I’m not a girl who tends toward watching documentaries. But sometimes I wish I did since I know they make you smarter.
The reality is that my attention span isn’t long enough to hang in there through the entirety of these kinds of films. I think I border on the cusp of ADHD, which translates to my need to be a bit more active when diving into the deep end of learning.
That said, a couple of years ago I found myself completely caught off guard (and pleasantly surprised) when into my DVD player I popped the movie March of the Penguins after some friends highly recommended it. I had no idea it was an actual documentary or I may have resisted. But once the story began to unfold, I was mesmerized.
In case you haven’t watched it (or haven’t seen it in awhile since it was released in 2005), here’s a brief overview to set the scene:
- Emperor penguins annually march from the South Pole to their breeding grounds at the sea and then turn around to return home.
- he female lays a single egg, which is then incubated by the male (a.k.a. the female transfers care to the male).
- The male endures the violent Antarctic cold for over two months to protect his egg from extreme temperatures by standing while balancing it on his feet where it is insulated by a thick roll of his waterproof feathered skin called a ‘brood pouch.’
- The males huddle in groups to withstand the harsh winds and blizzards, taking turns moving towards the warm center of the pack, thereby sustaining the entire group.
- During this entire time the males eat nothing, resulting in the loss of up to a third of their body weight while waiting for their chicks to hatch.
- After laying the egg, the female makes her way to the distant sea to feed herself and then bring food back to her newborn chick.
- Once the female has returned, the male then makes the long trek over the ice, even up to 60 miles, to find food.
But before I go any farther, I have to share a couple of exact quotes from the movie that powerfully underscore the incredible role of the father and his relationship to his chick: (I know…can you believe how much of a documentary geek I am now?!)
“The penguin fathers will have gone without food of any kind for over 125 days and they will have endured one of the most violent and deadly winters on earth...all for the chick.
Then after the baby is born and before the father treks 70 miles back to the seas the father and his chick sing to one another, making sure each knows the other's voice. It is the only way the two will find each other when the father returns.
It isn’t long before the fathers return home, their bellies heavy with food. The chicks will gather at once to meet them and sound their calls. The returning fathers will circle the excited newborns and listen until he hears his chicks’ call…The return is a joyful one and very quickly the young’s belly will be full again."
My heart was deeply moved as I watched the very active role that every single one of the male penguins took in the nurturing and caring for their offspring, often at great cost to themselves.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this, so to state the obvious: Male penguins have it down when it comes to fathering!
I can’t help but think that if every human dad took note from these amazing creatures and emulated their behaviors, it would positively change our culture like never before.
Thus, without further adieu, here are the obvious take-aways, the clear directives, the vital life-giving action steps modeled directly by the male Emperor penguin to every father on earth if he wants to have a vibrant relationship with his daughter [or son]:
1. Step into your fathering role by sharing responsibility for your daughter’s care, ready to nurture and invest on a daily basis.
2. Be willing to endure the harsh elements (a.k.a. emotional storms that rage both inside her being----moods, reactions, responses----and outside herself---friendships, choices, activities, education, etc.) for longer than you’d prefer as you protectively hold her and allow her to “stand on your feet” while she becomes strong and secure enough to stand on her own.
3. Find other dads who are pursuing their daughter’s hearts and take turns in supporting each other (while standing close enough to hold each other up) in your goal to be an awesome, dialed-in dad.
4. Find the balance point between sacrificing your wants and needs with that of giving to your daughter’s needs in order to keep her alive.
5. Get close enough to recognize and know her unique voice (a.k.a. this means taking the time to listen to her talk), especially after busy seasons when you’ve been less available at home and in her life.
6. Let her recognize and know your voice too (this means time together sharing stories and creating positive memories).
7. Express joy when seeing her---which is an expression on your face that clearly communicates that you are happy to see her (which will go far in depositing love into the depths of her heart).
8. Lead her while feeding her spirit and soul with the overflow of your life as you seek to be well-rounded and healthy yourself.
This kind of action-oriented, sacrificial, attentive, and intentional gift from you as a dad to your daughter is something that money can’t buy and something that will subsequently equip her to fly from the nest and change the world because of your investment.
In closing, I’ll never forget the time in the early days of The Abba Project when I asked a group of busy dads why they were taking the time month after month to gather together and learn about fathering. After an uncomfortable 60-second pause (which felt like 60 minutes), one of them finally spoke up and said, “It’s because we love our daughters.” They all readily agreed.
There really isn’t anything a dad wouldn’t do out of love for his daughter, is there? Especially when it’s “all for the chick.”
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