Fathers and daughters. After the birth of our first child, a girl, I asked an older, wiser male friend, father of many children, for advice. Not unlike any other new father, I asked him about raising a daughter. He answered, "Boys mess with your stuff, girls mess with your head." I'm not certain that insight was a confidence-builder for me. Three girls and a fair amount of gray hair (genetic, of course!) later, I'm still learning.
One huge life lesson I've faced speaks to individuality. In short, though born from the same parents, each daughter is different, unique in her own style. Day-to-day living replete with demands and responsibilities for fathers, at times challenges the relationships with our daughters. Being away for hours of work place a potential burden upon the father to access information and to keep updated. It's equivalent to running a marathon with each. The ever-changing scale of emotions can befuddle even the most calm father. Oh, one more revealing life lesson ... being a professional therapist doesn't necessarily gain any advantage when caught up in the spiral of our daughters' lives.
One article will not sufficiently explain and detail all the infinite possibilities of a father-daughter relationship. What I can say with a fair amount of confidence is that God provided me with the blessings of a greater higher education. If "girls mess with your head" rings true, well, one perspective suggests that I've got lots of opportunity to look within and to grow as a man, as a father.
I recall a client who presented her problem clearly - her son's behavior and attitude enraged her. She was at her wit's end. Her son demonstrated to me fairly ordinary and healthy behaviors. She got enraged with me for implying that I was siding with her son against her. Hint, hint! I asked her only two questions - did she view her son as a good person and were his behaviors so outrageous? She sat quietly and answered ''yes, he is a good person'' and before she could say more, she broke into tears, sobs. She then spoke of her own upbringing. Her father gave no affection to her. She didn't recall any cuddling, story-time, fatherly love sentiments. Soon after, she got down on her knees and hugged her son (he, too, had received little affection from her) with sobbing emanating from both. Miracle of miracles? Not really! Get the message folks?
We fathers have so much to learn and we can perhaps, realize the value of love when befuddled with our daughter's holistic growth. Believe me, even the experts in the social science and medical fields are wide open and vulnerable with our own daughters. Yet, the righteous love and healthy affection that we can bring to our daughters will be the foundation solidified in time as they grow and prosper. And yes, even when our daughters reach young adulthood, we can continue to listen, to laugh and to cry with their holistic growth life lessons. We'll always be their father. And especially, we'll always be their daddy. The rewards with growth are infinite. Offer the highest and the best dads ... be open for guidance and direction. Your wife, your partner, can be of invaluable service to delight in your own growth and to your continued endearment for your daughter(s). Be open, also to seek professional advice. I still do and rewarded for the help.
Wishing you well. Best of health.
Marshall Greenstein holds a master's degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org.