When a daughter comes into a man’s life, it’s bound to change him. How could it not? Children, by their very nature, change us as parents.
But when the child is of the opposite sex, confusion and a bit of anxiety are inevitable. Does Dad really know all it takes to be a father to a little girl? Here’s a starter list to what he needs to know:
1. When changing a diaper, wipe front to back.
2. If you like football, she may like football. If you like fast cars, she may like fast cars. If you like video games, she may like video games… But you’ll never know if you don’t try to teach her about them.
3. When she screws up the courage to tell you she needs to go to the store to buy tampons, she needs to go buy tampons now.
4. She’s watching how you treat her other parent. Whether or not you’re still together, what she sees will play a role in what she decides to put up with (or not) from her own partners in the future.
5. Good bras are not a luxury; they’re a necessity.
6. Women’s issues are now your issues. Maybe you’ve always been a feminist, but if not, now’s the time to start. From reproductive health to closing the wage gap, political issues involving women should now be part of your elective decision-making process… for her sake.
7. Her virginity is not yours. Teach her about sex and love, but don’t try to put your own timetable on when she loses it or with whom. Her body. Her choice.
8. For that matter, she is not yours. Sure, she may be your “little princess,” but science has borne out the theory that dads who empower their daughters to think for themselves send more successful human beings out into the world than do dads who persist in telling their little girls that they’re “everywhere,” “watching” and the ultimate decision makers.
9. Every dish you wash, every towel you fold, she’ll be watching you. It’s not just relationships she’s learning about from you. Dads who do an equal share of housework are more likely to produce daughters who aspire to careers that are less “female-centric,” from engineer to astronaut.
10. Periods are painful. Jokes about being “on the rag” are about as appreciated by her as jokes about your balls when you’re writhing in pain after getting kicked in them. Plan accordingly.
11. She’s not made of glass. Throw her up in the air. Encourage her to play in the mud. Walk her around the backyard by her feet while she does handstands. She won’t break!
12. Ponytails are a lot easier than they look. And if she opts for long hair, knowing how to do one can be the difference between “I sent the kid off to school looking like I care” and “I sent the kid off to school looking like I dragged her out of bed, threw some lunch money at her and sent her on her way.”
13. You’re not expected to “handle” her emotions. While it’s true the hormones that come with the tween/teen years are very real (and not exclusive to girls), you don’t have to have “been there.” You just need to be willing to listen.
14. You’re just as good as Mom. Not the same, no, but just as good. So don’t pass things off because “they’re for girls.” Be there. Listen. Offer your two cents. It can make all the difference.