Sunday, October 23, 2016

Daddies and Daughters

My personal Facebook page is often dotted with memes that I find funny about children and parenting. I call them "Your Pediatric Moment for (insert day)" 

But today's few lines of Pediatric Moment have turned into a blog post, so here it is...

This is the piece that got my brain rolling.

I've been especially attuned lately to articles like this, as I've had a few patients and a close friend who are new daddies of daughters, and I've noticed how the daddies get sort of lost in the sea of pink.

While I thought this article was adorable, and actually LOL'd at #7 and #19, 
I thought maybe this daddy was leaving out a few important things about daddy-ing daughters.

Little girls' lives don't HAVE to be entirely princesses and sparkly make-up. That's just a cultural thing. If we want to raise the strong daughters that everybody talks about, and break the glass ceiling that this dad mentions, then complete immersion in the sparkle culture of little girlhood may be doing them a disservice.

Don't get me wrong - I still to this day like splashes of pink on my gear. I love my sparkle pistol backstrap too. They help me remember that I don't HAVE to be one of the guys in order to enjoy the activities I do. But what I AM wondering is why does this daddy feel like he has to virtually become a princess himself in order to relate to his daughters? It shouldn't have to be that way. 

Why can't this gender-raising business meet in the middle somehow? I'm not saying raise your kids "gender neutral" - that's just weird and confusing IMO - but share with your opposite sex kids what it is that YOU are good at and enjoy, instead of solely immersing yourself in whatever the current culture says your kid should like.

Nobody bats an eye when a little boy helps his mom bake cookies. So, why aren't there more dads sharing basic repair knowledge with their daughters, for instance? Our young adult population is marrying later and later, so most of them are living on their own for quite a stretch of time. Thus, girls need to learn some basic home repairs just as badly as boys need to learn to cook a meal.

I think our culture is losing something special by slowly denigrating that which has been considered traditionally "masculine". As sweet as it is that today's men are secure enough in themselves to do the princess thing with their daughters, it is equally important for them to introduce their daughters to the flip side of the coin. Daddies have an important masculine role to play in teaching their daughters about the world. Life will not be sparkles and tea parties for these girls forever. They need to be equipped early with real life skills that do not involve pouring imaginary tea for teddy bears.

So, Daddies - here are my words of advice for you ...
While you are wearing your pink tutu, don't forget to teach her about screw drivers and Allen wrenches. While you are building the Dollhouse - get her to help you, and teach her a few construction terms. When Barbie goes on a date - send GI Joe with her to show her how to watch out for suspicious behavior, and how to avoid that T. rex lurking in the bushes over there. 

When she's old enough - teach her to fish. Doesn't matter if it's a princess fishing rod, the skills are the same. (Though fishing never really caught on with me, I have a few special memories of my dad teaching me to tie my own flies. I still remember the smell of head cement) Teach her how to turn a wrench. Teach her how to shoot guns. Teach her how to shoot a bow like Princess Merida. Teach her how to defend herself when that boy gets grabby.  And teach her resilience of spirit. Help her to hop back up, brush off that boo-boo, and get back on the monkey bars.  

As tempting as it is to let her wrap you around her little finger, part of a Daddy's job IMO is also to be the one who says "No". You aren't doing her any favors by caving to her every whim and tear. That only teaches her that she can manipulate men with her emotions. You don't have to be a complete hardass - but there's nothing wrong with being firm, and teaching respect. 

I suppose that my bottom-line message is this - Being a daddy of daughters doesn't mean that you have to allow yourself to be wholly assimilated into the Sparkle Collective. Crossing over into that world can be sweet and fun, but you ALSO have many very important things to share with your daughter just by being yourself, and introducing her to "your" world as well. Hang in There!

This poor GI Joe was found "as is" in a box of Barbies in my basement this AM.
He's been languishing that way for at least ten years ... Or maybe he has daughters now :-)

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