Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fathers and Daughters

It felt like a mundane conversation on that least mundane of our started innocently enough...while driving back from Walmart...she looked at that way...and asked me..." is your daughter?"

About ten days ago, on the Red Line, a few dozen feet below Massachusetts Avenue somewhere between Porter and Harvard Squares, were sitting across from me a gaggle of young girls just a few years older than my little girl. That conversation from many months ago came back to me...I realized that I needed to spend more time with my daughter.

As is often the case with girls of a certain age, these girls were trying to act older than they really were. I have to admit that these girls made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Maybe it was because of where we were or maybe because they were so close in age to my own daughter...needless to say a whole lot of buttons were being pushed during those minutes on the train...I wondered about their dads and if they knew what their daughters were up to that night. I then wondered if in a few very short years if I was going to know what my own little girl was going to be up to on a given Saturday night.

A few days ago my daughter asked if she could go to work with me. My job is a door to door, appointment to appointment affair with a lot of time spent in the car. Some days it can barely hold my interest, let alone that of a ten year old girl. As I explained this to her I realized that for her this was not about being entertained it was about being with me. So, together, we hit the road.

We had a great time together. I learned that Fiona holds her breath whenever she goes past a cemetery and that she punches her brother in the arm whenever she sees a car that "looks like a beetle." But more importantly...I was reminded that my daughter needs me and that I need to be present in her life...

I moved out of the house almost five years ago...and since then...from time to time Fiona would "poke" me...She would leave voice messages, send text messages, or write emails...all with more or less the same theme..."Daddy...are you there?" We would try to carve out time where we spend time together. She often gets up early and sits with me while I sip my morning coffee...Fiona is not much of morning person but she seems happy just to be sitting there with me.

Fathering a girl is an entirely different experience from fathering boys. Their needs are similar and different at the same time. Both girls and boys need their dads to be engaged...but whereas sons require more guidance...daughters seem to need their dads to be present in a way boys do not. I have no data or empirical evidence to support my contention....just my intuition and my experience with my own daughter...and the daughters of other dads. This is simply something I know in my gut...and you will have to trust me on this one...

I need to make sure that my daughter does not need to ask if I am there...I need for her to know that I am. And if I ever cross paths with that girl from Cambridge again I will need to thank her for making me realize this.

And by the daughter is doing just fine.

1 comment:

  1. Kudos to you for understanding just how important it is for fathers to be there for their daughters. My two girls do not have their father in their life, and although they almost never talk about it, I have no doubt that his absence weighs very heavily on them.