What a Girl Wants (page 4)
Why did you choose to do a book specifically about dads and daughters and not “sons” or “children”?
As a pediatrician, I have witnessed the magnanimity of the father-daughter relationship crystallize before my eyes. have watched them wrestle with the choking grip of eating disorders, heard them sob over their parents’ divorce, and asked them how life feels with and without stimulants to help them concentrate in school. As one who took an oath 23 years ago to care for the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual well-being of girls, have come to the realization that the very best way can do this is to help their fathers. Why? Because a father holds influence over a daughter’s heart unlike no other human being. Research confirms this, human intuition reveals it, and my experience as a mother of three grown daughters solidifies this truth to me. The problem is, most fathers haven’t been told this. They have been taught that they are unnecessary, stupid, “out of touch” with girls’ issues, and consequently, fathers - as a group - are suffering a serious crisis of self esteem.
Given the recent flurry of news stories on the spread of STD’s among teenagers, has it become more important than ever for fathers to become involved in their daughter’s lives? Explain.
Every girl in America over the age of six (when clothing styles change) is under sexual siege. We all experience the barrage of sexual messages streaming at our girls with an intensity that makes us feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and sick.
Every father in America must know some numbers. There are between 15-18 million new STDs every year in America and the majority occur in kids under 25. Forty percent of girls 13-18 will experience unwanted sex, because, they say, they don’t want to hurt their boyfriends’ feelings. Sweet girls are the ones who get hurt. One in 5 people over age 12 tests positive for genital herpes and over 10,000 kids every day in America contract a new STD.
But here’s the problem. Most young girls won’t believe that diseases affect them. Why? Because they haven’t fully cognitively developed. So, they must have help from those who have — their dads.
Because he is masculine, a father contributes more to the shaping of a healthy sexuality in a girl. Masculinity shapes femininity. A mother can help a daughter’s sexuality take form, but it is maleness which causes femaleness to emerge.
Second, daughters need to sense that they are worth protecting. No one offers this better (in her eyes) than her father. When a father grips a young man’s hand at the door — when he comes to pick up his daughter for a date — and looks him in the eye, the boy comes head to head with a man. When the boy shakes the girl’s mother’s hand, he is less likely to be intimidated.
Explain how marriage plays such an important role in allowing a father to be the best dad he can be to his daughters.
Marriage allows fathers to be better dads for many reasons. First, it gives daughters more time with their fathers. Second, daughters whose parents are married are less defensive toward their fathers. Girls often side with their mothers because they identify with them and dad is perceived as the bad guy.
Finally, when the foundation of a strong marriage is cracked in two, a girl will feel fragile and vulnerable. There is a secret which every daughter harbors, and every father must know. That is, every daughter looks to her father to keep the foundation beneath her life glued together. Dads may not want to hear this, but have heard it and seen it all from a daughter’s stare, year in and year out in my office.
At NFI, we talk about the need for fathers to provide, nurture, and guide. How does the notion of the “nurturing father” fit or not fit with your views on the importance of ‘traditional masculinity’?
We women have done more than our share of damage to the idea of masculinity over the past thirty years. To all of you masculine men who are reading, let me say, on behalf of my generation and sex, that am sorry. We have all but made masculinity a dirty word.
In fact, masculinity has become redefined as meaning cold, aloof, uncaring and stone-like not because that’s what masculinity really is, but because those things are what femininity is not. So, we need healthy masculinity to make a comeback - not as an opposing force to femininity, but as its own identity. Girls need to feel, watch and touch masculine fathers. Psychologists have long taught that girls need a feminine influence and a father’s influence.
Girls need to hear voices which carry a different authority than their mother’s. They need to be embraced by a physique which feels stronger (and more protective) than a mother’s.
Fathers often feel that in order to be nurturing to their daughters, they must understand femininity completely and then learn how to behave in a feminine fashion in order to be nurturing. This is not true.
Fathers can communicate beautifully with daughters about all sorts of things without understanding the thought processes of their daughters. Much the same way an obstetrician can be wonderful, compassionate and caring without having experienced childbirth, a father can be tender and loving to a daughter without understanding her experience of it.
If you could share just one piece of advice for fathers with daughters, what would it be?
Engage your daughters. Please. Your daughter needs the person that you are. She needs the best of your character, your influence internalized into her mind and onto her heart. The only way this can occur is for you to take the initiative to move into her life.
Many fathers are comfortable with their daughters until they become 10 or 11 years old. Then, when puberty brings a sour voice or an angry look, fathers often take these changes too personally and back out of their daughters’ lives. Please, please don’t. Our daughters are growing up in a world which is extremely difficult for them to navigate and they need their fathers more than ever. Girls need their dads more during the teen years than at any other time. growing up in this generation are lonelier than they have ever been and the antidote to that loneliness and all the pains it affords is right in front of you. It is you.
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters is available from NFI’s Amazon store at www.fatherhood.org.
To see all of the National Fatherhood Initiative's quarterly newsletters, go to https://www.fatherhood.org/ftnewsletter.asp.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Fatherhood Initiative.
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