she feels loved. When she goes on a date and comes home at midnight, she feels loved if you are waiting up for her. Sure, you can ask her how her time was, but the mere fact that you cared enough to make sure she got home safely makes her feel deeply loved.

Women, like men, want to feel that someone in their lives adores them. Adoration is the sense that you can do no wrong. Why should you communicate this to your daughter when she, of course, makes mistakes? Because she needs it from you. Because she needs it from you, your daughter has a space in her heart that is designed for you alone. No one else can occupy that spot.

david-watkis-414514.jpg

When you express your adoration to her, she realizes that you have a spot in your heart just for her. A father who adores his daughter holds her in high esteem, wants only the best for her, and feels that no one in the world compares with her. She is more beautiful, kinder, and stronger than all women (or girls) her age. Every daughter wants her father to feel this way about her. And she wants her father to express this to her.

Our culture ties girls in knots, and your daughter is no exception. Not matter how hard you try to isolate her from the ugly influences of a world that sexualizes and degrades women, you can’t. And since you are the primary means by which she develops a healthy sense of beauty and sexuality, when it comes to shaping these in her, it’s on your shoulders. When it comes to loving your daughter, remember these important ideas:

  1. Do tell her that you love her. Tell her as frequently as feels natural to you. Sometimes you may feel timid, but press through the discomfort. Every daughter need to hear I love you, from her dad.
  2. Do express adoration. Let her know that she is the apple of your eye. If you have multiple daughters, tell each one of them at different times.
  3. Do believe in her. If the two of you don’t get along well and fight constantly, you can still show her than you believe in her. Examine her character and find what is good in her. Look deeply into her life and find her natural gifts. Then, communicate to her that you are her “number one fan.” Tell her that you know she can succeed. You know that she is smarter than she thinks, wiser than she believes, and far more capable than she realizes. Communicating this is extremely important because most girls, particularly during the teen years, feel terribly inadequate, dumb, and unattractive. You need to really amp up your positive comments during the tough times and help her combat these feelings.
  4. Don’t remark on her weight – EVER. No pet names for parts of her body, no calling her “sexy”, and no telling her that she is chubby or that she could stand to lose a few pounds. No matter what you say about her weight, she will her in her mind say, My dad thinks I’m fat; therefore I am ugly. Since you can’t win, avoid this. I can’t tell you the number of messes that I’ve been involved in undoing with daughters whose fathers have innocently commented about their weight as they grow up.
  5. Don’t remark on her looks very often. I know that this feels counterintuitive. Shouldn’t every girl know that her dad thinks she is beautiful? Of course; but don’t overdo it. You don’t want her to feel like appearance is a priority to you. Remember, when you comment on something, it lets the hearer know that the topic is significant to you (otherwise why would you comment on it?). You want to be sure that your daughter knows that what you really cherish about her is her inner beauty. So talk about that.
  6. Don’t spare words of encouragement or affection. Girls use more works, and they bond through words. Girls feel that words connect them with others. So tell your daughter what you admire about her and tell her why. I promise that if you are sincere, your words will change the woman that she becomes.

Dad, I know this is a lot of information to take in, so how about taking one item from this list and then commit to putting it into action this week now that you know what to do to put your love for your daughter into action!

Pediatrician, mother and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is one of the country’s leading authority on parenting, teens and children’s health. Her most recent book, Hero is a powerful affirmation of fatherhood that shows men how being a strong, active father can be their greatest triumph. Copyright ©Dr. Meg Meeker. Used with permission.