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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I’ve Raised Three Boys; I Can Raise a Daughter – Can’t I?

My wife and I gave birth to three boys two years apart. We named them rhyming names just for the fun of it: Tory, Cory, and Rory. After Rory was born we no other children came along for a long time. We didn’t do anything different with birth control, but clearly something had changed and we thought we had all the children we were going to have. Tory, Cory, and Rory filled our lives. Barbara got used to living in a world of boys and I had fun everyday with the guys.

My heart skipped a beat six years later when Barbara told me she was pregnant. After so much time it was almost like having our first child again. Barb and I were a bit old fashioned; we never tried to find out what the sex of the child was before birth. My heat skipped two beats when Clory, a daughter, slipped into the world. After three boys how could I help but wonder “what do I do with a girl?”

The truth is I didn’t have to worry. She quickly became “one of the guys.”  Just as each of my first three sons had been she was my little buddy.  We walked, we talked, we rode bikes and did everything else I had ever done with my sons. But then she hit puberty. I went from a veteran Dad to a naïve rookie.
From best buddy to “man in the way.” My little buddy disappeared and was replaced with this . . . this . . . well, a young woman. I had been married about 25 years when this happened. After that many years living with a woman you might think you know something about girls. Nope, doesn’t count.

I have to tell you truthfully that when my daughter morphed into a young woman it felt like I was losing her. Who was this person who took her place? I spoke with a friend who was the mother of nine daughters and explained, rather ruefully, how I felt. She just smiled and said, “Don’t worry, the best is yet to come.” She was right.

My daughter is just turning sixteen. She is hardly grown and out of the house yet so I know there will yet be many puzzlements, worries, frustrations, and maybe even a little hurt left in the journey to adulthood, but I am starting to experience some of that “best yet to come.”  Amid all my “what the heck is this about?” confusion, this young woman has introduced me into a world of grace and beauty that doesn’t come with boys. There is “dance around” happiness and “lots of tears” sadness. There are those moments when she walks into the room dressed up all pretty where I think, “Is this my daughter?” There are those unexpected kisses on the cheek and “I love you’s”. This daughter has brought, what is to me, a mysterious, feminine world to my attention.

My daughter is interested in boys now. They are interested in her, too. Sometimes they risk running into me to see her. I don’t like these boys. So far they are all animals, idiots, and delinquents. Actually, they probably aren’t all these things, but that is the way I feel. I want her to find boys worthy of her, boys who will treat her like the potential queen that she is. The hard fact is is that she will be doing all the picking. She will never allow my help in choosing who she spends her time with and eventually who she falls in love with. This is a cruel twist of irony to the person who wants to be the only man in her life.

This cruelty has been lessened by something I learned lately. I listened to a woman speak on the subject, “Fathers, How to Raise Your Daughters” by Elaine S. Dalton. She sums up her talk with the words, “Fathers, how do you raise your daughter? By loving her mother.”  I sense the truth of her words. Much of my daughter’s expectations of how to be treated by a man will come from how she sees me treat her mother. I want boys to treat my daughter with kindness, respect, and dignity. Has she seen me treating my wife that way?  Since hearing that talk I have been very conscious of how I treat my wife and painfully making corrections. I can’t pick boys for my daughters, but I can show them the quality, at least at minimum, that I hope they will pick. “Father’s, the greatest thing you can do for your daughters is to love their mothers.” Such beautiful, powerful, advice. Below is a beautiful, short video that was created based on that talk. What do you think?


Corybander said...

An excellent article. Thank you for sharing your learning experiences. May the Bawb shine well!

Timothy Stakland said...

Thanks for sharing. I'll be running into these same challenges soon enough and I appreciate the insight!