My neck adorned with beaded necklaces. Pink and silver glitter stuck to my skin from art projects. Holding hands with my two little girls dancing around in a circle singing “Ring Around the Rosie”.
Not long after the giggles from tickles are done, my wife looks at me and tosses me the oddest of compliments: “Eddie, you’re such a good girly dad.”
As a red-blooded, steak eating, sports loving American man, I took offense to her statement initially. After all, as men we’re taught being “girly” in any sense is an affront to manhood.
But my wife wasn’t referring to my masculinity: she was talking about how my fathering was great at adapting to the wants and needs of my daughters.
Being a father is an awesome responsibility. One that will having your proverbial cup overflowing with pride as your offspring learn new things and achieve new dreams. At the same time, it will have you wrecked with anxiety, bubbling with anger, twisting with fear and exhausted from the daily routines. All of this, and I’ve been a dad for just over four years.
Fatherhood is one of the odd dichotomies that thrusts men into a new level of uber-responsibility but also lets men spend time digging for earthworms and playing Candy Land. For me, a man with two daughters, being a “girly dad” has some specific responsibilities.
Raising daughters isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re a dad with little girls or grown-up girls, you already know this. But what separates a good “girly dad” from just a man with daughters?
A “girly dad” knows the needs of his daughters. He knows when to show compassion, be strong, be sensitive, be goofy, be serious, be affectionate, and be silent. Little girls often have different needs from little boys, but can have many similarities. Case in point: my girls don’t always share my intense desire to play various sports with them, but they do love to “wrestle” around with daddy.
Numerous issues that can arise when a man isn’t a “good father” to his daughter. The harrowing truth about fathering daughters is this: the standard for the way every man in a girl’s life treats her may be set by the way her daddy treats her. Is her daddy verbally abusive to her? Then her sense of self-worth could be destroyed, and making her vulnerable to any man who feels okay using harsh words with her. Is her daddy inattentive? Then she’ll grow up doing anything to get attention from other men she meets. Does her daddy treat her mommy well? If not, she’ll think the standard is that women aren’t respected by their husbands, and she’ll accept the same from her future husband.
The role we as fathers play in our daughters lives cannot be overstated. We aren’t always the best at helping them coordinate outfits, or hosting tea parties, or putting pony tails in their hair, but we are responsible to love and cherish them in a way nobody else does. Our daughters need to know they can come to us for anything. We’re men, so we fix things. When our daughters break a toy, we fix it. When they scrape a knee, we fix it. Then, as they grow up and get a broken heart, we try to fix it. Are we always successful? No. And it’s not that mom can’t do many of those things; in many cases, she already does. But our daughters need to know we’re at least always available. Dad may not be perfect, he’s still there to help, for the emotional as well as the physical hurts.
A “girly dad” knows the needs of his daughters. He knows when to show compassion, be strong, be sensitive, be goofy, be serious, be affectionate, and be silent.
Our daughters need to learn from us, not just from their mothers. We need to teach them basic things such as tying shoes and brushing teeth. We need to teach them fun things, like riding a bike or catching grasshoppers. We need to teach them things they see us doing and want to imitate, such as how to use a screwdriver and socket set. We need to teach them relational skills, such as shaking hands and speaking up when someone speaks to them. We need to teach them character skills such as always being honest and caring for others. We need to teach them important life skills like saving their money and always wearing their seatbelt. We need to teach them academic skills such as addition, subtraction, and the difference between nouns and verbs.
Our daughters need to learn dependence and independence from us. They need to know their parents love them and are always there to care for and listen to them. They need to also learn that mommy and daddy won’t always be around them, and how to take care of themselves.
Our daughters need to be validated by us. As men, we’re not the best at deciphering emotions already, much less from our own little girls. We need to know it’s not silly if our little girl is sad or upset about something. We need to understand their frustrations. We don’t validate them doing wrong based on their emotions; we validate the fact that there are things that matter greatly to them and that fact alone makes them important to us as well.
Our daughters need to learn generosity. I often remind my girls at the dinner table when there is food they don’t really want, that there are plenty of kids in the world who would love to have any kind of food to eat. Our girls need to know not only how blessed they are, but also how to give to others in need. They need to see us being charitable with our time and money, and in turn see that true wealth isn’t placed in our bank accounts or possessions.
Our daughters need to learn patience. They need to know the world does not revolve around them, and as much as we love them, we won’t give them everything they want. We won’t give them something they want at the exact moment they want it. Patience is a virtue that is hard to come by in the world. We’re better off when our girls learn that sometimes it’s okay to wait.
Our daughters need to learn the great value of other little girls. My girls go to a church where there are other kids that have different skin colors. They’ve never once said anything about a child having black skin. My girls don’t see that as important. They play with a sweet girl that has Down Syndrome. Not once have they ever made a reference that she is different in any way. Imagine if we all live this way? Our girls need to know how special and precious every child is, regardless of what they look like or how they act or the things they say.
Being a good girly dad has nothing to do with my masculinity. It has everything to do with me being a father to two precious daughters, loving them where they are as they are. It means trading hours in front of the TV watching baseball for hours watching Cinderella or Doc Mcstuffin cartoons. It means spending time away from doing yard work some on Saturdays for time digging for earthworms with my girls. It means dancing goofy to silly songs. It means have a dozen hair bows stuck in your hair at the expense of giggles from my girls.
It means being given a great responsibility from God to raise girls with honor, respect, integrity, and love. Sweet, sweet love.
And yes, if that makes me a “girly dad”, so be it.