Our two doors close in staccato beats with just an eighth-note separation. It’s all part of the routine as my daughter transfers her belongings from one house to the other for the week’s stay with me.
Here’s my challenge: My daughter needs a dad who will span the cosmic gulf between female and male — without appearing to be extraterrestrial. Your daughter does, too. Our task is simple: Find the vehicle necessary to make the trip from our world to theirs.
Simple, huh? So how can single fathers raising daughters do that?
Men need the contribution of women to nurture our daughters and connect with them. I have curled my daughter’s hair and bought her feminine hygiene products, but I am still a man. My daughter needs a woman to show her how to be a woman.
The first female in your daughter’s life is still her biological mother. Support their relationship through your words and actions. Don’t play custody games or speak in anger.
If your daughter’s mom isn’t available, find someone — or several someones — who can become your daughter’s surrogate mom(s). In addition, let your daughter choose a person in the church to confide in and who will share with you appropriate information of her development. Confidentiality must guard this relationship or it will not function. Besides, the topics they discuss are not as important as their friendship, the key to developing that woman in your home.
How well do you and your daughter communicate? Cash in your “mister fix-it” tool kit, and buy into open questions and empathetic responses. Open questions cannot be answered with yes or no and always extend conversation. Empathetic responses — such as “How did that make you feel?”—expose the heart behind the answers.
To stay up with my daughter’s world, I subscribe to Brio and Teen magazines for her. Her mentor and I read every issue before my daughter does so we can hold culturally literate conversations.
Once I tried to convince my daughter of the biblical basis for marrying a Christian. She was not buying what Dad was selling. Later, I invited two college students, whom my daughter loved, to go to a Michael Card concert with my children and me. On the way home I asked the coeds, “What traits do you look for in the guys you date?”
Those two young ladies accomplished in a few words what my blue-faced reasoning had failed to achieve. At bedtime that evening, my daughter informed me of her intention to marry a Christian. I did not gloat.
Dare to dream
Dreaming together opens a panorama of new horizons. Dreaming gives our daughters what the Old Testament would have called a blessing. In The Blessing (Pocket Books), Gary Smalley and John Trent describe the five parts to a Jewish blessing: physical touch, spoken words, expression of value, a commitment to the person and a picture of a special future. Have you ever blessed your daughter in this way?
One time when Bob Carlisle’s song “Butterfly Kisses” was playing and I was lamenting my daughter’s maturity, we spoke of her wedding plans. She told me of her hairstyle, my suit, and the fact that I would not be performing the ceremony. I was shocked at how much a 13-year-old had thought this through.
Have you ever heard about her dreams about the future? What color will her prom dress be? What is her idea of the ideal man? Do you speak of her future? Will she make a great mother, or doctor, or lawyer or decorator?
Dreams are the packages of the heart. When you open your daughter’s dreams, you open her heart. You must never say, “That’s impossible,” or “That’s silly.” If you do, you will never hold her heart so close again. Dreams are not bound by the fetters of reality. They are the wings of her future. Dreaming with your daughter is equivalent to giving her Jeremiah 29:11.
Woman in the making
She is in your home and life for a season, and you’ll hear, “There’s a boy outside. His name is Jim. He wants to know if I can play with him … dance with him … marry him. Can I, Daddy? Can I?”
Is this the end you had in mind? Take a long look into your little girl’s eyes. Can you see it? There is something inexorable taking place. She is becoming a woman.
A few months ago my 13-year-old went to a school social. She danced with a young man, and when it was over, he kissed her. Mind you, I was not told this by my daughter, but rather heard it through the teenage grapevine. I approached my daughter.
“Whitney, I heard you kissed a boy.”
“No, I didn’t, Dad. He kissed me.”
“He kissed, you kissed. The point is your lips touched.”
“No! It is important. He kissed me!”
“Well, why didn’t you slap him or duck or something?”
“Well, Dad, because”— eternal pause — “I kinda liked it.”
Did you hear that sound? That’s a Dad’s sigh as he’s watching his little girl grow up. I’ll get over it. Just give me seven more years. But I really don’t mind as much as I protest. I think I’ve seen in my mind’s eye the woman she will become, and I can’t wait to meet her. There are just two things I long to hear: One at eternity’s portal: “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” And the other at the head of an aisle: “Thanks, Daddy. I love you.”