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Ask The Good Enough Guy: Dads And Daughters

father-daughter

 

Hi Will,

You always make me laugh when I read your column and I hope you can help me.

My husband Paul and I have been married for 10 years now and we love each other very much.

We have a very bright and sweet 6-year-old daughter and I’ve started to notice that although Paul loves her unconditionally, he has a hard time connecting with her.

I don’t expect him to do girly stuff with our daughter but worry that he is missing the best times to connect with a girl. Soon enough she will be off to college, with a boyfriend and I want her to look back and remember the great times she had with her dad.

He is not rude to her at all, I just wish there were a stronger bond between them. On our daughter’s part, she is a very shy and reserved girl and I feel that if the connection doesn’t come from him, it would never happen.

How can I approach the subject without hurting my husband?

Thank you and I hope you can make me laugh again…

Fiona, Long Island

Hey Fiona,

Picture a beautiful little girl, younger than six, in a pink leotard, white tights, and tiny ballet slippers. Her little hands are perched on top of her head, but she’s too shy to pirouette across the dance floor in front of the other girls and their mothers. Now, picture next to her, a man, nearly six feet tall, close to 200 pounds, in that same position, twirling across the floor in coveralls and steel-toed boots, about as gracefully as Jabba the Hutt. Yep. That was me. And now, at fourteen, my daughter still laughs about it… and will always remember it.

Can Paul still connect with his daughter? Absolutely. Is he going to have to do some girly stuff? Probably. But you can help him. Here’s how:

Start with the truth… Sit Paul down and tell him just what you told me above. It may sting a bit, but this is about your child, so he’ll understand. This is an important situation and he either doesn’t know it’s happening, or doesn’t know what to do about it. When girls and boys are babies, there isn’t much difference between them, other than the plumbing and fixtures, but at age three or four, little girls can get confusing to dads. “Can I play football with her, or do I have to get her a dolly? If I play too rough with her, will I make her a tomboy? (and is that ok) When she cries, do I tell her to suck it up or do we talk about her feelings?”… and it gets more confusing, not less. Talk to Paul now, before she gets breasts and he moves into the garage.

Help them find common ground… As my daughter got older, and consequently more girly, it was harder to find interests we shared (They don’t make pink ballet slippers for my size 11 feet, and those tights are brutally confining.) Great interests for my daughter and I were music and books. The Beatles’ songs I sang to her as a baby have grown into the songs we now listen to together on our way to the mall. And all of those bedtime stories I read have turned her into a voracious reader. Now we trade books and have our own exclusive book club; just the two of us. And she’s started to write… (I’m grinning like a proud poppa!)

Teach him to Stretch his Mind… The common ground thing only goes so far. Eventually he’s going to have to go into some less than masculine territory. My daughter’s musical taste took me into “Jonas Brothers” land for a while (was Joe the cute one?), and quite a few of “our” favorite books contained shirtless vampires. (That’s right; I was team Edward. You want to make something of it?) He needs to understand that looking (and feeling) ridiculous for his daughter’s sake says a lot about how much he loves her. Other moms will think he’s great. Other dads have all been there. How his daughter feels is really all that matters. Feeling embarrassed is for suckers.

Tell him to think “boyfriend”… Like it or not, one day she’ll be dating. The way he treats her now will play a HUGE part in how she allows boys (and eventually men) to treat her in the future. Not paying attention to her feelings, showing no interest in her hobbies, making her feel like her ideas are foolish and not worth listening to; these are all things that a dad would choke a boyfriend for doing to his daughter.

As dads, men need to be extra careful to set a good example. If she plays Barbie, he should be Ken. At the tea party, he is a distinguished gentleman. He should open doors for her and offer her his arm when they walk. He needs to treat her at least as well as he would want a boyfriend to treat her. Remind him that dads are the first men that daughters ever have a relationship with. He needs to be a really tough act to follow.

There’s no overnight fix for connecting with a child, but it sounds like he loves her and you love them both, so my Magic 8 Ball says the outlook is good! Kiss and hug them both… and I hope I helped.

Will Jones

William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.

 

12 Comments

  1. Aaron Charlow

    April 9, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Stole this from Anthony Anderson on twitter:
    To my fathers.
    Be the man your father wanted you to be.
    Be the man you want your son to be.
    Be the man you want your daughter to be with.

  2. will jones

    April 9, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Aaron-I love that! Very well said. And you also have to be the man your daughter WANTS to be with. That’s where the connection comes in. I friend od mine shared had this one her page so I’m sharing it. It’s nothing mind-blowing, just a daddy-daughter moment;
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHqFWYYOUAM&feature=player_embedded#at=45

  3. Irene

    April 9, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Oh my goodness Aaron…sometimes I think there is this g.e.m. patrol that just knows some of the things going on in our lives…. do it while their young because when they become 14 and up it gets harder too…thanks for that quote!

  4. Elizabeth

    April 9, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Such a truthful, sweet column. Dad’s do make such a difference in their daughter’s lives. Thanks again for great words of wisdom!

  5. juli

    April 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    AWW. Good advice. I so value my father daughter relationship with my dad. He raised me from when my mom died when I was 5. There is nothing like the bond of a Daddy and his little girl. I will always be my Dad’s “Bug”. Thanks for helping a Mom halp a dad

  6. m.e. johnson

    April 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Hi Will. Great answer! I hope many moms will be showing it to many dads. So often dads think giving their daughts their way and buying them everything they want is all they have to do. So thanks.

  7. dianthe

    April 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    wow – that boyfriend advice is the BEST advice i’ve ever heard!! my husband and my daughter have a really close relationship but then, she’d only 3 – i know that it will change as she gets older so i’ll be filing the boyfriend thing away for future reference!

  8. Will Jones

    April 10, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Elizabeth- Thank you. Us dads try hard to make a difference, but when it comes to daughters, we normally feel like the moms have it all together and we’re just staggering around in a dark room, looking for a light switch! LOL

    Juli- Hat’s of to your dad. He deserves all the respect in the world for pulling that one off, just as single moms raising sons do. Being a single parent would be hard enough, but a man trying to raise a girl to be a woman; that’s tough stuff! It looks like he gave lots of love… and that whatever else he did worked! Thanks for the compliment, and give a compliment to your dad from me!

    M.E. The “walking wallet” syndrome is a hard one to fight. We don’t want to spoil our daughters (well… maybe a little) but it’s so hard to say no to that sweet, sad, little, face! I’m the first to admit that I’ve been a sucker for it, but I’m getting stronger.LOL. Thanks for the compliment and the comment. It’s always great hearing from you.

    Dianthe- “…best advice ever…”? (Did everybody year that? LOLOLOL) But seriously, thank you for saying so. That’s the best compliment ever!
    It’s so great that you husband and your daughter are already getting off to a great start. And filing the boyfriend advice away probably isn’t necessary: most of us dads start worrying about boyfriends the day we hear “IT’S A GIRL!”

    Thanks to everybody for commenting! I really appreciate it.

  9. Nikki Newman

    April 12, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Will, the advice connecting a daughter’s relationship with her father to the kind of treatment she should expect from guys later in life is brilliant and so true. Unfortunately my own dad placed his needs far above those of my sister and I for many years and consequently learning that what I need or would like is of importance has taken half a lifetime! I love this advice. I also love that you were (are?!) Team Edward :]

  10. Jana

    April 12, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Will, you are right up there with my husband in the FreakingAwesmeDad category. “Feeling embarrassed is for suckers,” sums it up perfectly. There is nothing more beautiful, warm and sexy as a man who doesn’t care if the world sees how utterly smitten he is with his daughter. Open vulnerability like that is such a treasure and I hope the dad mentioned in the letter is able to find that connection with is daughter. He will always be her “first love!”

  11. Gay Wakefield

    April 12, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Truly words of wisdom. I adored my Daddy; he was funny and respectful and a hard worker. But he was not the warm and fuzzy type. Reading was the only interest we shared and that wasn’t until I got old enough to read the kinds of books he read. I can’t help but wonder whether–if I’d had a Daddy who did the things you recommend–I might have made much better choices regarding the men I chose to love.

  12. Rene Syler

    April 12, 2011 at 9:42 am

    @Gay: To me it’s such an interesting topic. I think sometimes Dads don’t know the power they have. I ended up marrying a guy who is just like mine. the good parts and bad. Such is life, eh?

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