This past weekend, I traveled to my hometown state of Virginia for my baby sister’s baby shower. It was a festive time with family and friends. My sister and brother-in-law are expecting a little girl in early December. Her name is Kennedy. Yesterday I rubbed my sister’s belly and talked to Kennedy in utero. She kicked for Uncle Harold. It’s exciting that another little girl will be joining our family. As I sat at the baby shower watching my brother-in-law, I thought about what a great father he will be. I’m very thankful that my sister has a husband that will be a strong presence for my niece. In fact, statistics clearly show the vital role that fathers play in the development of their daughters. But, we really don’t need statistics to understand how critically important a father’s attention is in the development of his daughter. For my nearly 17 years as the father of a young lady, I’ve sought to emphasize 10 practices that I believe are formative in her development as a young Christian lady. Many factors have impacted the amazing person that she is today. But, I believe these ten practices have played a critically important role.
Author Meg Meeker writes in her book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know [affiliate link], “fathers inevitably change the course of their daughters’ lives – and can even save them. From the moment you set eyes on her wet-from-the-womb body until she leaves your home, the clock starts ticking. It’s the clock that times your hours with her, your opportunities to influence her, to shape her character, and to help her find herself.” We fathers have a short window of time to maximally influence our daughters.
I love that excerpt for its emphasis on the short period of time that we fathers ultimately have to impress important values on our daughters. In our harried lives, it is easy to take these duties for granted. But, we do so at the peril of our daughters and our families more broadly.
Sometimes, we avoid these critical moments with our daughters because of difficulties we may have with her mother, particularly in divorce situations. Other times, it is because our daughters may not share our interests in certain activities (e.g. sports) or we in theirs (e.g., fashion trends). Still other times we have difficulty relating to some of the “girl drama” that may not seem nearly as serious as she purports it to be. Regardless of the reason, the result is that we fathers often outsource the male nurture of our daughters to those who often seek to exploit her.
Across developmental stages it only takes a glimpse at the statistics to glean a truism, a father’s influence on his daughter is irreplaceable. In other words, it cannot be effectively outsourced. Can a young girl develop into a fine woman without her father’s presence? Yes, of course. But, I believe it is the herculean effort of other family, friends, and community members that make that happen. Far too often, however, those resources simply aren’t sufficiently present.