Raising girls: Take a backseat to Daddy

Apr 25, 2013 at 12:00 p.m. ET

It didn't take long for me to realize that one of the best gifts I could give my daughters was to nurture their relationship with their dad. While, at times, our household seems to be divided into girls versus boys, often leaving me the third wheel, I know that helping their relationship grow is invaluable.

Josh with daughters Janie and Meg

They love him more... and that's OK

My girls, Janie, age 8, and Meg, age 5, will tell you, flat out — they love their daddy more. Well, Meg will tell you, in her blunt 5-year-old style. Janie doesn't have to say it in words — it's all in the way she looks at Josh when he walks in the door after work. Here's the thing — I'm OK with that. In fact, I'm incredibly grateful that they love him as much as they do and I feel immensely proud that I've helped them to build such strong father-daughter relationships.

Josh with daughter

I admit, it took a while to get to this place — one where my feelings weren't hurt for rarely being the parent that the girls wanted to snuggle on the couch with, or the one who they'd make special art projects for at preschool. I knew that a lot of it attributed to the fact that, when they were little, I stayed at home with the girls — Daddy was more of a novelty, someone who wasn't nagging them to brush their teeth before we left for the park or to put their shoes away in the closet. I was bad cop in this game of parenting, and oftentimes, as the one who manages the operations-side of our household and family, I still am.

As they've gotten older, Josh is the one who they choose to spend their time with — on the weekends, they follow him around like puppies — to the garage, to take out the garbage, to help him with whatever project he's working on. I still get my feelings hurt on occasion, but I've also learned to take advantage of that time they are bonding with Josh to squeeze in a few more moments of work or to fold another load of laundry, in hopes that when they do come to me, I won't have anything to distract me.

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Considering the very fine line

While I am the No. 1 supporter of Josh's relationship with Janie and Meg, I am also very cautious of raising "Daddy's girls."

While it's only to be expected that the girls are head over heels with their daddy and that, in their minds, his opinion matters above all else, he is able to fix anything that is broken (from dolls to hearts) and he is always right, it's also important for them to see their dad as a real person.

As they grow older, I hope that they'll be encouraged to listen for their own voices first, with the support of Josh's — and mine — in the background. There's a lot to be said for Daddy's girls (I should know, I am one myself!) and while there's nothing wrong with a girl who only has eyes for her dad, their relationships with Josh will be stronger, in the long run, if he lets them see him for more than the superhero they believe him to be.

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A third-wheel mama

Josh with his daughter

I've realized that this is how I prefer things. I adore that my girls put their dad above everyone else and it breaks my heart to think of our family dynamic as any differently. For me, I know that there will come a day when they won't be able to relate to Josh as much anymore — those dreaded teenaged years are right around the corner, after all — and I'm hopeful that by building the strongest father-daughter bonds possible between Josh, Meg and Janie now, those bonds will stand the test of time during the years where they do choose me over him.

Until then, I'm happy to play the thankful third wheel.

Image credit: Katie Kavulla

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