BECOMING A DAD: DR. BILL'S STORY
Career before children? Dads, let me share with you how I blew it with our first three children. Our first two came at a time when I was learning to be a doctor, and the third as I was getting a practice started. I bought into the philosophy of putting career pursuits ahead of everything. Having grown up without a father, I had no model of the importance of the father in child rearing. Besides, Martha was such a good mother. I felt I didn't need to be available. As with many fathers, I planned to get involved when the boys were old enough to throw a football. Big mistake!
When one of our children would misbehave, I would either overreact or under-react; but Martha knew just what to do. Most of the time she reacted in the right way, and got results. She had a handle on disciplining our children; I didn't. And because I didn't, she had to become the full-time correction officer, as well as the chief nurturer. I also realized that she was a sensitive disciplinarian because she knew the children so well. She knew them because she was in touch with them. She nursed them, carried them, and responded sensitively to their cries. Not only did she know them, they knew her and respected her wisdom. "How did you know that they were about to get into trouble?" I would ask Martha. "I just knew," she would reply. The light went on: not only does the parent develop the child, but the child develops the parent. Our children had helped Martha develop her sensitivity toward them. Meanwhile, I was losing at both ends. I wasn't around my children enough, so they didn't respond to me.
Know your child. Lesson number one for fathers: In order to discipline your children, you have to know them. And to know them, you have to be involved in nurturing them. Except for breastfeeding, there is nothing about babycare that father can't be involved in to some extent. I discovered I needed to hold our children more and open myself up to respond sensitively to their cries as best I could. I needed to realize that they needed what I had to offer as their father. My family needed me to be available to them.
HIGH PRIORITY – HIGH YIELD
I once attended a seminar on time management where the speaker advised trimming obligations down to those that were high-priority, high-yield. After the seminar, I told the speaker he had just described the juggling act of parenting. Rid your agenda of low-priority, low-yield tasks that suck up your energy, yet yield little return. Instead, concentrate on those, which give a good return on your investment of time—being a dad.
No regrets. Being available takes time. What about my profession? The turning point in my fathering came after several older fathers (on their second marriages) came in with their wives for their newborn's checkup. Many expressed regrets that they hadn't been involved in their older children's lives. Now they had the time for these children, but the children didn't have the time for them. I wanted a "no regrets" old age. I imagined how I would feel when I was fifty and my children were grown. (At the time I didn't know that at age fifty I would still be fathering babies.) I didn't relish the idea of feeling "I should have done this..." or "I should have done that." I decided to change. At first, I feared my career would stall, but then I realized that in my profession I could go back and restart the tape at any point, but the tape of parenting and childhood goes in only one direction—forward. Kids pass through each stage only once.
A job change. My children needed me, not my resume. They wanted and needed a father to wrestle with them and play with them. They needed a father's deeper voice to read them to sleep, not just a dutiful "goodnight." I turned my attention toward being a father—and a husband. I not only had to connect with my children, I had to reconnect with my wife. I freed up weekends and more evenings by turning down the position of Chief Resident of Pediatrics, at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, the largest hospital in the world. We went camping a lot. We took up sailing. I got to know and enjoy our two boys and managed to finally convince Martha that we could have another baby. I was more involved this time and it was better.
Child teaches old dad new tricks. Then came our first daughter, Hayden, whose birth would change my life. This bundle of energy came wired differently from our other children. She craved being held, shunned any attempt to schedule feedings, and cried when put down. She inspired us to coin the term high-need baby. Father involvement with Hayden wasn't a choice it was a necessity. Because she strongly objected to being put down, Martha needed me to be available to play "pass the baby." She was in our arms by day and in our bed by night. There were days when she nursed constantly. She craved skin-to-skin contact and sometimes fell asleep on my fuzzy chest to give Martha a break. Hayden was developing my sensitivity. She grew to trust me and I grew to know her. A paternal sensitivity was developing in me that I had never had before. This newfound sensitivity carried over to my relations with all my children and with my wife. When the father is doing what is needed, the whole family functions better. My being around and involved provided the framework for family discipline. By the time Hayden was three, I realized what it takes for a father to become a disciplinarian: A dad must first know his child before he can set limits for his child.
Dad, not a pinchhiter. Mothers and fathers profit differently, and our children profit from that difference. One of the myths of modern fatherhood is that fathers are portrayed as mere substitutes for mothers, pinch-hitting while mom is away. There is nothing optional about father involvement, nor is dad just a hairier version of mom. The father's input into his children's lives is different from the mother's; not less, different. Babies and families thrive on this difference. We thrived and added number five, Erin, and number six, Mathew.
Buddies from birth. With baby number six, I made my fathering motto the Army slogan, "Be all that you can be." Beginning at his birth, Matthew gave me the opportunity to be all that I could be as a father. Our birth attendant didn't make it to the birth in time, so I got to catch Matthew—an experience greater than being quarterback at the Super Bowl. That first touch from my quivering hands Matthew may never remember, but I shall never forget. I was hooked! We were buddies from birth.
"Father nursing." Because we thought Matthew would be our "last baby," I didn't want to miss anything. A few months after Matthew was born, I temporarily moved my pediatric practice temporarily into our home. (Actually, we turned part of our large garage into a pediatric office. My teenage patients called it, "Dr. Bill's Garage and Body Shop.") This allowed me to be around Matthew between patients. Sometimes after Martha nursed Matthew, I would "father-nurse" him by simply holding him or carrying him around in a babysling—opportunities to be close to Matthew that it took me six children to discover. I knew that Matthew sensed that my body was different. As he lay in the "warm fuzzy" position, his ear was over my heart, his chest and tummy were draped over mine and his body moved rhythmically up and down with my breathing while my hands embraced his soft, little body. My breath warmed his scalp as he nestled under my chin; he was discovering a warm corner in this different "womb."
The male touch. As I practiced these male touches, Matthew got used to my body: the different breathing sounds, walk, touch, and deeper voice. In fact, in the "neck nestle" position, fathers have an edge over mothers. The male voice box structures vibrate more noticeably, and babies can feel these vibrations against their head. These touches are not better than mothers, just different. Matthew thrived on that difference. He liked being in my presence, like a child given two nicely different desserts. Matthew's response to my father-nurturing, and my amazement at my own feelings, helped me discover a new level of fathering and new value in my contribution to parenting.
A sexier male. Not only was my newly discovered aptitude for fathering good for Matthew and me, it was good for Martha. Because I hadn't been around enough to learn baby comforting, Martha would get exhausted from doing it alone. Now, as I became more available as a baby comforter, she became more comfortable releasing Matthew to me, and she realized how doing so helped all of us. She liked watching me with Matthew—and she knew that my tenderness as a father would spill over into tenderness toward her. The time I spent with Matthew also freed Martha up to care for herself. This helped her to be a better mother for all our children and a happier wife for me. This new side that Martha was seeing made me more attractive to her and even improved our sex life.
FATHER TO FATHER
Watching a man nurture a baby really turns on a woman.
After a year, I closed my home office and moved into a nearby medical building. But even though I worked outside the home, my priorities were inside the home. I was hooked on fathering. When away from Matthew, I thought about him. When we were together, we were truly together. Our bond forced me to put balance in my life, giving priority to my family above the demands of my pediatric practice, teaching and writing. When outside commitments competed for my time, I felt stretched. But my attachment to Matthew acted like a strong rubberband pulling me back home. The rubberband never broke because I never allowed it to be stretched that far. It's amazing how one little kid can change a grown man.
From dad to daddy to dad. Matt and I are still incredibly close. He is fifteen-years-old. The attachment continues. As Matt develops from one stage to another, my development as a parent—and as a person—goes up a notch. When he began Little League, I wanted to be involved so I signed on as coach. When he entered scouting, I volunteered to be the scoutmaster. These are roles that I might not have found the time for if I hadn't been hooked on my kids. By the way my career hasn't stalled one bit.
My kids are not finished with me yet. We have added two more children to the Sears family pack. My eight children are training me to be a better person and father—because I'm there for them. Attachment fathering pays off; in disciplining children, we become disciplined persons.
Discipline comes more easily to an attached dad. It seems less strained and more intuitive. I can guide our children because I know them. They obey me because they trust me. My learning process as a dad has convinced me that many fathers have a tough time with discipline because they are not connected to their kids. Unconnected kids may obey out of duty or fear, but they don't have a dad to be close to and trust.
Attachment fathering opens up a dad to the child and visa versa. I notice a difference in disciplining Matt. We connect during each interaction. For example, when I ask him to do something he looks me straight in the eye and says, "Yes, dad." The combination of eye contact and direct address personalizes his response. This reflects a mutual trust between us. Matt trusts that my request to do something is right and I trust he will obey. Matt wants to please me. He understands the authority in my body language and tone of voice. Harsh words and heavy hands are never necessary to discipline Matt. How much of this is his temperament and how much is due to our right start together I will never know. But what I do know is this style of fathering gives me a handle on discipline I did not have before. As Matthew progressed from "Dada" to "Daddy" to "Dad" our relationship grew more valuable.
I realize that because family and career situations are different, many dads are not able to rearrange their lives around their children. But whatever path you choose, take time to get connected with your child. This will prove to be your best long-term investment. I guarantee it!
TEN TIPS TO HELP FATHERS BECOME DISCIPLINARIANS
Fathers become disciplinarians in much the same way that mothers do. The more we are exposed to both well behaved and poorly behaved children, we realize that fathers don't start becoming disciplinarians early enough.
1. Start early. Spending time with your baby will pay off as the years go by. Get connected to your baby, and discipline will naturally follow.
2. Start at the bottom. Most men who climb the corporate ladder work their way into a position of authority by beginning at the bottom. Fathering works the same way. "But what has diapering to do with discipline?" you may wonder. Babycare helps you learn more about your baby. Change baby, bathe baby, dress baby, play with baby. Every interaction with your baby helps you learn to read your baby. Here's some male math: over the first two to three years your baby will need around 5,000 diaper changes. If you change diapers twenty percent of the time, that's a thousand chances to interact with your baby. Initially, managing a squirmy body and smelly bottom was not my thing. Eventually, I discovered that diapering could be a learning experience for my baby and me. I was starting "at the bottom." I had to come up with connecting ways to hold baby's attention and learn to softly convey a "father in charge" message.
FATHER TO FATHER
Dads, here's a tip for easier living – with your children and your wife. Your children are watching television after dinner. You sit down next to them and offer a suggestion: "Mom needs a break, so she's going for a walk. How about we all work together and clean up the kitchen? If everyone helps, we can finish quickly and surprise her." Everybody benefits from this plan: Your wife gets a clean kitchen, and the kids and you get a chance to spend some time together and share the fun of pleasing mom.
2. Be trustworthy. In giving talks on discipline, I have noticed that dads seem to have more concerns and more problems with discipline than do moms. One evening I was giving a talk on discipline to a group of new dads. When I asked what they most wanted to learn about discipline they responded, "I want to be an authority figure in our home. I want my child to look up to me with respect and obey me." I agree that fathers should be authority figures, but just because you're the man of the house doesn't automatically mean you are going to get the respect you want. Some dads believe that a child must obey simply because, "I am the dad, you're the child, and that's that." It's not that simple. A child will obey people he trusts. Trust doesn't come automatically with the title of father. It has to be earned. True authority means a child obeys because he wants to, not just because he has to. Authority based on fear disappears when the child leaves the parent's presence. True authority leaves a more lasting impression. For whom would you do better work, the boss you trust or the boss you fear? So how do you get a child to trust you as an authority figure? It took me several kids to learn this basic principle of discipline. Before I could become an authority figure, my children first had to regard me as a comfort figure. This means I had to be available to them—touch their needs, share their triumphs. By becoming a nurturing father you begin teaching your baby to trust you.
4. Provide structure. From nine months to two years babies' drive to explore exceeds their mental ability to contain themselves. Impulsive behaviors, such as yanking lamp cords, darting into streets in pursuit of a ball and climbing up on counters to explore cabinets are all part of the normal behavior of growing toddlers. Father helps provide the framework that contains a child's impulsive behavior. Children want and need limits set by a person whom they trust, one in authority. When you provide structure in a child's life, the child feels more secure because you channel her energies in a meaningful direction. As coach of St. Louis Rams—the Superbowl champs—Dick Vermeil once said, "Coaching begins at home."
5. Give positive messages. Kandis was a high-need baby from birth. She cried a lot, was hard to console, became irritated at the slightest setback and withdrew from cuddling by arching her back. She was a restless and unpredictable sleeper, and she resisted any attempts at scheduling. Not only was she a tense baby, but her irritability affected her parents' marriage so that they became increasingly irritated at each other. Mark, the father, would make comments such as, "Yeah, she sure isn't my favorite child." Or he would call her "cry baby." He seldom held her, would never kiss her, or even talk to her in a positive manner. It was all negative attention. Mark never smiled or laughed with her, and when exasperated he would sit her on the couch and angrily tell her to "shut up." By the time Kandis was two, she was a difficult child, yet her nurturing and patient mother had hung in with her the whole time.
I met with Mark for a father-to-father rap session and impressed upon him how high-need babies are ultra sensitive and pick up the prevailing vibrations coming from their parents. Because Mark interpreted Kandis's behavior as negative, he reflected this back to her, and she became more negative in his presence. I suggested that for the next two weeks he should try giving her nothing but positive attention. Mark was skeptical, but he agreed that something had to change. Here is the progress report I received from his wife: "His efforts were strained at first. I could tell it wasn't easy for him. But Kandis picked up on it right away and returned the positive attention. Believe me, the change in her happened almost overnight—from whining, lethargic and sickly, to happy, bubbly, laughing, silly, and healthy. She gained almost three pounds in one month. People would say things like, 'Does she do anything else besides smile all day?' or 'She sure is a happy kid.' The good feelings snowballed. The more Kandis smiled at daddy, the more sincere and affectionate daddy became. Kandis sure loves her daddy and daddy definitely loves her. Mark thought he was doing the right thing by being tough. He doesn't like to admit he was wrong, but now he knows the loving approach is better."
6. Be a role model. Dads, remember, you are bringing up someone else's future husband or wife, mother or father. The attitudes you instill in your baby and child are the building blocks for that adult person. Children learn by example. The best way to build character is to model the qualities you want to see in your children. I found it helpful to list those qualities that I wanted to model for my children. When I made such a list, I realized that there were flaws in the model I presented to my children. I couldn't model what I didn't do. As I went down the list of values and related these to an average day with my children, I realized how often I didn't reflect these attitudes myself. This realization taught me a valuable lesson: In order to discipline my children, I had to discipline myself.
7. Become involved in your child's activities. Dads, to know and enjoy your child, join your child's team. Don't be a distant dad. Volunteer to coach your child's favorite sport, or try a stint as a scoutmaster. "But sports are not my thing," you say "and I don't know anything about scouting." You don't have to be an expert; you just have to be there. Besides, you're guaranteed to be smarter and more skilled than the kids (well, most of them). Through my experiences as Little League baseball coach and scoutmaster, I've learned more about kids in general, and my child in particular, than I did in all the psychology lectures in medical school.
Consider what your child learns in a team sport: success and failure, strikeouts and home runs, pulling up a mate, pulling himself up after a putdown (or put-out), teamwork, starting at the bottom and working his way up the batting order, how to deal with his own and someone else's mistakes, how to win and lose gracefully, and how to get along in a group. That's sports! That's life!
8. Model healthy sexuality. Dads, the first male your son or daughter meets is you. In fact studies suggest that fathers, more than mothers, affect a child's attitudes towards sexuality. Babies and young children identify readily with mother from birth, but how they experience their relationship to father is crucial to the development of sexual identity.
Boys need a father who is nurturing in order to value their own masculinity. A father who is available and who enjoys being a man gives his son a healthy sexual role model to follow. Studies show that a boy needs to perceive his father as an active disciplinarian and family decision-maker in order to develop a strong male identity. Paternal behavior that is macho without tenderness is associated with non-masculine behavior in sons. And remember, dads, it isn't how masculine or how nurturing you feel—it's how your son perceives you that counts. You have to show and tell them you love them.
Paternal nurturance is also important for daughters. It contributes to her enjoying being a woman. Fathers give daughters their first experiences relating to the opposite sex. When father is "out of the loop," passive, non-nurturing, uninvolved in family life, the daughter misses out on early lessons about balanced male-female relationships. She won't feel comfortable talking with boys or, later, young men, and they will sense her discomfort. She is at risk for problems in relationships with men. In her search for love, the result may be promiscuity, abusive relationships, or an unhappy marriage. Dads, remember, your daughter will at some time in her life seek out a male model. Be that model for her.
One of the most powerful influences on children's sexual identity is the way they perceive the relationship between their parents. If a man is loving toward his wife, supportive, and available, the daughter is more likely to value her own femininity and the mothering role. She feels, "Dad respects mom for being a woman and a mother." Dad's attitude toward his wife also shapes his son's attitude toward women. As one woman whose marriage was disintegrating said bitterly, "Our marriage is failing because my husband's father didn't do his job."
9. Keep connected while apart. If you travel a lot, keep in touch. Parenting is a two-person job. Single parents survive by having a support system in place. In a two-parent family children often misbehave when one parent is away. Because the family equilibrium is upset, children will tend to be defiant, show mood swings, and experience sleep disturbances. Poor behavior occurs because the parent in charge is unsupported and the children pick up on the anxiety. Children who are the most sensitive to change are the ones most likely to misbehave when dad (or mom) is away. To help your children thrive and the at-home mate survive, have a contingency plan for these times. Give "special" responsibilities for which there will be special rewards. If you have a strong-willed child, capitalize on this trait by putting him in charge of extra daily duties. The traveling parent can phone home each day to monitor the children's behavior. To help the at-home parent cope, plan ahead for fun things to do—time at the park and other out-of-home activities. Inviting friends over provides adult companionship for the at-home parent, easing the stress of overload.
10. Be a father and a provider. For most men, being a good provider is crucial to their masculinity and feelings about themselves as dads. This is what drives them to work long hours, even if their families would be happier with more of them and less of things. (A note to wives: It may help bring your husband home more if you tell him this in a tactful, loving way.) Men who are the sole wage earners in the family may feel heavy pressure, especially when double-income families are the neighborhood norm. (This may be changing. A 1994 study showed that for the first time in thirty-three years, the single income household is the fastest growing group in the U.S. population. There is a growing realization that it makes a difference to have one parent at home full-time.) If you must work long hours, try to incorporate your fathering into your work. Do some of your work at home. Take your child to work. It's healthy for her to learn about your work, and when she understands what you're doing while he's away from home, it's easier for her to accept your absence.
The media has portrayed fathers as economic providers, but around the house and family they have been depicted as bumbling and optional. Even though some of these images are still around, I now see television commercials and cartoon strips showing fathers bathing babies and taking charge of households. The media are updating dad's image in the new millennium. I believe that fathers finally are realizing the rewards of investing themselves in their children.
FATHER WORRY: WIFE'S TOO ATTACHED
Dads, to help you understand why your wife may have difficulty saying "no" to your toddler, consider this analogy. Suppose your wife is browsing in a "parenting store" and she finds an elixir called Attachment Parenting Tonic that, if used properly, will make parents sensitive, giving, and intuitive toward their baby. So you both take this tonic and become very giving persons. However, there is a warning label on the bottle that says: "When used, some parents, especially mothers, may develop side effects after the first year that include: overgiving leading to burnout, and inability to say "no," especially in circumstances that the toddler finds particularly pleasurable, such as frequent night nursing."
Treatment consists of father sharing babycare, especially during high-need times, and becoming a wise no-sayer when mother is in over her head and exhausted. Yet, don't worry, side effects are more common with the first child, and less common with subsequent children. Besides, these side effects are temporary and easily remedied. The consequences of not using this elixir are much more difficult to deal with, and the effects on the child can last a lifetime.
WHEN KIDS ARE DRIVING MOM CRAZY
A sensitive husband once told me he made sure his wife kept herself happy so she didn't drive the kids crazy. Another dad said, "I try to keep my wife wrinkle-free." Be tuned into when your wife needs help. For fear of shattering the supermom myth, women seldom confide their needs to their husbands. If "lose it" days are becoming more frequent for the queen of the castle, plot together to make some changes.
Get help for the queen. Hire a teenager to help out during after-school hours and holidays. Teens are tolerant, inexpensive, and able to put on goofy acts that hold children's attention. This takes some of the pressure off mom. Give your children a clear view of what is expected of them, and follow through on what you expect. A little marriage training early on works nicely here: "I expect you to be kind to the woman I love."
WE APPROACH DISCIPLINE DIFFERENTLY
Mothers and fathers often approach discipline differently – not better or worse, just differently. If used wisely, this difference is good for kids. Moms and dads should complement each other's discipline, not compete to be "right." It's a question of balance.
When toddlers begin to explore their environment, mothers tend to be protectors and fathers tend to be encouragers. Dad offers a challenging "climb higher." Mom adds a protecting "be careful." When your toddler wakes up at night (for the third time), dad suggests letting her fuss for a while to try to resettle herself, while mother goes to comfort her. Dads encourage independence; moms ease fears. (In some families, these roles may be reversed.) Tracey and Tom are aware of these differences and work hard to make them an asset to their family. They realize that they need each other's balance, as does their child. Their three-year-old, Nathan, is an adventurous child whose desires to accomplish a feat exceed his capabilities. He is always getting stuck in precarious situations and fussing for help. Tracey and Tom found themselves disagreeing on when to help Nathan and when to let him work it out himself. Finally, they agreed that when Nathan was stuck they would ask him, "Do you need me?"
Mothers delve into their children's feelings, trying to understand their children's viewpoint. When a child has a problem, moms are geared toward understanding the process that led to the problem; dads want to rush in and fix it. Mothers tend to ramble and repeat; fathers are more concerned with results, use fewer words in discipline requests, and are quicker to pull rank when psychology isn't working. I witnessed the following example: Kyle was riding his bike without a helmet. Mother sat down next to him and launched into a long explanation of why it was unsafe not to wear a helmet. Father, seeing that this dialogue was getting nowhere, walked up to Kyle and respectfully, yet authoritatively, said, "Kyle, you know the helmet law. You didn't wear your helmet. Now put away your bike for a week."
THE PAYOFF: A DAUGHTER'S LETTER TO HER FATHER
It's Hayden. I have wanted to write, or talk, to you about this for a few months, but the time has never seemed right. And, it will probably come out better on paper, so here we go.
A while ago at church, I heard a sermon that struck me in an awesome way. We are studying the different names and aspects of God. That particular week was "God the Father" and the pastor was showing how our earthly fathers could affect the perception of our Heavenly Father. He gave four ways in which our earthly dads can hinder the way we relate to God, including being: 1) Distant 2) Demanding (overly) 3) Dangerous (abusive, drunk, liar, etc.), and 4) Deadbeat (not motivational, just sits there). For the rest of the sermon all I could think about was how opposite you are of all of these things, every single one! I had to fight back tears when I thought back over the years and remembered your face on the sidelines of my basketball and T-ball games; your proud, brilliant face when you hug me after a show; the daily prayers you say for me; the excitement you show when I come home from college, or just anytime; your vulnerable words and presence after your operation.
You never demanded too much of us. I remember back when I was trying to decide on a major. I was thinking of music and drama. Instead of suggesting I do something more secure (like medicine), you said to do what I enjoy. You never once made me feel less important or less intelligent than the boys because I wasn't going to be a doctor. Not that I expected you to be down on me, but so many of my friends; parents tried to discourage their kids from doing music.
You are so the opposite of a deadbeat. After coaching team sports, being on the school board, ice skating, just being home for your family, taking care of your health and the health of your family, and wanting to spend time with your wife, you still find time to have an extremely successful practice that you enjoy and have pride in, not to mention being an influential and famous author.
The very way you handled your cancer and recovery was a true example. You were calm and loving beforehand, and while you were coming out of the anesthesia you kept repeating: "Mom and kids OK!" The day of the surgery, I saw your heart…and it is a beautiful thing. I saw your motivation to get well and stay well so that you could be there for your family and find ways to prevent our going through the same thing. I don't ever remember you complaining. You took something horrible and brought many good things out of it. I hope that I can handle things as wisely as you have.
Daddy, I know you have dedicated your life to your children, and I guess I didn't realize until now just how much you give of your time, emotion, patience, love, money, and so much more. I think what makes you such a wonderful dad is that you're not perfect and you know how to apologize. You and mom have never been too proud to admit when you're wrong, and that has been such a good model for us kids. I guess it's natural that kids get a better appreciation for their parents when they leave home. I think I have always appreciated you and mom, but I was always too busy to show it as much as I could have.
Yes, God is who makes us what we are, but He used your amazing fatherly aspects to make me so much of who I am, and that affects my whole life. I have heard it said that you are made up of the people you come in contact with. I know that is true because I caught your zest for life, your positive outlook, your passion for family, and your drive to do things and go for it.
Thank you, Daddy, for teaching me these things through how you live your life. I just want you to know that I think the world of you and love you so much. You walking me down the aisle is going to be one of the most precious moments of my life. You will be giving me to a man who has many of the wonderful qualities that I see in you.
I know that sometimes mom seems to get most of the love from the little ones, but please know that they love you, too, and as they grow they will come to realize how truly amazing you are. I could go on and on, but I must stop some time. Dad, I love you so much! You have affected my life more than you will ever know. I praise God for you every day!
Your adoring daughter,
Fathers, if you have a preteen daughter, the adolescent years are soon to come. Those will be years when your daughter will gravitate toward her friends and away from you. Yet they will also be a time when she will need your support. To prevent a distance from developing between you, try this preventive medicine: When your daughter is around ten years of age (or even younger), start a custom I call a daddy-daughter date. Have an occasional "date" with your daughter—time together where she feels special and has your undivided attention. This is a time for one-on-one communication and shared enjoyment. Be sure to use this time strictly for being together and not for correction. This is a time to laugh, to listen, and to connect with your daughter, especially if the two of you have become distant. In fact, these special times work well for any child at any age.
Dads, a word of caution: Don't let a daddy-daughter date substitute for day- to-day come-what-may activities with your daughter. It's in addition to, not a substitute for, daily fathering. The date won't work if it's the only time you want to "really talk." Spend some time with your daughter. Go to parks, play catch, play board games, play dolls, wash the car, shop and run errands, and get gifts for Mom together. You will get used to relating closely with a female child, and she with a quality male.