Little girls, teenagers, and young ladies have a special and unique need from dads. This is a subject that keeps me humbled and ever mindful of my responsibility. It is not that boys lack love and encouragement. However, there is a specific attention and assurance that is vital to girls. I know that I have touched on this topic before on my blogsite thedadmanual.com, but today I would like to address it with a bit more detail and clarity.
My first child was a boy. Seven years later, I had another boy. I was living in the world of “been there, done this”. This was comfortable ground. I knew how to care for boys. To me, they were low maintenance. Yes, they needed protection, love, and encouragement. However, they appeared to be “free-range” in their growing up. You just had to set them in motion.
Let me be the first to say that I screwed up in so many areas with my first kid. I did not know what I was doing. I learned by doing so many things wrong. You would think that when my second son was born, I would be more careful. No, I thought I was pro. I did make fewer mistakes but still did an injustice by not trying to educate myself on Dad 101. When it came to my little girl, this would be a different story…sort of.
My little girl had the same basic baby needs but quickly grew into a different creature. Her needs were different. I quickly noticed that she was developing quicker when it came to smarts. Not that I am calling my boys dumb, but things just came quicker to my daughter. She was growing up, but not with an outward trajectory as my boys. By boys required less protection, but my girl still desired it. She wanted to be near me. She wanted a safe place with dad. This would prove ironic later in life. As she grew, she became such a source of my strength.
Little girls crave that their dads notice them, love them, treasure them, and protect them. I am thankful that I quickly recognized this. Let me tell the dads reading this one important thing. You CANNOT tell your daughter that you love her too much. You also need to show it. I would write little notes and put them in her room, backpack, or other places that she would find them. I would send her flowers at school. Not just on special occasions, as often as I could afford to do so. Let me stress that it is NOT buying them things that will make the difference. It is you telling them that they are special.
If you have a little girl, start now. Give them your time. This is not just designating a time. Seek them out. Color with them, have tea parties, wrestle, tickle, sing to them. Be willing to be seen as silly. My little girl liked to paint my nails. Yes, I said it. I was willing to be silly and a fool for her smile.
As she grew older, I praised her hard work and encouraged her to tackle the world. When she got knocked down, I would tell her that champions get up and fight again. When she would do so, I would praise her regardless of outcomes. This practice helped form her character today. Yes, she still desires dad’s safe arms and kind words, but she is a strong woman with a fighting spirit. So she needs me but doesn’t “need” me. Do you get it?
The final point that separates the needs of boys and girls is your daughter’s need for you to be vulnerable. As a man, I can’t say that I fully understand this. They need to see you when you are sad, weak, or hurting. This is something that most men strongly avoid. We don’t like being vulnerable. We feel exposed, embarrassed, and less manly. However, if you will let your daughter in your safe space, it does something that bonds the heart. You will see that her presence alone is a comfort.
Your boys will be your chest-beating pride. Regardless of his recent troubles, I loved how Bill Cosby explained the father/son feeling. In his first major standup video, he was saying, “see the boy running the touchdown, that’s my son”. Daughters can also make us proud, but more so by reflecting on their character, intelligence, and drive. I found that if I lived vicariously, it was through my boys. My daughter was different. She was her own person. She was just so different. She was my princess. She did and does represent what is good and right…not just how tough she is. I hope fathers reading this will give an amen.
Your daughters need you in a special way. They need your words, actions, and your heart. Wholeheartedly serve them as the dad/man that they need. They are your princess. Be the best dad possible.