You fixed her sparkly barrettes, but in my eyes you secured her world.
Dear Tough Guy … (I’m talking about the quarterback-sized dad driving the enormous pickup truck; the one who wore a football jersey to the movies last night. Yes you! The macho man singing “Let it Go” at the top of his lungs, with three tiny blonde daughters wearing matching blue Elsa costumes …)
You made my year. You also reminded me so much of my own dad – the gentle giant who looked me in the eye when I was a child and said: “You are a princess.” And for the next 40 years, I’ve walked around this great, green earth with my head held high – living every word of it.
But it wasn’t just what my dad said (although that was certainly important); it’s what he did. Like you, he took a great interest in the things I loved – even if they didn’t interest him. He embraced my hobbies as his own, so much so that he ended up loving them, too. One was roller skating. Honestly, I can’t remember who got hooked on it first – but looking back, none of the other dads in town zipped around the park with their daughters almost every single night.
So Tough Guy, I just thought I’d write you this note to let you know that I applaud you. I hope you have people close to you (hopefully your wife!) who also recognize the awesome job you’re doing – the way you fixed your daughter’s hair while we were all waiting in line; the way you kept your cool when your other daughter dropped her soda. In embracing your role as Tender Dad, in learning to snap sparkly barrettes even though your hands are the size of catcher’s mitts, you’re setting the tone for these little girls’ entire lives. Like my dad, you’re showing your precious daughters that they are worthy – worthy of love, worthy of tenderness, worthy of the very highest respect.
But don’t just take my word for it. Studies and statistics show time and again how important fathers are to all children, and in a unique way to little girls. Meg Meeker, M.D. in her book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters lists the following facts:
– Toddlers securely attached to fathers are better at solving problems.
– Six-month old babies score higher on tests of mental development if their dads are involved in their lives.
– With dads present in the home, kids manage school stress better.
– Girls whose fathers provide warmth and control achieve higher academic success.
– Girls who are close to their fathers exhibit less anxiety and withdrawn behaviors.
The Institute for Family Studies also reports: “The well-fathered daughter is the most likely to have relationships with men that are emotionally intimate and fulfilling. During the college years, these daughters are more likely than poorly-fathered women to turn to their boyfriends for emotional comfort and support … (.) What is surprising is not that fathers have such an impact on their daughters’ relationships with men, but that they generally have more impact than mothers do.”
Furthermore, the same study finds: “Daughters whose fathers have been actively engaged throughout childhood in promoting their academic or athletic achievements and encouraging their self-reliance and assertiveness are more likely to graduate from college and to enter the higher paying, more demanding jobs traditionally held by males. This helps explain why girls who have no brothers are overly represented among the world’s political leaders: they tend to receive more encouragement from their fathers to be high achievers. Even college and professional female athletes often credit their fathers for helping them to become tenacious, self-disciplined, ambitious, and successful.”
Tough Guy, you could have gone out with the guys last night. You could have sat home watching football – I can tell by your jersey that’s probably more of an interest than Frozen II. But instead you spent your evening sharing popcorn with your daughters, singing their songs and shaping the future of the world. Bless you.