Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dads, Daughters, and Growing Up

Today, was a major milestone as I watched my 6 year old daughter bravely get her ears pierced without wincing or crying. We thought she would back out, but I'm proud to see her make a decision and follow through with it. She waited about 7 months after her little sister got hers done. It was cool to see her evolve on the piercing issue (she didn't want to do it before) and make the choice on her own. To say kids grow up too fast is almost cliche' and people say it so much that you can lose the "weight" of the statement. 
Lately, this truth has become so vividly  clear to my wife and I that we almost want to ignore how fast they are approaching adolescence. They are only 4 and 6 but it's something about this stage in their lives that has us in a panic. So much so that they count out loud telling us how old they will be next year, then the year after that. They roar with laughter as we cover our years trying to block out their countdown.

 Time Flies
Everyday, I wonder what happened to that "ghost" of a child that I could tuck under my arm like a football. These days I'm showing them how to throw footballs and basketballs. Darius Rucker and Steven Curtis Chapman each have songs that adequately drive home the importance of how quickly daughters grow up. I first heard this one by Darius at a father-daughter dance at wedding once. Check it out:

Savor the Moment
No matter how I try to look the other way, I know the day is coming when this house will be eerily quiet because the nest will be empty. On those days when I seem overwhelmed with life I purposely use this reality to help me focus on what's important-the fleeting quality time I spend with them daily. Of course at their age they can never get enough time with us. We have literally spent all  day doing things together as a family and at bed time they will ask, "can we play just a little bit longer?" Many times all my wife and I want to do is go to bed and sleep for the next 20 hours. But before you know it, we're being awakened by a hungry kid who wants breakfast at 6am. The truth is we wouldn't have it any other way. You  see, the legacy I've decided to leave with my daughters is being constructed today. I realize each day that I'm blessed to get out of bed, I have a chance to make their childhood home a place that they will one day look back on with fondness or with resentment. Some days when I feel the pressures of trying to provide and just simply live in this world, it is refreshing to see everything through their eyes. There's no worry or fear in their little minds, just an inclination that everything turns out fine. I so want to protect that purity of heart. Right them, I'm the king of their hearts and my wife is the queen of their hearts. They are our little princesses that just want to practice their dancing...just a little bit longer. Check out this daddy-daughter classic that will probably be played at one of my daughter's wedding:

Making Time to Connect
I encourage all parents to be in the moment with their kids. While providing is a huge part of marriage and parenting, don't let it take the place of connecting with your family. I know way too many adults who are angry because they never were allowed to truly have a quality connection with one or both of their parents. Here are some tips:

Tips On Connecting With Daughters

1. Let them talk. I know it seems like little girls talk from sunrise to sunset, but healthy interaction is key to their development. Research says adult women have about 25,000 words that they need to get out on a daily basis, but as a dad, I see the same is true for little girls. As they are learning about their world they are filled with comments or questions that need a response from you.

2. Talk to them. When they hit you with rapid-fire questions, make sure that you answer them truthfully. Little girls also need to know that their dad cares about what is important to them. The only way for them to know that, is for you to have an actual opinion about Cinderella's evening gown. You must talk to them making direct eye contact with them at least once a day.

3. Put your phone down. Our digital devices can easily rule our lives. During basketball practice, my 6 year old got a huge attitude if I looked at my cell phone. Now I only glanced at it for a few seconds, of course that was the moment she looked over to see if I was watching her practice. I learned that even the slightest appearance of "checking out" can make her feel like she's not important. My relationship with my children are only as good as the boundaries I set up. So,  I've learned I'm learning, to check in less with social media so that my girls get their fair share of daddy. Besides, there is always "phone time" once they are in bed.

4. Get into their world. Whether it's coaching their little league team or just coloring with them, make sure you do something with them that they love to do.  You would be surprised at how much self-esteem you give your daughters just by stopping what you're doing and spending an hour doing what they like each day.

5. Hugs and kisses. A lot of us guys aren't big on affection, but little girls feel a deep sense of security when their dad is there for them physically. Make sure you give them plenty of hugs and kisses everyday. It could be as soon as you get home from work or at bedtime. Researchers believe that a lack of affection from dad as child can lead to promiscuous behavior during the teen years. So instead of worrying about future boyfriends simply show your girls affection!

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