Growing up, my mom loved saying, "Julie, you are just like your daddy."
I have bursts of great memories of being with my dad but I can't recall sitting down and really talking to him when I lived under his roof. My memories are one sided, my side.
I don't remember the day or even the year I started to pay attention and take in his presence but I can tell you that when I did, I saw someone that I did not know at all. In high school I knew my friends loved to sleep over because they knew my dad would have donuts waiting and their cars washed. When I first started dating my boyfriend (now husband), I knew that he liked hanging out my dad because he thought he was "cool." I also recall the moment when a prominent business man approached me at a social gathering to tell me that he "loved" my dad. And I can remember like it was yesterday when I was asked what my dad did for a living. I remember being embarrassed because I was not able to explain other than the basic "he works in the oil field." I was able to give a general term that covered the title of his business but that was it. Much to my dismay, the general term was greeted with,"Whoa, your dad is doing some dangerous work." I can't say that this was the moment that I started to listen to my dad, to ask better questions but I know I started to pay more attention to him.
Why didn't I know those things about my dad? Why didn't I realize how cool my dad was and how he was a dude living on the edge??? I know that my story is not special or unique because I have seen myself in my young clients' stories for years. Our stories are the ones that have sparked researchers to study the importance of the relationship and have been the subject of too many songs to even mention...Just listen to Madonna's Papa Don't Preach if you need a little inspiration.
What Dads need to know
Respectful and supportive fathers foster strong, brave, adventurous and confident women. Research shows that a dad's influence even has an impact on higher IQs. THIS relationship factors a daughter's self-esteem, self-image, confidence which influence over-all happiness and well-being. Not to mention the empowerment felt when they have their dad's support. All of this PLUS this is the relationship that sets the bar for her future romantic relationships. How she perceives men and expectations of what to expect from males comes from her relationship with her father.
Straight Talkin' to you dads and daughters...so listen up!
Working parents get a bad rap...The more successful the parent, the more time spent away from family and friends. It's just reality. Some working parents are holding down multiple jobs to keep food and a roof over heads. The things we need and want come at a cost.
Tip-Carve out special times for quality one to one time. It does not have to be timely or costly experiences just consistent moments to check in.
Emotional outbursts, body changes and menstrale cycles... omg. We go from Daddy's girl with cuddles and hugs to confused over dad's distance. Random dudes looking at daughters, give even the most stable father a paranoid personality. Dads who once appeared easy going yes men, start questioning friend choices, limiting social activities, giving unsolicited clothing advice and beauty tips. And what do you really expect dad to say to you when someone breaks your heart? Exactly.. Your emotional outbursts scare them. Who really knows what to say to a chick who is angry because her hair looks bad and her pants are too tight.
Tip-Dads should pay attention to the emotions and not so much the words. If daughters are crying just state the obvious..."I'm sorry you are sad" don't even try to fix it but you can acknowledge the feelings...and that's good stuff! Daughters should give dads a break on the girl stuff-he isnt gonna know what to say so honor that fact that he is trying.
3. Common Ground
I hear things like, "I don't know what to say to her" "I don't know how to help her" "I don't even know her anymore" If you can strike up a conversation with a stranger then you can talk to the human you are responsible for creating. There are some dads that feel like they can connect to their daughters through sports, political issues, driving and school academics ...that's good so keep it going.
Tip-There is nothing wrong with starting with the basics..."what was the best part of your day" and "tell me about this movie you are watching...looks interesting."
4. Living Apart
No problem- father daughter connections are influenced by consistency with quality interactions. The challenge is to stay connected...so don't give up. Call, text, write and make efforts to show up to school functions and events. Daughters are busy hanging with their buddies which is a typical teen thing but dads who don't get to see their girls daily might get pushed aside. This might make dad feel abandoned. When people feel abandoned they will naturally pull away...STOP yourself and remember, there are about 13.6 million single parents in the US today, and a crazy amount of marriages end in divorce so, you are not alone.
Tip- Say things like "when you are ready, I'm here." And then repeat that and then repeat it again. Daughters send a random text here and there...it would make his day, I promise.
It's NEVER to late to jump in and try
I have had the privilege of helping dads and daughters connect in my office. I have bared witness to difficult moments that turn into tears, smiles and gratitudes over a completed sandtray session. These sessions are almost always similar, dad doesn't know how to talk to daughter and daughter doesn't want to disappoint or hurt dad. After the session, most dads smile and ask if they can come back. Daughters share their feelings of relief and overall happiness because they did what they were so nervous to do...have a real conversation and a chance to connect in a meaningful way. A psychotherapist dream.
A parent child relationship can not be replaced...not with a spouse, not with a friend, not a sibling or other family members. This relationship is irreplaceable.
Back to my dad...so he knows.
My dad is a hard worker and makes his living in the oilfield. I've heard stories about him working on a platform before he could even drive a car. My dad takes pride in his work and expects others to do the same. He is honest, loyal and really super friendly. He knows the importance of following through with promises. He can remember random dates (birthdays, deaths and anniversaries) and loves to share stories of days of old especially if those stories are about his family. People love my dad and he really does have acquaintances that cross generations. He loves his family, especially his grandsons, who commonly refer to him as the "human toy." But my favorite thing about my dad is his eternal optimism and his willingness to help out when he is needed.
Dad I want to thank you for waiting for me to appreciate you and I'm sorry it took me so long. I am so grateful for all that you have done for me...even when I was a poop face. Thank you for the hand ups and hand downs...for the opportunities...for modeling amazing work ethic and for not giving me too much rope to hang myself. I want you to know that the time you spent away from us, working the job, thinking about the job, talking about the job and selling the job afforded me the amazing life that I am living today. So proud to be your daughter.
Guess what Mom...I want to be just like my daddy.
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