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How the Quinceañera Teaches Fathers to Celebrate Their Daughters

Michelle Watson

Recently I read a heart-warming story tucked on the back page of a small-town Oregon newspaper about a traditional Latino celebration as told through the eyes of a father. It was only after reading the article that I realized it was actually written by his daughter! This indicates to me that she got to feel and hear what her big event was like for him…at a heart level.

Clearly this dad’s love for his daughter is evident as he shares his perspective on the biggest day in his 15-year old daughter’s life, her Quinceañera, as it officially marked her leaving childhood behind while publicly embracing womanhood.

Though I’ve never attended a Quinceañera, this story makes me wish I had. I’m truly in awe of the precision to detail, preparation, planning, and investment of time and money that goes into one single day for a teenage girl. What a forever gift she is given by her family! And similar to that of a wedding day, the focus is centered on a single “flower” who blossoms in front of all who come to celebrate only her. Even in the written story I could feel the incredible love that is poured over her, especially from her father, as four main events represent her transition from little girl to grown woman:

  • the changing of her shoes from flats to heels
  • her dance with her last doll
  • her crowning with a tiara
  • the dance with her father (which is said to be the most important part of the entire event)

Especially touching in the article was a picture of dad kneeling at the feet of his daughter, removing her flat shoes while slipping onto her feet a pair of heels, as if she was a princess at the ball. In response to this interaction dad says,

“Seeing her walk in heels was probably what made it all real for me. She hadn’t worn heels because she wasn’t supposed to, so seeing her stumble around and try to find her balance was just reminding me that she was going to struggle on her road ahead and she was going to have to make herself stable again on her own.”

And there was dad, nearby, waiting in the wings, ready to catch her if she did indeed fall.

Dad continued by explaining how emotional it was for him to see his daughter laughing and smiling while dancing in her sparkling dress holding her favorite doll. He found himself reminiscing about how it seemed like only yesterday that she was playing with Barbies. It had gone by so fast and now here she was all grown up. Yet as her dad, he was filled with joy as he proudly showed her off to everyone.

Reading this story made me wonder what it would be like if every branch of society took a cue from cultures where dads actively celebrate and mark their daughter’s maturation in some kind of significant way. I’ll take the liberty here of being blunt by saying that from what I’ve heard over the past few decades of coming alongside girls and young women is that for many of them the event that marked their right of passage from childhood to adulthood was a fleeting sexual experience, that of a one night stand. Not always, but rarely is she left feeling valued or celebrated. Instead, she may feel used, unwanted, undesirable, or maybe even unloved.

BUT…what would if be like if dads everywhere found a way to let their maturing daughters know that as a dad they are dialed in, present, and on board as she transitions into and embraces womanhood?

I wonder what would happen if every girl, like the one in this article, knew that she had a day marked out for her where her dad treated her like the belle of the ball in a significant and celebratory way to confirm that she has profound value in his eyes. She would have that day and that event to look forward to long before it took place.

And if a big shindig isn’t your daughter’s style,

  • maybe you could take her on a dad-daughter hike to a beautiful place in your state initiating a new annual tradition that celebrates her love of adventure and nature.

  • maybe she’s the type of girl who would enjoy a dinner party hosted at a restaurant with a few family and/or friends where you could surprise her by writing and reading a letter about what gifts you see in her that make you proud of her.

  • maybe you could have a fancy dinner at home (one that has her favorite food and done in an extra special way that shows forethought with décor and fancy dinnerware) where you read her a handwritten letter while the rest of the family listens, ending with a dance in the living room to a pre-selected song. Ask another family member to record it for future enjoyment (at least by you if that isn’t her thing!).

  • maybe she would like a piece of special jewelry that will remind her every time she wears it that she’s your girl and you love her to pieces.

  • maybe she’s wired to do a risk-taking activity that activates her adrenaline while proving to herself that she’s brave, like bungee jumping, scuba diving, climbing a rock wall, or running a half marathon (and the best part is that you can do it with her…if you’re able--or be there to cheer her on, if you're not).

These are just a few ideas to hopefully spur your creativity and motivate you to plan ahead by creating an event to let your daughter know that you are excited to see your little girl grow up. Share your ideas with her and together decide what would have the most meaning to her. And if she’s already grown, you can do still do this in retrospect; she’ll still love the fact that you’re celebrating her now.

Dad, let’s start with practical steps. Connect with your daughter today---through your written, texted, or spoken words---and let her know that you celebrate the girl and woman she is. She’ll shine inside and out as you honor her today!

(*The original newspaper article is posted in The Beaverton Resource Guide, June 2016, p 18,