Before my wife and I knew the gender of our first child, I simply assumed it would be a boy. I was comfortable with that notion because, well, I'm familiar with boys. I used to be one myself. When we learned we were expecting a girl, I was still overjoyed, but not nearly as sure about my ability to be a good dad when the time came.
I can relate to the rough-and-tumble world of boys. Give me trucks, sports, and rug wrestling, and I'm good to go. Having a girl — now two, in fact — has been another experience entirely. Girls are, well, girly. There's all that lip gloss and nail polish, fairies, and tea parties. I openly confess I'm not totally sure how all that stuff works. But that hasn't stopped me from wading into my daughters' world, of course. And you know what I found? Having girls is a blast. They may do things differently, but they're totally goofy and smart and fun. And those tea parties? The best! (Even if I do keep knocking over those dainty cups with my man hands.)
For every dad who's ever looked at a precious young flower and wondered, "What do I do with this?" I have some suggestions that can help you move beyond perceived barriers and build a unique father-daughter relationship based on trust, respect, and fun.
- Share yourself. We humans relate best to the things — and people — we're most comfortable with. So even if you're a little put off by Polly Pockets, spend time with your daughter in her universe. Wedge your legs under her tea table. Wear that silly hat. She doesn't really care if you know which princess goes with which Disney movie, she simply wants your time and undivided attention.
- Let her be herself. Give your daughter free reign to explore her own interests and activities — even if they don't interest you. By encouraging her passions, whether it's ballet, soccer, or painting, you'll help her understand herself better. And, with a clearer sense of who she is, she will be more confident in herself.
- Roughhouse. Think girls don't like running, playing football, or getting dirty? Think again: When I get home after work, my two girls jump all over me. My 3-year-old comes home covered in mud. Physical play is important to all kids, and you can be a safe introduction for your girls. So mix it up from time to time.
The best part of having daughters for me has been learning that I have a certain gentle strength in my personality that I didn't know existed before. I wouldn't trade that experience for all the sons in the world.