I'm Not The Most Important Person In My Daughter's Life
You aren't the only one your child needs.
My daughter calls her dad “the king.” When he returns from work each night she runs to greet him and bows saying, “Your majesty.” Then, she leaps into his arms and informs him which princess she is today—Elsa, Belle, or Sleeping Beauty.
My daughter loves her father and I love their relationship. Her first words were, “Hi, dada.” And every night he reads her the Bible and Princess stories before she goes to bed. They have a rapport that I am not part of, but I don’t want to be.
I grew up as a daddy’s girl. I waited up for him when he worked late, nicknamed him “Daddo” and made him notes for his lunch. More so than my mother, or my siblings, I craved his blessing and approval. So, when I see my daughter and her father together, I’m thankful that I married the best and most honest person I know. I trust him not to let her down. And for my daughter, I’m so grateful she has that.
In a society that often places mothers on a pedestal and gives fathers little credit, the bond between fathers and daughters is often overlooked. But this bond is so vital in determining a woman’s success later in life. According to a recent poll by the Today Show, 88 percent of respondents said that fathers are important to their child’s self-image. And according to a Today/AOL survey, “Nearly half of teen girls, but only a fifth of teen boys, say their parents’ body image influences their own feelings about their bodies.” A study conducted by the University of Bristol found: “…girls whose fathers were absent during the first five years of life were more likely to develop depressive symptoms in adolescence than girls whose fathers left when they were aged five to 10 years. They also demonstrated more depressive symptoms when compared to adolescent boys whose fathers left in both age groups.”
I know the reality of these studies too well. Because I also know the darker side of the father-daughter relationship: I also know how devastating it is to have your father fall from grace in your eyes and have him threaten to leave the family when you are only nine. So, I do my best to let my daughter’s relationship with my husband develop without me. I think the fallacy of motherhood is to believe you are so indispensable that your family cannot go on without you. They can. And my husband enjoys being left with the kids so they can play games mom wouldn’t approve of, like “Get me, Get me” which involves running around the couch and leaping over toys. My kids love this too. I know, because I can see it in their eyes when he comes home from work. The baby laughs. My daughter bows. And I realize how wonderful it is not to do this all alone.
I am not trying to value one form of family over another or to try and guilt women who chose to be single mothers or didn’t choose, but ended up that way any way. Or to discredit the idea of a two mom household. Family, and what it means, is vast, all encompassing and complicated. Last year, I heard Zach Wahls, a LGBT activist and author of My Two Moms, speak about his family and the societal objections to growing up with two moms. One of the questions he hears the most is how he learned to be a man without a father. What he said was this, “At the end of the day, what matters most to kids is not the gender of your parents or the sexual orientation or even the number of parents that you have. What matters most to kids is whether or not you have a parent or parents who is or are willing to put in the blood and sweat and toil and tears that it takes to sculpt little hellions into well-adjusted young adults. And if your parents have that—that love, that commitment, that dedication—if they have truly earned the title of ‘mother’ or ‘father,’ the kids will be all right. I promise.”
I’m sure, as time goes on and there are more studies done examining our widening view of what family means, they will show the same results that show for fathers—having a co-parent, good friend, or other influence besides mom, can make a world of difference in a young child’s life. And as a mom, I’m relieved to know that I’m not alone.
In the end, I think the lesson is that parenting isn’t a singular task. We falsely believe that mothers are the zenith of society when the reality is, to raise a child takes a community of support, co-parents, grandparents, babysitters, friends. And our kids are the better for it.
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