Monday, November 19, 2012

Dads and Daughters: 10 Not-So-Secret Secrets

I just read Meg Meeker's book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know.

The book is full of great and valuable suggestions; the main takeaway points all have to do with strong and constant parental involvement, love, and action.

It reminded me that I am so grateful for Atticus, who is an excellent, loving, involved father and husband. And so, here are our

10 Not-So-Secret Things We've Done to Create Close Father-Daughter Relationships: 

1. Daddy sometimes fed the babies (and changed countless diapers, tossed babies in the air countless times ... but, hey, back to the food): 

I breastfed all of our girls, but there were times in those newborn days when I really needed a break in the middle of the night. He gave them bottles (either expressed milk or a bit of formula), cuddled, rocked them, and put them back to bed. Feeding a baby is a special kind of bonding, and I was so happy they got to experience that.

2. Daddy took care of the little girls when I went to help out at our parish one night a week: 

Weekly, year-round parish commitments can be taxing, and they haven't always worked for us, but when my girls were little, a weekly commitment to an apostolate I loved was a fun and welcome respite for me as a stay-at-home mom. It gave me a little break, some brain work, a booster shot for my faith, and it kept Atticus involved and having fun, one-on-one, with our little girls.

3. Father-Daughter Outings: 

Atticus has always been wonderful about taking the girls out on father-daughter dates, from the time the girls were very little. The dates continue to this day. Atticus is currently the main grocery shopper at our house, and he will often ask a daughter to join him for breakfast out and a shopping trip.

4. Father-Daughter Getaways: 

When I really need a break, Atticus and the girls head out of town for a night, giving me the gift of a quiet house.

5. Dad's Read-alouds: 

He always does one of our regular Advent read-alouds, and our traditional Christmas Eve reading, but he also sprinkles other reading with the girls throughout the year: Mark Twain, James Thurber, O. Henry, Shakespeare, To Kill a Mockingbird, bits of The Great Gatsby.

6. Nature Shows With Dad: 

He's known for calling a daughter into the room and inviting her to join him for something like Raccoon Nation, as he did recently with Ramona while the older girls and I watched Once Upon a Time. (Later, Ramona said to me, "Mommy, I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to watch a show about raccoons, but Daddy really wanted to, so I wanted to. And I'm glad I did! It was really interesting!")

It's not always a nature show. A couple of years ago, he called Anne-with-an-e in to join him for one of her favorite topics (yes, seriously): pandemics.  They were watching Influenza 1918 together when I pulled them away because we had to head to a violin and piano recital. (I was just reminded by Atticus and Anne, as I'm writing this, that on the way over, I accidentally mowed down a skunk ... I guess I was doing my part to bring nature back into the picture.)

7. Cooking With Dad: 

They see him cook. They eat his cooking. They sometimes cook with him. He has taught them that men can cook. He taught them about baking bread. It's that bonding-over-food thing that I mentioned in #1.

8. Their First Red Rose From a Man When They Turn 10 Years Old. Eighteen Roses When They Turn 18: 

This needs no explanation. It's just plain lovely.

9. Shopping With the Girls for Christmas, Easter, and My Birthday: 

Atticus and the girls always conspire to provide me with plenty of chocolate. (It might be as late as December 23rd for the Christmas shopping, but I'm not complaining. Somehow, he always gets everything done.)

10. Family Time: 

Whatever we want to do, wherever we want to go, he's game. His vocation as a father and husband is the top priority in his life, and he makes that very clear to us, through his words, his actions, and his incredibly sweet reminiscing about our girls from their baby days on.


The bottom line is that Atticus is an interested, involved, happy father who talks to his daughters, listens to them, hugs them, protects them, feeds them, makes them laugh, teaches them, shares his foundational beliefs and his faith with them, and lets them know that he always has their back. Always.

It's no secret that I'm thankful.

From our '08 trip to Pennsylvania. 


embellishbya said... sweet! Maybe someday that awesome dad will have a grandson who will watch football with him and play ball. :-)

Liz said...

Well, other than number one I'd agree. We didn't find it necessary for daddy to give bottles in order to bond, and as a confirmed lactavist I'm convinced that it's better for mom's milk supply if the supply and demand sides of the system really match each other. At our house daddy did baths, although our second didn't really like daddy baths in the first three weeks or so. Still once she was a bit bigger she loved them as well. They did bond over food, just not over bottles. My son-in-law as well has found many unique ways to bond with his daughter without using bottles.

It was David who taught my kids to decorate cakes, to roll out pie dough, to truss a chicken (none of which I do well). A routine daddy/daughter outing when Abby was little was the weekly trip to the dump (strange, but true, and in that era when they were still allowed to scavenge there, they sometimes came home with odd treasures). Around here it's not Twain, etc. that gets shared, but stories from Vermont humor type books, literature of other sorts is a mom sort of thing. My husband has also taught his daughter carpentry skills, how to shear a sheep, and that thunderstorms are exciting rather than scary. It was David who helped with the leaf project and the wood sample project for 4-H. It was David who executed such great costumes for costume class that we finally stopped competing to give the other kids a chance (to be fair the ideas were usually mine, but the execution, and the details were always his--have you ever seen a sheep dressed up like a lighted birthday cake?). If you've ever seen my daughter's craft projects on her blog you've seen evidence of things that she learned from both her parents, but principally from her dad.

When my daughter was three I heard Ross Campbell talk about the importance of fathers in a daughter's life. I took what he said to heart and continued to encourage my husband to do all the things he did so very, very well. Sounds like your girls have an equally dedicated dad in their house. Having seen a few girls who grew up without fathers or with very distant fathers, I can say that your girls are very, very fortunate.

Lindsay in NJ said...

I just love the roses!

Karen Edmisten said...

I love the roses, too, Lindsay! The first time he did that it made me cry. :)

I didn't think of occasional bottles as "necessary" for bonding, Liz -- I just meant to convey that when I was going through a rough patch, it was a help to me, and it turned out to be a nice thing for them, too. I wasn't allowed to breastfeed Anne for the first few days of her life (due to various health things going on with her, while they figured out what it was) but I was committed to it, pumped through those days, and then the nursing took off beautifully. The occasional bottle worked for us, and never interrupted supply or demand, so we were happy with the arrangement.

Hey, A -- yes, he has been lacking companionship in the football department! :) Maybe someday .... :)

Karen Edmisten said...

Liz, I also meant to say that I love your list of David Stuff! So great.