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Things my daughters should know

Lately, lists of things people want their kids – specifically daughters – to know as they embark on life have been popping up all over my Facebook feed.

Sharing a roof with a knockout of a wife, two bright and challenging daughters, an aging female dog and, I presume, a girl fish, these articles have become an important educational tool for, well, a tool who lacks education.

Though I’m hardly an emotional brick wall, there’s no denying the difference between the dominant gender in the house and myself. With their teen years still a ways off, these articles have made me realize I’m playing a larger role than I may have expected in how my girls will perceive themselves as they grow. Everything I say and do lays another block in the foundation of their self-image, which can be both positive and negative depending on how I conduct myself.

So, while resisting the urge to just defer to the more knowledgeable parents and professionals out there who have undertaken this same initiative online, here are some things I want my daughters to know about both them and me.

I’m not perfect. This likely won’t come as a shock to you, but sometimes Moms and Dads have to realize it’s OK to admit this. I try to be the best Dad I can be, but I have days where my fuse is short or I’m tired and just don’t have the energy to keep your torrid pace. What I can promise you is that I’ll try my best to limit these days or power through them with a smile on my face until you’re kissed, hugged and tucked soundly into bed.

I secretly hope you’ll be just a little bit like me. You look like your Mom, and that’s OK because being the spitting image of me would be an unfair disadvantage for little girls. I do look for ways you are like me though, whether it’s in your sense of humour, a facial expression or your interests. Perhaps it’s vanity on my part, but it makes me smile when I see some of my traits reflected in you.

Love your sister. As evidenced by the daily phone calls between your Mom and Aunt, sisters share a bond that can’t be matched, so long as you start now and build it as you grow. She’s always going to be your sister, while all but a few of your childhood friends will come and go. Remember that, and stop fighting NOW!

I know you don’t really want to watch sports with me. And I love you for it when you do – more than you can imagine. It doesn’t make me believe you’re going to be my fellow sports nut, but it shows that you love me enough to pretend you are, just so we can spend some time cuddled together on the couch.

I don’t have a damn clue what’s going on in your head. I don’t know why that lipgloss was the most important thing in the world, and why the river of tears, anguished screams and kicking of feet is the best way to deal with the fact your sister used it.

I know there will be a day where I long for a hug from you. Today though, when you slap an unexpected bear hug on my legs while I’m walking by you, my life flashes before my eyes.

Beauty is 100 different things, not just the superficial stuff in the media. It radiates from you through your actions, how you interact with your sister and Mom, and how playful you are with your friends and extended family. Beauty on the outside doesn’t matter a lick if you’re ugly on the inside, so focus on being a good person and you’ll lead a wonderful life.

Your tummy is supposed to be round. You’re a baby. My baby. You’re not unhealthy, and certainly not obese, so go ahead and use it as a bongo drum and entertain us!

I may roll my eyes and hesitate after a long day, but eventually I realize dancing with you is amazing. Even if most of your Top 40 music sucks.

You have your whole life to learn to use the computer, so get outside. And I don’t care who has an iPad, get outside.

I’m going to yell sometimes. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you, and often, I’m not even that mad. But there are times where negotiating helps nobody and, gasp!, sometimes I’m even right.

I don’t like peas. Your Mom hates them too. But you’re going to eat what’s on your plate because we’ve already paid our dues.

You can be or do anything you set your mind to. You’re going to have to work for it though, and I’ll be there to support you along the way, but I certainly won’t do it for you.

When you show a social conscience, especially at such young ages, my heart soars. The need for a Food Bank or toy drive at Christmas are difficult concepts for youngsters to understand, so when you remind us to make a donation when we’re at the grocery store I couldn’t be prouder. Understanding that other people may not be as lucky as you are, and taking even the babiest of steps to change that, gives me confidence you’ll do great things in this life.

I don’t hate you now and I never will. We may get frustrated with each other at times, but my arms and home will always be open. No matter where your decisions lead you in life.

High school is not real life. Although it may feel like the most important thing in the world at the time, it’s a rather insignificant blip on life’s radar. The second you walk out the door for the last time, you’ll move onto more important things and you’ll quickly realize all that angst was for nothing.

Of course I could easily help you with that menial household chore. I won’t though, because it’s your responsibility and you’ll learn to help out when asked. You don’t realize how well these simple skills will serve you when you first move out and know how and when to wash dishes, clean your apartment, do laundry, etc. You’ll meet people who have never lifted a finger before setting out on their own and they’ll make you shake your head and wonder what’s wrong with your generation. I will not allow you to be on the receiving end of that.

Your laugh overfills my heart. When it’s from your belly, and it’s because we’re being silly together, it is the most beautiful sound on earth.

It gets better. If you experience mental health struggles in the coming years, I want you to talk to us about it way before it’s too late. There is absolutely nothing we can’t overcome and I cannot fathom losing you because we didn’t talk about it in time.

Don’t text and drive. That’s assuming texting exists 10 or 15 years from now and we’re not just teleporting ourselves from one location to the next to have face-to-face discussions (but you probably shouldn’t do that when behind the wheel either).

Don’t ever let your partner define you. The man or woman you love should never control or limit you, preventing you from reaching your potential. A true love will want you to experience all your hearts’ desires, whether that be travel, education, literature, careers, etc. Your soulmate should always challenge you to become the amazing individual you’re destined to be. If they create roadblocks to that journey, find someone who wants to be on that amazing ride.

Listen to my music, even if it’s just to humour your old man. I want you to be familiar with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Guns ’n Roses, Our Lady Peace and Poison. You might find you actually like it (no really, you might).

Go west. And north, south and east. Whether it’s just after high school or with your degree in hand, grab a backpack and see as much of Canada and the world as you can. There will never be a more convenient and fun time. Although I moved west for work at 22, I wasn’t convinced to go travelling until I was a married, 25-year-old newspaper editor, and yet 10 months of international travel was still a life-changing experience for both Mom and me. Had I started sooner, I may never have stopped. And that’s 100 per cent OK too.

Don’t do what I did. But sort of do too, because my teen years are some of the greatest memories I have, and include amazing times with lifelong friends.

I love you both more than you may think possible.

Dwight Irwin is the Editor of Grey-Bruce Kids, and has two daughters, 6 and 3.

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