A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing renowned author Anne Lamott speak at Powell’s, one of our infamous Portland bookstores. At one point in her talk she had us all uproariously laughing when she admitted that years ago as a new mom and exhausted single parent she had the understandably human thought to put her newborn baby boy outside. For just one night. With the dog. (As if those last two qualifiers somehow made it okay!)
It was refreshing to hear Anne’s gut-level honest disclosure about parenting. And it was clear from the enthusiastic response of the crowd that her irreverent revelations about her secret thought life when it came to mothering brought a bit of relief because most likely every mom and dad in the room could relate to the fact that:
1. Parenting is hard.
2. Parenting is exhausting.
3. Parenting is relentless with no reneging on the commitment.
4. Parenting takes more out of mom and dad than each knew they were signing up for.
5. Parenting has the potential to lead two rational adults to the brink of insanity!
Now let’s shift gears and focus specifically on fathering: As a dad you no doubt have had your buttons pushed one time or another by your daughter (especially as she grows older). You may have found yourself wondering how she figured out the password that gained her access into your internal hard drive, the one that activates every response in you that you promised you’d never have as a father. And then there you are, responding in anger or with a harsh reaction, impatience, or indifference and regrettably hurting the one who not so long before had you driving around with a “Precious Cargo on Board” sign in the window.
And though I never want to come across as a “know-it-all,” I’d love to offer a word picture that might come in handy next time she’s gotten on your last nerve and you want to do things differently.
In your interactions with her perhaps it would help to think back to the day she was born when you saw her as a delicate flower.
Recall how gently you held her, careful not to break her. You took extra precaution so as not to drop her head or jiggle her body too aggressively. You made sure you didn’t talk too loud or shout in order not to scare her. Do you remember that feeling of being overwhelmed with her adorable little features while thinking that you had never held anything so small or beautiful?
Truth be told: This is how you still need to think of “holding her.” She is still just as delicate on the inside as the day she was born. She still needs to be handled with kid gloves. I’d even suggest posting one of her baby pictures in a place where you see it every day as a reminder.
One thing that my dad has had to do with me is soften his tone in order to connect with me (and sometimes it’s been me who has had to soften with him so I know this goes both ways). I know this is something that doesn’t come naturally for him (or for most men, as per the feedback I’ve gotten from men I interact with in The Abba Project who admit to this fact), but it can be done. That’s where the “delicate” part of relating to girls comes in---not that we’re fragile and delicate in terms of our personalities, per se---but more in the way we respond relationally.
I’m not expecting you to be super human or perfect but do want to challenge you to make a commitment today to make a new covenant with your mouth to not vent anger or react with harshness toward your daughter from this day forward. When triggered, just walk away and ground yourself first before responding.
Make a decision to consistently water your beautiful little flower with your words of life!
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