Strong Daughters

Headlines like this always catch my eye. A good dad needs all the information he can gather. My wife discredits the notion of parent-as-friend, but I like this emphasis on father as ally:

I think that one of the reasons I wanted to address this issue head-on, is that a father is a daughter’s great ally, which today is not only overlooked, but is directly attacked. If you look at the typical sitcom, the father is portrayed as someone who is comical, humorous and just plain dumb, and as though he has something to learn from his daughter.

Agreed to a good degree. I’d also say that the sitcom father is set up as the typical authority figure. He’s portrayed as plain dumb because the culture likes to see authority figures take a fall.

Research shows that a father’s influence builds up self-esteem, helps his daughter to avoid sex, drugs, alcohol, and stay in college. What it is that a father offers is that he carries an authority in his daughter’s eyes. This authority is not ascribed to the mother, not that she is not important, but a father’s influence is different.

Agreement here also. As my daughter grows older, I see the different influence, even through the rolled eyes and the other trappings of adolescence. I know that what I say, and especially what I do, carries a lot of weight.

There’s a concern in the article about the influence of the culture in encouraging sexual activity, and how parents, particularly the father, is a force against that. This is a concern in a lot of places, and unfortunately, most of the discussion centers on the educational method used in the school. Many Catholic school parents (and other parents) seem willing to hand over sex education (more accurately what is needed is formation) to the “experts,” the schools.

Even on Catholic sites, I don’t see the acknowledgement–it’s obvious–that parents are the primary influences on the sexual life of their children. There’s a lot of energy expended on parental notification laws, but really, if the child is already sexually active and the parents are clueless, the battle has already been lost. If the daughter is on her own emotionally making a decisions about sex or abortion, then the parents, the father in particular, has already failed.

One of the greatest mistakes that parents make in their kids is a misunderstanding of what happiness and joy is in their kids. Parents just want their kids to be happy, but they perceive incorrectly that it comes from receiving pleasure, so when children receive, receive, receive, happiness does not come, resulting in a lot of unhappy kids.

This has been a tough judgment to make at times. We do want our child to be happy. There’s nothing that stabs a parent’s heart like a child in pain. Anita and I aren’t materially wealthy, but we do provide for our daughter. Generously, I think. We used to worry about too much emphasis on possessions.

Then several months ago, our daughter noted that her bedroom had become filled with lots of “little-girl” things, books and toys she had outgrown. On her own initiative, she sorted through her possessions one Saturday. My wife was so alarmed by the result she called me at work. Brittany insists, now what should we do with a spare room full of carefully bagged items?

My instinct was to accept it. Brittany’s own reasoning was that by donating a lot of good-condition stuff, other children could play with toys and read books that had become neglected. In fact, I was very proud. Brit isn’t careless about her things, other than the usual dreamy inattention. Letting go was easy for her, compared to me.
I don’t think I learned the same lesson as the oldest child. Things I didn’t wear out were kept to be passed on to my brother. I’ve always had an accumulative spirit, especially where books are concerned. My wife, on the other hand, regularly sorts through household stuff and donates to a thrift store run by a charity. Dad doesn’t have to do everything, thank goodness.

Any other father-daughter experiences in comment-dom? We’d be interested to read, if you have one.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to Strong Daughters

  1. crystal says:

    Reading this is almost like reading about a culture on another planet :-) I didn’t know my father and I had two bad stepfathers. Your family sounds wonderful.

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