Trick or Treat: A New Spin on Fathering
With today being Halloween I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to weave this theme into my dad-daughter Friday blog. So here goes!
Dressing up in costumes for Halloween is something I’ve been doing since I was a little girl. And because costumes were mostly homemade back then, in the 60’s and 70’s, I ended up as a Bohemian girl more years than I can count since it was an easy one to throw together. Big colorful skirt. Check. Scarf covered with plastic coins on head. Check. Red Lipstick. Check. Black beauty mark on chin. Check. And voila…I was ready to head out the door to get my fill of candy.
By contrast, my dad grew up with very little parental involvement, not just on Halloween but the other 364 as well. Living on the south side of Chicago as one of seven children, he grew up with two significant and defining variables: 1. extreme poverty, and 2. an alcoholic dad. Among other things, those two realities resulted in him fending for himself much of the time.
He has shared some of his Halloween memories with me, including those about costumes he created on his own, ranging from a hobo with black charcoal spots under his eyes to that of being a box. Yes, you heard me right. As a boy, my dad went as a box for Halloween! In it he cut holes for his arms and legs and one for his head, then drew buttons on the front. I admit that I laughed uproariously when he first told me that story, but I then I honestly applauded him for his ingenuity as an elementary kid who had to navigate creating a costume all by himself.
This brings me to the topic for today on fathering. Stated simply: dialed-in dads join into the things that their kids care about; checked-out dads don’t.
As you just read in these accounts of two parallel generations, both my dad and I made choices for our Halloween outfits based on the level of involvement by our parents. I imagine you’d say the same thing as you think back on what this day looked like for you as a child.
When it comes to the kind of fathers that each of us end up with, some of us get the “trick” version and others get the “treat.”
And because I’m an advocate for fathers and one who seeks to clarify what we daughters need from our dads, I want to organize this concept a bit more so that you hear my support of you if you choose to give your all.
Here’s what a father looks like who “tricks” his daughter, followed by one who knows how to “treat” her well.
A dad who “tricks” his daughter will:
- put his needs before hers on a regular basis
- teach her by the way he interacts with her that women are "less than"
- tease her for being emotional, leading her to put walls up as a protective shell
- criticize her mom, leading her to believe that she's going to turn out the same way
- use her for his sexual pleasure and rob her of her innocence
- contribute to the exploitation of women through his engagement with porn
- make her never trust God the Father because she can't trust him as her earthly father
And now, let’s move on to the good news. Here are a few ways that a dad can positively “treat” his daughter so she internalizes his affirmative view of her.
A dad who “treats” his daughter well will:
- tell her every day not only that he loves her but why he loves her
- notice the things that have meaning to her and then share in them with her
- provide for her needs
sometimes buy things for no special reason other than to reinforce her value
love her mom (and if divorced, only speak positive words or not say anything negative)
affirm her positive qualities
gently and lovingly set boundaries and limits as a way to teach her to respect herself and the world around her
listen twice as much as he talks, knowing that this will let her know she is worthy of being listened to
pursue her heart by actively spending time with her as a way to really know her
enjoy the uniqueness of her personality by laughing at what makes her laugh
build the bridge for her to trust, connect to, and feel positively about God as a Father because he’s been trustworthy, connectable, and invested as a dad.
So Dad, it’s up to you to decide what kind of dad you’ll be.
You get to choose whether you’ll be a dad who tricks or treats his daughter. I pray that today you will choose to be the best man in her life, one who treats her with dignity and value so she can believe that she is both a treat and a treasure.
With that spin on this All Hallows Eve, I say, “Bring on the treats!”