Let me make it clear that I have three sons. I was sure they were the only children I would have. I’m reasonably sure; however, that you know that life doesn’t much care what any person is “sure of”; it enjoys throwing curves.
My brother got divorced. I have a 14-year-old niece. She became my “daughter”. She was a wonderful “daughter”, and, she turned into a wonderful woman, but, well, let me just say I got an education. What follows is what I wish I had known.
Don’t treat a daughter different than a son. I was prepared to give my “daughter” extra special treatment; extra privacy; extra space for emotional expression; extra money for wardrobe. Girls love privacy, space, and clothes, but, so do boys. In my initial approach I was actually running on a track that was going to minimize and insult her.
What I did learn was that it was very important for me to be a good male role model. She needed to see what genuine male love was. She had to have something to measure, against the claims and actions of “love”, she was going to run into in her social life. An interesting lesson I learned was when my niece and I were in a store and I noticed a woman who was dressed very nicely. I made the mistake of commenting on how much taste in clothes she exhibited. Rather than agreeing with me, as I thought she would, she was very quiet. In relaying the story to my wife, she said that making comments like that can help a daughter lose respect for her father, and, also, make her feel unattractive.
Of course I hadn’t had any experience with boys wanting to “be around” my niece. While she was just 14, there were enough school and group events that she got asked on “dates”. Additionally she was asked out on occasion by older boys that had cars.
My initial reaction was to give her a curfew of about seven in the evening and have her fitted for a chastity belt, however, cooler heads prevailed (my wife), and, she was treated comparatively to our son who was about the same age. It was determined that neither of them could “hang” with kids that were a couple years older and drove, but, their curfew was the same. To give her an earlier curfew would have been to send a message that not only said we didn’t trust her, but, that she was somehow less capable of taking care of herself and making good decisions.
One thing that my newly acquired daughter had was a period. Of course I had a wife, but it is different being a husband than a “father”. I learned to simply be there for her when she needed me, but, not to push. If she was feeling bad I left her alone. If she wanted to talk, I listened; I didn’t ever give advice during these times. However, I never minimized her word during this time. I never attributed anything to “hormones”. In fact, I probably understood better than ever before, that a period was simply a part of life. I think that awareness helped me be a better husband, too.
What should the father of a teenage daughter know? When all was said and done, it was about the same as what the father of a teenage son needed to know. All children need love, consistency, respect, trust, modeled behavior, and, a good listener.
My “daughter” was an athlete. She was in speech; and was an accomplished piano player. She ultimately was very popular with her classmates. What made her that way were the abilities and genuine concern for people that she had..
I can’t take credit for who she is. She has worked hard against some pretty long odds to be where she is. What I did try to do (once I “got a clue”) was to be a good role mode; give her undying love and support; equal treatment; trust; and a clean slate; I never alluded to the past unless she brought it up.
What do fathers of teen girls need to know? They need to know their lucky.