Tonight I’m in my usual spot in the house: the kitchen, and in the living room are various noises that I’ve become accustomed to over the years: play. Dad and daughter, messing around. Tonight I stop and enjoy it. I realize that not every girl is growing up like this. (Sorry, Dad, but I didn’t grow up like this either.) My husband is one of those guys who could seem almost too good to be true, but he’s the real deal. When the kids were born, he was the one who took the 11 PM-5 AM shift. Having a knack for babies and selfless about letting me get sleep, he bonded with those kids thoroughly. As they got older, he changed as many diapers as I did, had tea parties with our daughter as well as played catch with our sons and now, even though our daughter is older, he still knows how to play. And she loves every minute of it.
She very much enjoys pointing out his big nose, wrestling away his hats, snuggling on the couch taking video selfies while impersonating each other, talking with the tongue on the roof of their mouths (this gets old for the listener when they do this on long car rides). He tries to “eat” her hair, she unbuttons his vest as he’s trying to rush out the door, they chase each other and hide their slippers. Son One, in a fit of maturity one day, declared their behavior “stupid” but we all knew he did the same thing with his dad on numerous occasions. Son Two shakes his head in wonderment that they could be having so much fun, but he has his own ways of messing with his dad.
Of course father and daughter have more serious times too, where he addresses issues of behavior and/or maturity with her, orders her to eat fruit and confiscates clothes she leaves lying on the bathroom floor. For her part, she helps him organize his office, does light data entry for him and maybe most importantly, gives sage and welcome advice when birthday or Christmas shopping for mom.
Statistics and professionals who study familial relationships report that girls who have fathers who are involved with their lives are much more likely to stay in school and attempt college. They have fewer eating disorders, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol and have healthier relationships with men, from friends to employers. Daughters who feel connected to their dads have fewer instances of body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, & emotional problems. That all sounds like the kind of result I’d like my daughter to have but I wonder if somehow she’s at a disadvantage.
Someday when she’s in her dorm and her peers are ragging on their folks, she won’t be able to chime in. When a friend makes a number of bad choices with boyfriends because she’s searching for a male to love her, my daughter will be perplexed. Listening to a colleague struggle with insecurity with the male boss, always second guessing his words, my daughter will wonder at her lack of confidence. Isn’t it great? Having empathy can be a wonderful and beautiful gift to a friend, but this is one area that I want my daughter to remain ignorant.
So, when it’s bedtime and I’d rather she be settling down, quieting herself for sleep, I’ll keep quiet as dad does silly things with her. When she was not quite 2, she once grabbed his face with both hands and in all seriousness said, “I be mad with you!” We died laughing. Well, it’s 11 years later and she still grabs his face and cracks him up. Inside, I say to myself, “I can’t be mad with either of you!”