The only woman in the house where I grew up was my mother. Getting married and having daughters has been a crash course in girl things I’d never known or seen before. I now can tell you what a loofa is, the proper way to dress a Barbie, and how properly to put on nylons and leggings. I’ve learned that the women in my life aren’t suffering from some horrible hair-loss disease that causes the clogs in our bathroom drains (and that keeping a set of needle-nose pliers handy is a must for ongoing bathroom maintenance).
One might say that family life so far has been a 15-year-long graduate program in understanding girls. I’m learning a few important lessons. Here are 3.
How to Play in a New Way
My daughters have taught me a whole new way to play. It’s fascinating to watch how they treat LEGOs and Hot Wheels completely differently than I ever did. They embrace intricate stories that take weeks to play out instead of the simple cops, robbers, and spy games I used to play. Where I used to play a game, accomplish some goal, and move on to something else, they are able to savor the adventure no matter how the story plays itself out. This reality carries over to the time I spend with my girls. I find, for the most part, that my girls would rather go out with me to pick a new shirt or pair of pajamas than have me order them something online (even if the online item is “nicer”).
Bottom line: This new way of understanding girls has taught me that my daughters want to live and share the adventure regardless of the end result and how critical it is that I enter into those adventures with them.
How to Compliment Them
All my kids teach me the incredible weight my words can carry, whether a kind compliment or a word that tears down. But in my ongoing course in understanding girls, I’ve realized some specific things they need to hear me say. We live in a culture that values the superficial, especially in women. This is hammered home to them over and over again on billboards, magazine covers, music videos, movies, and the like, which all portray a specific and false idea of what beauty is. My daughters need me to compliment them on their physical beauty, but also on their other traits.
Bottom line: Whether for their creativity, compassion, or the personality they bring to our lives each day, girls need compliments that surround the whole person and not simply their appearances.
How to Respond to Their Dignity
One of the things I’ve feared most since I became a father to daughters has been the boys who inevitably will start coming around. It’s a fear I share in common with many other dads largely, I believe, because of the way I noticed, thought of, and spoke of the girls around me during my teenage years. This fear has given me pause to consider the way I notice, think of, and speak about the women around me today. Pope John Paul II said in 1982 that God has assigned “the dignity of every woman as a task to every man (and) at the same time, he assigns the dignity of every man to every woman.”
Bottom line: I believe every woman I encounter, whether in person or in a picture, is created in God’s image and therefore is inherently worthy of respect. Responding to that dignity necessarily has an impact on the way I look at other women, the way that I talk about other women, and the media I choose to consume.
Earn some points: Are you married? Share iMOM article 50 Ways to Connect with Your Daughter with your wife.
Sound off: What have you learned from having a daughter or daughters?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some things that make you unique?”