Since tomorrow is Halloween I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do a little play on words as I write my Dad-Daughter Friday blog this week. Enjoy!
I’ve interacted with a lot of dads over the past six years, hearing stories not only about their love of being a father to a daughter, but also about their legitimate ambivalence over the enormity of the task. Here’s my synthesis of those conversations, which I’m simply calling “the SCARY side of fathering a daughter.”
This emotional reality for dads take place when:
- she requires more of your words, time, money, and energy than you had expected or realized when she was in the womb
- her moods change faster than you change your socks and you literally cannot always keep up or figure her out
- she asks you the hard questions that aren’t just about why the sky is blue and the world is round, but instead wants to know about your past and mistakes you’ve made because she wants to know the truth about who you really are
- you wake up one day and realize she’s not a little girl anymore and now “that boy” seems to have taken up residence in her heart space, in the exact same place that used to have a “No Boys Allowed” sign on the door
- you blew it and got angry and have the renewed awareness that you have the power to damage your precious flower in one fell swoop if you’re not careful
- you fear the outcome as you tentatively walk into her room, all the while feeling the cold prickly chill in the air and noticing that her emotional walls are up, yet you go in anyway as you seek to break through the wall
- you face the fact that the older she gets you really have little to no control over what she does when she’s outside your house because now it’s time for her to make her own choices (ones that may not line up with “the way you raised her”)
- you realize you are a physical representation on earth of her Father in heaven and are keenly aware that this assignment is way over your head
Dad, do any of these things bring up fear inside your soul? I imagine they do.
I realize there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to take care of the intense realities that you face as a father. But at the same time, I believe that the little things you do can yield big dividends.
I’d like to suggest a five-step path to support your heart goal of being a dialed-in dad even with the frightening and confusing dynamics that may rise inside you. When the task at hand requires more than you sometimes believe you can master here are a few things to keep in mind. I’ll use your five senses for easy recall on how to press in order to pursue your daughter’s heart:
1. See… Make eye contact with her every day. And because they say that “eyes are the window to the soul,” you’ll be able to tell how she’s really doing if you get close enough to look into her baby blues (or browns or greens). In an often hostile world, your eyes of love will go a long way toward making her believe she’ll make it because she’ll see her reflection of worth and value in the mirror of your eyes.
2. Hear… Active listening means leaning forward, nodding your head, setting down your remote and cell phone while paying attention to what she’s saying (long as it may be). If you repeat back the words she says it will help you stay engaged rather than zoning out or inactively listening, especially if you’re tired after a long day or are honestly disinterested in the drama encircling her life. Remember that her world is centered around relationships and when you listen with patience and kindness, it lets her know she matters to you.
3. Smell… Did you know that our sense of smell syncs with the part of our brain that is tied to learning and emotion? Because we link scents to events, you can help create a bonding, soothing, positive memory experience for your daughter (particularly if she’s in “one of her moods”) by enhancing the aromatic space around her. Practical Idea: Buy her a candle or perfume of her favorite scent to use as aromatherapy when she’s stressed. Calm daughter = calm dad. Better said: Compassionate, patient, steady dad = calm daughter.
4. Taste… It’s hard to be upset when enjoying a fun tasty treat that I like to call a “happy flavor.” (If you’ve ever tried Passion Tea Lemonade at Starbucks, you’ll know what I mean). As a way to stay current with your ever-growing daughter, find out what her favorite tastes are and then find a way connect via that food or drink. You could even surprise her by bringing her that favorite food to brighten her day. (A current Abba Project Dad just drove to his 17-year daughter’s school during lunch to bring her a favorite meal. She can’t stop talking about it! Way to go dad. You created a forever memory!)
5. Touch… If safe touch calms babies, how can it not be what we still need as we age? Find a way to make physical contact with your daughter every day. Embrace her with a hug. Kiss her cheek. Squeeze her hand. Give her a high five. Wrestle with her. (A recent Abba Project Dad said that he stopped wrestling with his 18-year old daughter as she developed physically around the age of 13, but then started doing it again while he was in the group. The results of their re-engaging with healthy, interactive physical contact was positively amazing to their relationship!)
Whatever age and stage your daughter is in can be the perfect time to let your five senses lead the way to actively communicating love to your girl.
Let today be the day you take action so that the SCARY side to fathering loses its grip. By proactively moving beyond your fear, you will be going the extra mile to prove to yourself and to your daughter that real dads don’t back off when they’re scared!