Dads and daughters 2014

Daddy's little girl.

I adored my father. I thought he was so handsome and witty. Charming and funny. Smart and strong. He had a terrific smile and a robust laugh. He was expressive and enthusiastic. He had big ideas and was creative and free spirited. He had countless friends, loved sports and music and could talk for HOURS about virtually anything. That is until.......

He drank. I didn't realize he was a mean, violent drinker until a bit later but I saw evidence and it confused me when I was too young to connect the dots. Wrecked cars. A big dent in a tree on our street. A broken jaw. A black eye. An angry wife.

My parents' marriage ended with a flurry of broken glass, broken hearts and a broken home. Almost immediately my father became a memory. He systematically broke every promise he made to me and my sisters and then he just stopped making them. He breezed in and out of our lives and yet still...one by one, we tried to make him into the Dad we "remembered" or an imitation of the Dad we desperately needed.

I am married to an only son of an only son of an only son. He was abandoned by his birth father at the age of 6 and subsequently was raised by his mother and a loving step-father from the time he was 10. He has wounds from his paternal abandonment. Wounds he neither admits nor deals with. And yet.....

Together we have 2 daughters. Lovely girls.

Everyone knows that you should not use your children as your therapeutic healing experiment. Right?

Everyone knows that?

Well aside from my lack of fatherly awesomeness, I also had a shitty mother. While my husband had a wonderful mother, she was quite young when she had him and they suffered through some terrific growing pains. Her example is mighty though, and we both hold her parenting in high esteem.

How could we, 2 people, both damaged in their own ways, (one worse than the other of course), (ME!), begin to know how to raise 2 girls?

We didn't know.

Everything we had and everything we longed for and everything we lacked...all of it, was lovingly given to our two girls. In abundance.

But as they tend to do...the wounds began to bubble up and the girls began to notice the fragility.

A profile on ESPN of a fatherless football star triggers an emotional outpouring and the distance between a sporty kid and her competitive father closes quickly. The feelings of the boy who longed for his father to know how great he turned out, is eclipsed only by the feelings of the daughter who desperately wants her father to "back off"......until she doesn't.

The moment between them, both in tears for different reasons, revealed something important to both of them. My vantage point felt like an intrusion but I was trapped and unable to leave so I silently sobbed as one made the point that what he gives is identical to want he always wanted, and what she says she doesn't want is exactly what she will miss if it's gone and what she will always remember…. No. Matter. What.

"Look at that grown man sobbing over the grave of his father who never got to see his son's success".

It was poignant and deep. You can give what you don't have. I saw it happen. Broken people can make whole people.

Being a father to a strong daughter is no walk in the park. But supporting the strength is a privilege. Putting grown up ideals on young people is a common parenting flaw. When you see your reflection in the life of your child, it is so tempting to talk to the kid like you are talking to your younger self. But you have such an advantage...you lived your life past where your child is now. It is so unfair of us to do this to them.

Add in the intangible that your offspring may in fact be a better athlete, student, artist etc. than you ever were and it can be a total minefield.

Fathers want their daughters to be able to make it in the world. To be successful in life.

In.

Life.

The level of paternal protection fathers feel for their girls is directly proportionate to their sense of security in their fathering abilities. Otherwise known as positively overwhelming and rampant insecurity.

My husband is a very attentive father. He adores his girls. He tells them every single day, several times a day that he loves them. He enjoys spoiling them. He prides himself on his big heart and the hard work he does every day "just for his girls".

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