The raising of girls from babyhood is a magnificent task that requires unconditional love. I’m not going to lie, when Enid told me that she had had a scan and our next baby was also going to be a girl, a small tinge of disappointment hit me; I’d really been hoping for a boy. I know It was worse for my wife as she had made me believe it was a boy and now we had to face it. We even had a name for a boy and did not at all think that another girl was on her way – faith you know! I know, turn me in for the jerk-of-the-year award. It wasn’t that I didn’t want a girl, it was just that I didn’t know how I would relate to, or help raise a gender that preferred tea parties and make up to an Arsenal or rugby match. I had enough girls already. It was time for a boy for a change.
It was easy to imagine how I would bring up a boy – the last born son. At over 40, it would be strict discipline mixed with love and honour, lessons of wilderness survival, famous battles, endless wrestling matches and instruction in being a gentleman. A girl on the other hand…? The idea terrified me. Pictures of puberty, boy relationships and sleep overs, awkward dad moments and an embarrassed/annoyed daughter helped convince me that I wasn’t cut out for the task of raising daughters.
Part of my misunderstanding came from being raised as an only boy child, growing up around girls with a very strict dad. Being raised by a dad that did not see value in girls. Let’s just say, while I appreciated growing up with girls, I knew very little about them other than they confused me and smelled nice and one day would change their names after another man from some place.
Then our daughters came and my theories were immediately tossed out the hospital window. The girls were beautiful, and I quickly took to being their father. These girls are mine and I am theirs. My heart melted inside me each first time I held each of my girls and later, when they said “Dad!” and held out their arms to hug me. The fears I once had about not being able to love girls as much evaporated as I became the ridiculously proud parent I’d always mocked.
Now, one of my daughters is still below 10 and others teenagers, so I know that I have many, many lessons still to learn (a fact that nearly kept me from writing this post in the first place). The teenage years still loom ahead like a storm on the horizon taunting me…with nose piercings and glittery lip gloss. But, even with only a short time under my belt, my daughters have taught me some incredibly important lessons that I never would have picked up had they not blessed my wife and I with their presence in our marriage.
1) Men are born to protect. Regardless of whether it has gone out of fashion in today’s society, deep in the heart of every man is a desire to protect his loved ones. To make sure that they feel safe when you’re around, like the calming presence of a strong lion protecting the rest of the pride. Though I’m sure that this instinct is there with boys as well, the strong conviction I have to protect my daughters is greater than nearly anything I’ve felt in my life. It isn’t a feeling that has to be worked up, it’s just there, like cement mixed with sand and stone, daring someone to move it.
Taking on the protector role means carrying yourself a bit differently. Rather than wandering aimlessly down any dark alley, I now am more aware of my surroundings and where I am taking my girls. I also find myself a bit less sympathetic when other people’s reckless actions invade my daughters’ lives. I used to work out mostly for vanity; I wanted to look good. Now, I work out knowing that I could be the sole person standing between an intruder and my wife and girls. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the time I’ve spent developing intimidation tactics for future boyfriends. Good luck Solomon et al brace-face.
2) “Girls keep a man’s heart from growing too hard”. Perhaps it’s because I went to a military academy of parenthood. I mean my father raised us like in a military camp, but I have realized after the birth of our daughters that my heart had grown a bit hard. My compassion, patience and grace were all lacking. I firmly believed that “second place was the first loser,” “Pain was just weakness leaving the body,” etc. I had great pride in the discipline and efficiency through which I ran my life and home. These tough-guy attitudes suddenly seemed a bit ridiculous as I would look into the eyes of these innocent little girls content with blowing bubbles, chasing butterflies and eating copious amounts of ice cream.
It’s not that I have now become a bumbling mess of emotion and softness since the birth of my daughters, but I have allowed myself to accept that not everything in life is simply a resource that must be dedicated to some ultimate victory. If we don’t get all of our chores done it’s not the end of the world. My car used to be spotless, now it has crushed biscuits and toys strewn about the back seat and everywhere…who cares! With a child in one’s life, schedules and plans become much more flimsy. When my daughters cry I don’t try to numb the pain with a motivational talk, I just hug them. These girls’ have kept my heart clean.
3) Every girl is some man’s daughter – There is no doubt that certain levels of sexism still remain alive in our culture today. Until I had daughters, I gave the idea very little thought. It had no direct impact on me, and I tried my best to be respectful to women, so why should I care? Raising daughters and beginning to think about their future has caused me to reconsider my views on sexism, the glass ceiling, even the role of women in the advertising and entertainment industries. I’m sure most guys are like I was, giving a sigh and roll of the eyes when HR begins their annual training on sexual harassment, but things are a little different when the victim could someday be your daughter. I am very protective of my girls.
4) Slow Down – The other day my wife and I were taking a walk along one of the streets by our house with two of our youngest girls. The youngest has a tendency of following us wherever we go without knowing how far we are going to go. She just joined in the walk and before too long it seemed a long way. We had to reduce our speed to let her catch up with us and feel a part of the team. When we felt like moving fast, our inner hearts would tell us to be considerate for the young one.
Looking around I realise that these girls are among the true blessings God has granted me on this earth, having beautiful girls in my life is no mean blessing. It is a reminder to slow down and enjoy the small, seemingly insignificant moments of life. The ones that I had previously tried to fast forward or multi-task my way through. Patience and longsuffering have been the lessons God intend me to learn by bringing girls into my life.
I once heard a friend’s mom tell her kids before leaving on a long trip on a holiday trip “Wherever you are, there you are.” The sage words have stuck with me for years as they reveal a life philosophy which refuses to take a moment for granted. How often do we talk to our friends while trying to check our e-mail on our smartphone, or let our minds think about the rest of the day’s errands as a loved one tries to connect with us? Children live life much differently; they take their time, fully engaging one task at a time, not too concerned with what lies ahead or behind. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from them.
5) Living for someone else –
“No man has ever risen to the real stature of spiritual manhood until he has found that it is finer to serve somebody else than it is to serve himself.” – Poor Austin.
Marriage is the first lesson most of us receive in learning to live for someone other than ourselves. And just when we start to think we might have that lesson down, children shatter all our notions of self-righteousness. Waking up at all hours of the night, changing diapers, feeding, cleaning…all these things are necessary parts of raising a healthy child, and they have been pivotal in forcing me to abandon some of my selfish habits. My daughters could care less about my well-thought-out schedule or whether or not I have a flight early the next morning. They continually challenge me to love them regardless of convenience.
Through marriage and living with my daughters, I have learned that one of the greatest tests of manhood is whether or not one has learned to abandon their life in the service of others. If I were alone by myself, I would do many things I desire. But for the sake of my wife and my children, I give up my preferences for those of my wife and children.
This idea makes some people’s skin crawl, but thus far it’s been one of the truest indicators of real manhood I’ve been able to find. It doesn’t take much effort to be selfish. In fact, it’s one of the most natural ways for us to live. Children plop into our lives as miniature insurgents, waging war with our lifestyle of “me first.” My daughters have opened my eyes to the beautiful struggle parents’ face in giving their lives to their children. It isn’t comfortable, and often times it flat out hurts, but it builds a depth of character that can only be understood by others who have travelled a similar path. It is sanctifying grace I suppose!
For years men have been raising daughters into young women. It used to scare me, it still scares me, but I’ll give my life away in pursuit of it any day.What a joy it has been to raise girls. I have had many lessons and continue to have more. i am not done yet. Just may be I should have waited to write this post but anyhow this can be an acting part 1!