What I’ve Learned Raising a Daughter (Thus Far)

by schaefer on May 19, 2009 · 63 comments

in Fatherhood, Relationships & Family


I’m not going to lie, when I first heard that we were having a girl, a small tinge of disappointment hit me; I’d really been hoping for a boy.  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 sex that preferred tea parties to a rugby match.

It was easy to imagine how I would bring up a boy.  Strict discipline mixed with love and honor, 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 band concerts, awkward dad moments and an embarrassed/annoyed daughter helped convince me that I wasn’t cut out for the task of raising a daughter.

Part of my misunderstanding came from being raised as an only child, growing up around boys via various sports teams, then attending a military academy with a 6:1 guy to girl ratio.  Let’s just say, while I appreciated the opposite sex, I knew very little about them other than they confused me and smelled nice.

Then my daughter was born and my theories were immediately tossed out the hospital window.  She was beautiful, and I quickly took to being her father.  She was mine and I was hers.  My heart melted inside me the first time I held her and later, when she said “Dada!” and held out her arms to hug me.  The fears I once had about not being able to love a girl as much evaporated as I became the ridiculously proud parent I’d always mocked.

Now, my daughter is still just a toddler, 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 tongue piercings and glittery lip gloss.  But, even with only a short time under my belt, my daughter has taught me some incredibly important lessons that I never would have picked up had she not blessed my wife and me with her presence.

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 daughter 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, 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 baby.  I also find myself a bit less sympathetic when other people’s reckless actions invade my daughter’s life.  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 child.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the time I’ve spent developing intimidation tactics for future boyfriends.  Good luck Johnny brace-face.

2) Girls keep a man’s heart from growing too hard. Perhaps it’s because I went to a military academy, or spent too much time watching “Gladiator,” but I realized after the birth of my daughter 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 an innocent little girl content with blowing bubbles, chasing butterflies and eating copious amounts of cheese.

It’s not that I have now become a bumbling mess of emotion and softness since the birth of my daughter, 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 cheerios and toys strewn about the back seat…who cares!  With a child in one’s life, schedules and plans become much more flimsy.  When my daughter cries I don’t try to numb the pain with a motivational talk, I just hug her.  She’s 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 a daughter 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 a daughter and beginning to think about her 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 once heard a lecture concerning America’s sex-saturated society.  The gentleman discussed pornography, sexual addiction and abuse, but one comment caused the whole audience to go startlingly silent.  “Every time you choose to view pornography, attend a strip club, solicit a prostitute, or in any other way, treat a woman like a piece of flesh rather than a person, remember one thing:  That girl is some man’s daughter.”  Men sat silently, the ones with daughters trembled at the idea of some man treating their daughter with such disrespect.  Women aren’t just peers, co-workers, friends…they’re daughters.

4) Slow Down – The other day my friend and I were walking to the library with my girl.  She just learned to walk a few months ago so she was a bit sporadic.  Speeding up, giggling, slowing down, stopping to pick up a stray leaf.  As we watched her take in the world around her, my friend commented, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if a walk to the library was this much fun?”  I chuckled for a moment, but realized this was one of the true blessings having a small child in my life brought to the table.  The 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.

I once heard a friend’s mom tell her kids before leaving on a long trip overseas, “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 iPhone, 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.” – Woodrow Wilson

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 daughter could care less about my well-thought-out schedule or whether or not I have a flight early the next morning.  She continually challenges me to love her regardless of convenience.

I wrote previously that one of the greatest tests of manhood is whether or not one has learned to abandon their life in the service of another.  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 daughter has 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 traveled a similar path.

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.

{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kevin Rossen May 19, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Wow. What an amazing blog post. I can relate to most of what you wrote. My daughter is turning one next week, and I must admit that I was tearing up at points while reading this. How true it is that little girls soften (dare I say melt) their daddy’s hearts. I never used to cry about anything, but the one thing that can get me every time is thoughts about my little girl.

Thanks for sharing.

2 Chris May 19, 2009 at 9:17 pm

My daughter, our first child, is one month old today. We’re not having the easiest time with her in some ways – major problems with feeding and a few other, attendant problems. But she’s still amazing, and I’m both enjoying spending the time we have now, and really excited by the potential that lives in her, and who she will grow into. This article was really special to read. Thanks.

3 ksklein May 19, 2009 at 9:42 pm

What a wonderful post. I´m a mother (to a son and daughter) and can also relate with 95% you wrote.

4 Vinay May 19, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Thanks for a lovely insight into your role.

I became a father at 24 when I met my partner and her two kids aged 2.5 and 7 and now six years later, my heart is slowly softening. It is hard work for a man to raise a daughter. Thanks to your post, I now have words to express and understand what I feel when I get angry with my girls.

5 Bob Iger May 20, 2009 at 12:13 am

I don’t have children yet but boy, if I ever get to raise a daughter I sure hope I feel the same about my child.

6 Jura May 20, 2009 at 12:35 am

Thanks for this wonderful post. As a no-man’s daughter, I could appreciate what I deeply missed by having a father who abandoned me.

7 hareboosch May 20, 2009 at 1:27 am

As the father of a twenty-month old boy, I find your comments are valid for lads and lasses alike (thus far). My wife is pregnant with our second son – and last child. Although both of us were hoping for a girl to restore a sense of gender balance to the household, I admit a sense of relief at never having to contend with “awkward dad moments” or meeting Johnny Brace-Face. My challenge, however, will be in raising Johnny Brace-Face(s) himself. Thanks for your honest and thoughtful insights.

8 Bennie May 20, 2009 at 1:29 am

I am a father of a six year old girl and a three year old boy. One of the many lessons I have learned thus far, and then specifically one relating to the differences between raising sons and daughters, is that in raising a son a father needs to teach him how to behave towards the fairer sex. It is an active lesson that is continuously taught. For some reason it seems that men are born without instinctive “good manners”, especially towards women. On the other hand a father shows in his day to day actions, by way of example, to his daughter how a man should treat a woman with respect, honor and dignity. I believe a father must do this in order to show her how a “decent” man behaves and thereby giving her blueprints as to what to look for when she chooses male friends.

9 Suresh Muthukrishnan May 20, 2009 at 1:36 am

A wonderful blog…I am not experienced as much Schaefer is now cos my Daughters are just 25 days old but I am confident next year I ‘ll be twice as experienced as Scahefer is because I have twin dughters and this blog is really making me look forward to the wonderful and joyous moments ahead with my daughters.

10 Elliott Hulse May 20, 2009 at 2:29 am

This is a great post!!

I am a “man’s man”, Strength & Conditioning Coach, Gym Owner, Ex college football player AND Pro Strongman….

I’m also a dad to 4 GIRLS!!!

But, I treat em a bit different than most dads do their little angels

Check it out — http://www.hulsestrength.com/strongman-training-for-kids-or-just-my-kid/.html

11 stephen May 20, 2009 at 2:32 am

I have three daughters, ages 5, 3 and 2. We have plenty of wrestling matches before bed and they each have their own tastes in toy guns, lizards, spiders, super heroes, etc. I am humbled by the fact that I am the only man they will know for a very long time and my example will be the standard they use when assessing who their own partners will be. More important, how I treat their mother is how they will expect their own men to treat them. It is all they will know and the older I get the more I see myself morphing into my own dad. Not because I want to, but because it is all I know and so I default to that naturally. Luckily my dad was a hard worker and respectful dad. There are few things I have to fight against. My girls look at me like Zeus.. a greek god who can do no wrong and can move mountains. I can never live up to who they think I am, but it sure is fun. Enjoy.

12 jacoba May 20, 2009 at 2:45 am

How I wish someone like you could have been my own father! I loved mine to distraction and worshipped him for his wisdom and his intellect, but he never protected me and I realise now, after his (too early) death that I needed that more than (even I) realised. My life, thus far, saw me trying too hard to be strong like him, well educated like him, successful, like him but I wasn’t ever really good enough.

I have never had any man protect me and even though I fiercly protected my children and probably always will, I wish with all my heart that someone would, maybe one day, protect me. I hope you have a son someday because I believe you’ll be a wonderfull father because the lessons you are learning with your daughter will help you raise the kind of son that will become the kind of man that I would happily have honoured and obeyed.

13 Susan Walsh May 20, 2009 at 4:06 am

Thank you for this lovely piece of writing. Your daughter is fortunate indeed, and will one day treasure these words. My husband is a devoted father to our 19 year-old daughter. I will say that it has been difficult for him at times watching her be disappointed (or treated poorly) by young men. In fact, I’ve seen him tremble with rage at some of her reports. Observing that is part of what led me to start blogging about the hookup culture, which is generally a bad deal for most girls. When and if you have a son, I am confident you will teach him to treat women with respect in relationships. Johnny brace-face is an annoyance. Dave douche bag is a threat to your daughter’s sense of herself.


14 Bruce Kelly May 20, 2009 at 5:30 am

Well said my friend, well said. This is a terrific post that hits particularly close to home. I have three children…all girls. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. The oldest will be 21 soon, middle just turned 18 on Saturday, and the youngest is 13. As your post illustrates, you’ve learned a great deal but trust me when I tell you that the learning isn’t over.

I believe one of the most important things a man has to recognize as the father of a daughter is how crucial his role is in shaping her self-image and self-esteem, and in setting the example for how she will relate to men for the rest of her life. The message should be that she is a person of worth and she should never “settle” for anything less than she deserves. And if you want her, someday, to have a mature, healthy relationship with a real man who treats her with respect (and who practices the art of manliness) then the responsibility is yours to be that example not just in how you treat her but (perhaps more importantly) in how you treat her mother.

Fathers of sons certainly don’t have it any easier. They are raising the boys who will become the men who will form the other half of that relationship. For the sake of our girls AND their boys I hope they read you blog too.

Thanks for the great blog.

15 Jacob Goodlin May 20, 2009 at 6:06 am

Cam – excellent post. I want to have a daughter now.

16 Amanda May 20, 2009 at 6:10 am

Great blog. My own father is a great Daddy. And when people asked him about only having girl children he would always say that he didn’t raise princesses. So while he attended dance recitals, he also went to my sister’s rugby matches. He made the coolest Barbie townhouse/ briefcase ever. He taught his daughters traditional boy and girl activities. And now he is helping me learn about home ownership. He set a great example or husband and father. He cooks well, he irons his own clothes, but he also made sure we could change oil and a tire, and that we could carry our own suitcases. My mom clearly was awesome as well. It’s great to be an adult and know that you wouldn’t have wanted anybody else’s parents.

17 Emil May 20, 2009 at 6:20 am

Beautiful post. It made me think about my future. Keep up the good work.

18 Brett May 20, 2009 at 6:21 am

Good post. Admittedly, I didn’t really warm-up to my daughter until a few months ago. She’s now almost 1. I just thought of her as an infant. But as her personality has developed, she’s become a lot of fun. I’m glad to see someone else is having a good-time raising a little girl too.

19 Matt Dickerson May 20, 2009 at 6:43 am

Great post! I am a father of 3 daughters and I can relate to all of this. It is absolutely amazing how looking at your little girl immediately gets you to not think about yourself but her and her alone. I work out with exactly that in mind…I may be the only thing between an intruder attacking my family.

20 CoastalKyle May 20, 2009 at 6:48 am

Great post. My wife and I are expecting our first (a girl) in a few months, and I’m still not sure what to expect. This helped assure me that my child doesn’t need to be a little martial arts master in order for me to relate to her. Heck, maybe she will be anyway.

21 Bradley Jensen May 20, 2009 at 6:50 am

Great post Cameron! It’s great to read about your journey raising a daugther. Many things are similar raising a son but there are definitely some differences as well. Thanks for your honesty.

22 srgonzo May 20, 2009 at 6:56 am

I’m the father of three girls. Sure, I wanted a boy, and while I’d still like one, my wife has other reproductive plans.

However, each of my daughters has taught me something.

My eldest daughter taught me that even if life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, that doesn’t mean your life is less because it didn’t match up with the plan. She inherited my weird sense of humor and fascination with fantasy and science fiction. She sees a future with nearly endless possibilities, and she’s also taught me that sometimes there isn’t anything as important as a game of backstop.

My second daughter teaches me (on a near constant basis) that no two children are ever going to be the same. She shrugs off injury, good sense, and anything that interferes with her rose-colored princess view. She’s got a real imagination, and sometimes I wonder whether or not she lives on the same planet as the rest of us, but she’s scrappy, even if she looks like a porcelain doll.

My youngest is a toddler. She has a boundless joy and affection, coupled with a temper. When I come home, she toddles over in her awkward run, throws her arms around my legs, and I just melt a little every time.

For prospective fathers of future women, I’ve got a few suggestions.

First, show them the stuff you like to do. Granted, consider propriety, but there are girls out there who like sports, monster trucks, NASCAR, Dungeons & Dragons, science fiction, James Bond, Quentin Tarantino movies, cooking shows, grilling, spitting, fart jokes, and beer. (Yes, there is a world of other stuff, but I’m not writing a Russian novel.)

Second, learn to accept that at some point, your little girl who wanted nothing more than to be a fairy princess is going to be sexually active. Traditionally, we want to protect our daughters’ virtue, but there’s a difference between teaching her how to be selective and fitting her with a chastity belt. You are the template for the kind of man she’s going to find one day. That template can either serve as a welcoming beacon or a warning sign.

Third, teach your daughters how to avoid being a victim. That means fighting, and when I say ‘fighting,’ I mean fighting dirty. They need to know that they are the mistresses of their fates and the only people who deserve to choose who gets to do what with them. Unfortunately, there are people out there in the world who believe that our daughters are prizes to be won, challenges to be overcome, or weaklings who should have power exerted over them. I’ve already told my eldest (who looks a lot older than she is) that it’s perfectly acceptable to hit, bite, scratch, kick, spit, or do whatever is necessary to get away from a potential assailant.

Fourth, (I think this should go for kids across the board) take your children seriously. They really feel strongly about whatever they might be feeling. That doesn’t mean coddle their every whim, but it does mean you should listen to what they have to say about something.

Fifth, (last, but not least) teach your children MANNERS! Nothing is so disturbing as a young lady who can’t be civil. It’s almost (unfortunately) expected from boys, but I don’t know too many well-adjusted women who were the “gross girl” in class. On a less gender-oriented note, children who grow up without good manners grow up to be adults without good manners, and we’ve got enough of those already.

23 Darrell May 20, 2009 at 7:16 am

“Every girl is some man’s daughter”

This lesson hit home in a big way after my daughter was born. Thanks for this great article.

24 Larry May 20, 2009 at 7:25 am

I have two daughters, ages 4 and 1. Since I have become a dad to daughters, it seems like I have felt every emotion there is to feel. They have frustrated me like nothing else, they have made me more proud than I thought I could ever be, they have made me laugh until I have cried, and they have brought me more joy than anything else. I would love to have a boy one day, but until then, I will cherish my girls.

25 Christian May 20, 2009 at 7:40 am

That was really good. My wife and I had a boy first, and he was perfect. I named him after my late father. And from infancy it seemed that he had my personality, my strong will, etc. Then three weeks ago my wife gave birth to a little girl whom we named after both of our grandmothers. Instantly I was struck with the “what do I do now”… The other day I came home from work and my son ran outside to greet me(we live in the country) and when I went in the house my wife handed her to me, and she was crying. When I started talking she stopped, looked at me, and just smiled and when to sleep as I talked to her…….

I’m a sucker now…. :D

26 Alt May 20, 2009 at 7:57 am

I’ve had similar feelings to what you have experienced and I agree with what you said here.

I recently read a book, “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” that altered my perspective on how I’m raising my two daughters (ages 2 and 4)
and I recommend it for you if you haven’t read it already – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0345499395?ie=UTF8&tag=altj-20

27 Mark G May 20, 2009 at 7:59 am

Thanks for a great blog post. I found myself wishing for a boy when my wife was pregnant, but now I have a daughter that I love more than anything.

A couple of things have stuck in my mind. My (white collar) boxing coach, when I told him I was having a daughter told me “Girls are special. You want to protect your child anyway, but with a daughter you just want to do it even more.” This has really proven to be true for me.

At my employer, we have lunchtime sessions on parenting as part of an employee network and in the session on raising girls, the speaker said “A daughter’s relationship with her father sets the scene for how she expects to be treated by her partner in later life.” How’s that for a responsibility?

Finally, the last paragraph of the “Green Death” girls soccer team letter really resonated with me as well, and summed up how I would like my daugher to be:

“Lastly, we are all cognizant of the soft bigotry that expects women and especially little girls, to be dainty and submissive; I wholeheartedly reject such drivel. My overarching goal is develop ladies who are confident and fearless, who will stand up for their beliefs and challenge the status quo. Girls who will kick ass and take names on the field, off the field and throughout their lives. I want these girls to be winners in the game of life. Who’s with me?”

28 Brucifer May 20, 2009 at 8:19 am

Although what you have outlined is all well and good, allow me to interrupt this 1950′s Father Knows Best reverie. Girls, at least some, are changing.

For example, of the three women I am currently dating, one is a tri-state kickbox champion, another a former state champion body-builder, and yet another just got out of the Army, a paratrooper no less. Thus, unless they were legion, any such time as a miscreant needed to be dealt with, my proper role as a modern gentleman would be to hold milady’s coat and purse, while she herself handed the fool his ass. For me to play the macho protector, at least without their by-your-leave, would risk these lady’s censure At the very least, they would deride me for usurping them of an opportunity to get some free exercise. Lest anyone come to false conclusions about the femininity of these ladies however, let me state that each one of then has modeled, appeared in fashion magazines, and one had her pic in a PLAYBOY article.

Where I am going is that, having a son, you would undoubtedly train them in some sort of martial art for the purpose of defending themselves and others. Times being what they are, girls should be afforded the same opportunity. This will not only help a girls’ self esteem, but provide for such times as you are not around to loom threatening. Good luck Johnny brace-face, indeed.

Another stunning blonde female friend of mine, formerly of an elite forestry wildfire fighting crew, recently decked with one punch, an idiot twice her size who tried to rub up against her on a club dance floor. The club bouncers were laughing so hard, they twice dropped the hapless creep as they carried him out to the street.

Daddy dearest will stress less if he has trained his daughter to handle herself. These days, one can teach one’s daughter much of the same stuff he would teach a son, and not have to worry about his daughter’s femininity being compromised.

29 Brian Blake May 20, 2009 at 8:32 am

Excellent post. My daughter is turning three next month. We didn’t know the sex of the baby when my wife was pregnant (we wanted a surprise), but I knew in my hear that it was a girl… And I was thrilled.

Growing up in a home of four boys made the idea seem fresh… exciting, even. However, I had no clue what it would ‘really’ be like to have my home over run by the female gender (my wife and daughter).

It’s incredible.

I agree with so much of what you’ve said above… And with much of what the commenters said, too. Being a daddy to a little girl is hard work… And there is a LOT of responsibility that goes with it. But it is SO rewarding. When I see my baby girl’s blue eyes light up when she sees me, it makes every struggle worthwhile.

Yeah… Johnny Braceface, you’re gonna’ have a real hard time when you come to pick up my little angel. I’m reminded of the Rodney Atkins’ song:

“Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy)”

The declaration of independence
Think I can tell you that first sentence
But then I’m lost
I can’t begin to count the theories
I had pounded in my head that I forgot
I don’t remember all that spanish
Or the gettysburg address
But there is one speech from high school
I’ll never forgot


Come on in boy, sit on down
And tell me ’bout yourself
So you like my daughter, do you now
Yeah we think she’s something else
She’s her daddy’s girl and her mama’s world
She deserves respect, that’s what she’ll get, ain’t it son
Now y’all run along and have some fun
I’ll see you when you get back
Bet I’ll be up all night
Still cleaning this gun

Well now that I’m a father
I’m scared to death one day my daughter’s gonna find
That teenage boy I used to be
Who seems to have just one thing on his mind
She’s growing up so fast it won’t be long
‘fore I’ll have to put the fear of god
Into some kid at the door

[repeat chorus]

It’s all for show, ain’t nobody gonna get hurt
It’s just a daddy thing, hey believe me man, it works

[repeat chorus]

30 Ed May 20, 2009 at 8:48 am

After successfully navigated through 19 years of raising our only child, a daughter, I can second the author’s opinions. Having any child, but especially a daughter, causes a real change in a man that you don’t expect to happen. The protective aspect of your personality to comes to the front and you look at life far differently than before. You find that you are far less tolerant of cruel acts to others because you tend to value life much more than before. You recognize that the helpless need to be watched out for and protected. Your focus in life turns away from you and more towards others. You simply look at life differently.

My 19 years with my daughter have been a wonderful time of bonding. I have been lucky enough to be able to be there for all of her birthday parties, drill team and dance shows and competitions, school plays and choir concerts, and Indian Princess meetings and campouts. Through a lucky set of circumstances I was able to drive her every day to daycare and then public school from the time she was 6 weeks old until she was 16 and able to drive herself. I would not have traded a single one of those instances for a chance to be out with the boys or out on the links or at a ballgame. In fact, I did share some of those experiences with my daughter. It didn’t make me any less a man for doing so. In fact, it made me more of one because I felt that I was playing a huge part in shaping my daughter’s character by being there as her father.

I can certainly say that it hasn’t always been easy, especially during the teen years, when children decide that mom and dad aren’t the only people on earth and they may not know everything. There have been times when we have fought and feelings were hurt and you wonder what happened to that sweet little toddler that you used to have so much fun with. But then you hear those 4 little words, “I love you, Daddy” and all of the ill feelings vanish. At least until the next flair up.

31 Matt May 20, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I too was just like the author. I wanted a little Jr. Instead I got the most beautiful daughter in the world. Walks around the neighborhood use to take forever. Now they are filled with laughter, exploring, and all sorts of fun. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

32 Joe Cope May 20, 2009 at 12:15 pm


i am a 24 year old man still waiting for the right woman for me. i have always LOVED children and absolutely can’t wait until i am married and have children of my own; and this post has made me even more exicted than i’ve been about child-rearing in a long time.

just like any other man, i definitely want a boy so that i can raise him to be a true gentleman, but i also am really looking forward to (hopefully) having a little girl as well. there’s just something about that father/daughter connection… “daddy’s little girl” that i’ve always hoped to have in my life.

good luck to you in the future. i grew up with an older sister and got to witness the teen years, and it can be rough, but the way things sound like they’re going with you now, you’ll be ready and you’ll both come out on the other side of that much stronger than before.

33 Richard May 20, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Great post.

I never really felt like a father until I had daughters. Up until then I just had sons, and I was one of the guys. Having children was a change of perspective, an exercise in selflessness and service to others, but having daughters awakened something in me that made me a better, stronger, but more gentle, father, husband and man. It’s hard to explain, but those with daughters understand. Watch the DVD of that new movie “Taken” with Liam Neeson, and it’ll give you some idea.

I also highly recommend “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters”. The author is Meg Meeker, a woman pediatrician. Excellent book, with some eye-opening perspective:

34 Rachael May 20, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Very nice post. I’m one of three daughters (six children), and I can truely attest to the impact my father has made in my life. He has provided for me, protected me, and spend priceless hours with me, showing me the things he believes are important for me to know, and becoming aquianted witht he things that I value. I’ve seen an ardent hand of discipline at the most timely instances and I’ve seen the way that a smile from a daughter (or the thought of her moving 4000 kilometres away) can soften a man to tears. As much as you know that your daughter is special, she too, will come to know the same of her father.

35 The3rd May 20, 2009 at 3:59 pm

The Mrs. and I have a 2 year old daughter. Everything you mentioned above has passed through my mind over the course of the last two years, and the first time any of those particular points registered with me it was life changing and mind altering. My Dad did all these things for my sister and I never gave it any mind growing up and now I wish I had paid more attention. He is one of the “men” you write so well about here and looking back on just how manly he was, he was comfortable enough to enjoy my then 5 or 6 year old sister putting berets in his hair while he sat on the floor playing with her. I hope I have these simple, silly, memorable moments too. Thanks for a great blog today.

36 Spida Hunter May 20, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Awesome article and THANK YOU for sharing. I have my first daughter (14wks old) and I have a 6yr old son.

It is my mission to be “fair” to them both i.e. we as men will “harden” our boys up, yet if a girl falls down the same step we are as soft as marshmellows!!

Hence my mission to be fair (as I can)! While being a metro-sexual is cool (not in my eyes) there are some things that ring true in this, that bridge the gap of “man” and keeping a mans heart from growing too hard!!

Awesome stuff and alot to reflect on….let us continually always learn!

P.S. If you had a son would you parent him the same or would daddy’s little girl get softer parenting cause she a girl?

37 Ryan Shelton May 21, 2009 at 4:58 am

Thanks for the great article.

38 David Johnson May 21, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Great post! I have a daughter who will turn 5 soon and you expressed well what I have experienced as her father. I dread the day 15-20 years in the future when she moves away from home.

39 Ben May 21, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Excellent post, very touching in fact for the familiarity if nothing else. I have two daughters, the eldest nine & the younger two; I hear you on all the points you made. My older daughter was my first biological child (I’d had a couple of years raising my stepson at that point), & it managed to turn me from a no account dead beat who kind of glided from job to job with a certain ambivalence to holding down a solid management job for two years then taking a better opportunity in the polyester film business that has occupied me for the last 8 years. My eldest daughter also got me off cigarettes which had previously enslaved me for 16 years. Skylar has been one of the greatest joys of my life & really kicked off my “manning up” in grand style.

Amelia, my youngest daughter & the youngest of my four children, has a completely different set of lessons to teach me. Since she was born, she has tested my wife’s & my endurance to the nth degree. She is a daredevil & has absolutely no conception of the consequences of her actions. The worst part about it is, even at two, she knows exactly what she is doing & purposely does it to get a reaction out of you.

I thought that after fathering three children that I had the gig pretty down pat, but my little Mia has literally taken all of that & tossed it out the window; smiling & laughing every second while she’s doing it. I think that is her greatest lesson for us though: laughter. Everything is a joy to her, & I think I’ve lost that at times; but luckily for me she is there to forcibly remind me of it.

As a side note, don’t worry about the teenage years, man; they are going to be here eventually one way or the other. My oldest son is 15 & luckily for us, he is one of the most well adjusted & mature teenagers I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing; & I’m not just saying that because he’s my son. When they do things like pierce things & dress in clothing that makes you wonder how the designer had the audacity to charge such an obscene amount of money for such a small amount of fabric, what they are really doing is trying to find something to define themselves with. My tactic is generally to let them express themselves how they wish as long as it will not get them in trouble & is not offensive to others; & to be there for them & listen to them. Let your children, especially your daughters know, that no matter what happens, they always can identify & be safe with you. We are the primary standard for what a man is in our daughter’s lives & we’d better set a damn good example. Just remember your future son in law is being assembled in your daughter’s mind every time she interacts with you & unless you want some smart mouthed punk calling you “pops” & mooching of your little girl for the rest of her life, we need to show her that she deserves better than that; & that, gentlemen, is our duty & highest responsibility to our daughters.

40 F13rY May 21, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Goodness mate, what a wonderful post!! My little girl is 4 .. and I can’t put it in words anywhere close to what you did. THANKYOU.

41 Gregory A. Butler May 29, 2009 at 3:23 pm

“Every time you choose to view pornography, attend a strip club, solicit a prostitute, or in any other way, treat a woman like a piece of flesh rather than a person, remember one thing: That girl is some man’s daughter.”

Ohhh Kaaayyyy

Sorry, but “every time you choose to view pornography” “some man’s daughter” cashes a $ 1,200 paycheck for her modeling work in that porno.

And “every time you choose to attend a strip club” “some man’s daughter” pockets that $ 25 you paid her for that 3 minute lap dance – or that $ 1,000 you paid her for an hour in the VIP room.

And “every time you solicit a prostitute” “some man’s daughter” pockets that $ 700 you paid her for an hour of sexual congress (that, possibly, she might even have enjoyed almost as much as you did)

Sorry, champ, but your whole puritanism gimmick is way out of touch with reality – there is nothing evil about wanting to get sexual gratification from women,or pictures of women – and being willing to pay.

In a sense, men who pay for sex and/or buy porn respect women MORE – cause we’re willing to pay women for access to their glorious femininity!

And that whole “some man’s daughter” piece – a little patriarchal!

You sound like a Saudi Arabian prince or something!

And before you set yourself up as the ‘defender’ of the ‘virtue’ of the “some men’s daughter’s” who are sex workers, why not actually ask a porno model, or a stripper, or a call girl, about what they REALLY think about their jobs, and the purchasing power and economic freedom (and, in some cases with some clients, the sexual fulfillment) they get from their jobs.

42 srgonzo June 1, 2009 at 9:09 am

Mr. Butler,
I have to say that I agree with you to an extent. One of the benefits of a free society is the fact that our daughters have the freedom to choose employment in the sex industry. Even if my daughters were to choose to move to Nevada and work as legal prostitutes, I wouldn’t love them any less.

Does that mean I actually want that for my daughters? The answer is an emphatic “NO.”

That isn’t because I have an issue with the morality of the sex industry, but because I take issue with the value a lot of the women in the sex industry place upon themselves. I would also be concerned with their health and safety.

In my earlier comment, I mentioned that fathers have to learn to accept their daughters will one day be sexually active, barring an early enrollment into a convent. I’d like to hope that my daughters approach that activity intelligently and enthusiastically. I hope they value the importance of keeping a husband or lover happy at home.

However, in response to the suggestion that we find out what women in the sex industry REALLY think, one has to go a little further than watching a documentary on HBO or Showtime. Many (not all) get into the sex trade because they aren’t qualified for much else. During the course of their careers (which are frequently short), many of these women lose interest in having a romantic relationship with anyone because there are too many people with a preconcieved notion of what sex with a stripper, porn star, or prostitute should be like. Some of them just believe they aren’t worthy of a healthy relationship, and many of these women end up spending every penny they earn, with nothing to show for it at the end, besides some sort of venereal disease, a head full of bad memories, and (often enough) a drug habit.

Granted, there are women who use their careers to set up a nest egg, get their degrees, and prepare themselves for life after the sex industry, but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

As a counterpoint to your comments, I would suggest that we as fathers teach our daughters to trust us to speak openly and honestly (which has to be done over the course of their lifetimes), and accept that while our daughters (or sons) might choose to do things we don’t prefer, we can always be supportive and offer whatever help we can to guide our children towards success.

43 Mark June 5, 2009 at 10:52 am

Great post!
As the father of three daughters, I wanted to have a son. But for us, we stopped at three lovely girls. They are very different from each other, but all three a joy. Coming into fatherhood from a military background, I wanted to raise “tom-boys” atleast. But two of the three don’t know a 3/8″ drive from an air compressor. Each however, love to fish and hike and look at bugs (from a bit of a distance if possible).
While I probably wouldn’t have chosen girls if we were picking them out of a gumball machine, I wouldn’t have it any other way now. They have changed my life. Like their mother, they draw out the best of the man in me. For that, as well as their love, I am truly thankful.

44 David Eichler July 24, 2009 at 1:02 am

I have two daughters, 15 months and almost-seven-years. Helping to raise them thus far has been the most magical, wonderful, life-affirming experience I could have ever dreamt of. Savor the moments…

45 Michael September 15, 2009 at 1:01 am

This is one of the most touching posts I have ever read…I have a daughter too and I can truly relate to everything you said here….keep up the good work man!

46 Hilary September 20, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Don’t you think females/mothers have the inherent urge to protect too? I don’t understand why people mistake these traits to be exclusive to one sex; they’re not.

47 Hilary September 20, 2009 at 2:22 pm

I applaud your attempt to take sexism seriously, but honestly, I love the fact that it’s the realization that “every woman is some man’s daughter” that inspired you to view degradation of women in a new way. Why is she only valuable in relation to being a daughter, and the daughter of a man at that? How about because she’s some other women’s daughter, or, better yet, because she’s a human? Yeah, I like that last approach best.

48 Julia September 21, 2009 at 4:52 pm

This is probably one of my favorite AoM posts ever and I come back and read it over from time to time. It certainly gives food for thought and every time I read it I think of something different to say.

But what I always end up thinking is that I’m happy I had that man as a father. After I realized I hadn’t the strongest, richest or best looking dad in the block I noticed his flaws – as well as my mother’s, and there were times during my teens I sort of wished I had different parents. But teens are troublesome for everyone and by the time I made it to college I realized I had been blessed with an exceptional pair.

My parents love each other and respect each other enormously. They are colleages, friends, lovers and partners, and have been together for the last 35 years and counting. Many of my friends and acquaintances are cynical to concepts like “true love” and “soul mate”, and get burned in bad relationships… while no marriage is guaranteed for life, I think I had a great example of what to expect (and not to expect) from a relationship from my direct family.

My father never lavished my mother with expensive gifts, got a flashy car/home/holiday package, or did anything special in the book. Instead, he gave my mother what she really needed: encouragement to follow her dreams, support and absolute trust in her judgment. For her high brow academical projects and for her weekend sewing too. He never looked down on her, he always respected and supported her endeavors. That’s way more valuable than anything else in life, and no, you can’t buy it from a catalog store.

Now I’m 30 and I’ve been married for some 5 years, I’ve came to recognize how being that father’s daughter has shaped me. He taught me about dignity, courage, being true to your family, and to keep your ears open to what everybody has to say, be it the loony guy who lived round the corner or a rambling 5 year old telling about her day in daycare. He never sat down and told me “you have to be this and that”. He just was all those things.

These days, I think that the best thing about being my father’s daughter is that we’re both adults now and our relationship is still father – daughter, but it’s not adult – child anymore. People usually think of parenthood in terms of young adults and children, but I think there’s a lot more to it. Now that science allows us to get into old age in better shape, I believe there’s room to explore that unique bond in new ways. I hope more people will, too.

49 Joseph October 10, 2009 at 9:14 am

I finally realized why I was put on this earth when my daughter arrived. True love and responsibiliy.

50 Rod Cyr October 12, 2009 at 11:38 am

GREAT Article & Bog!
I was raised in a family of 10 boys with no girl, and, my dad, although he loved us profoundly, had to leave the family unit because of his alchoolism. My mother did a great job raising us and lived through some of the hardship us boys had with our girlfriends/wives. One thing that she conveyed to us about girls was, even if they were “Bad Ones”, never never strike or hit a girl, even if she deserves it…. and her words have stayed with us for a lifetime…
Consequently, I got into a sporadic relationship that lead to an unplanned pregnancy, but an adorable baby girl. Despite not being with her mother after 30 days of her birth, I took on my responsibilities as a father as my mother told me…
Not having any sister, this little girl opened my eyes to what the other sex was all about: the emotional,intellectual and sensitive aspect of what girls are all about. Despite her softening of my macho image, I, in return have also influenced her upbringing and, at 13, I keep telling her that I wouldn’t trade her for 3 boys! She is everything a father could want of a daughter…!
But life goes on, and her biggest challenges are ahead of her (teen then adulthood). Despite her independence and confidence, I keep reminding her that I love her and that I’m always there for her… and I am still learning what girls are all about.
In conclusion, yes, we father can mold our daughter’s outcome, but don’t forget that mothers do the same for boys…

51 Mahesh Aravind November 10, 2009 at 5:49 am

Many thanks for this wonderfully touching article. I’m not married, nor do I have kids. But I’ve always fancied having a son, if at all I have kids. This article have shattered my entire concept of having a girl child. I’ve to say a woman in your life can smooth out the rough edges in your persona, but I believe a daughter can polish you.

I’m very touched by the article.

52 Joshua December 13, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Great job. You nailed it.

53 vsobol February 9, 2010 at 8:26 am

Loved this entry. This blog might help–it’s about raising your daughter as a feminist–meaning as an equal member of society:

54 Ryan March 17, 2010 at 12:46 am

As a first time father raising a girl, I search, usually fruitlessly, for tid-bits of wisdom that inspire me to be a better father. Few passages have moved me like this one did:

“one of the greatest tests of manhood is whether or not one has learned to abandon their life in the service of another. 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.”

Just reading this affirmed for me how much more I care about my daughter’s well being and happiness than my own, and my admitting this, I’ve become happier than I ever thought possible. I’ve started looking at my behavior more closely and looking into my daughters eyes more frequently. Anyway, I was moved by this. Thanks.

55 spencerstiff June 13, 2010 at 2:08 am

I appreciate someone posting helpful tips on raising a daughter. We are having a girl and as much i’m excited i am also terrified. Being twenty and still wondering about life myself makes bringing a little one into this world a challenging thought without a doubt, however i feel like i’m not alone after having read this.

56 PJC August 1, 2010 at 1:59 pm

This is an amazing litte write up and I can realte so wel to all of it. My daughter just recently turned two and I have learned so much more about myself adn life in these last two years then I ever thought possible. Thanks for writning this and putting into words exactly how I feel. I really liked the “Johnny brace face” comment. LOL best of luck. PJC

57 Jennifer December 28, 2012 at 10:00 am

Great Blog! Thank for sharing your experience and it touches my heart!

58 Kizzy February 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Please write a book! I will buy it! Your words have had great impact on me. Helped me to understand the bitterness and hard heartedness of the men I encounter that grew up without their fathers and how they sometimes take it out on women, even in neglecting their own daughter’s. Im glad that I’m a daughter and will encourage all Fathers to work on building that special bond between a father and his daughter.

59 Ben G August 13, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Wow. Great article! I’ve been daddy to a little girl for almost 17 months now and as I read this I found myself saying “yep, that’s true……yep, that’s true too.” My daughter is for sure a daddy’s girl and knows that daddy is always there for her.

I’ve always been protective. Any I mean agressively protective. The thought of anyone laying an unclean or unkind finger on my little girl…..I think I can already hear the slide being racked on my .45. Powerful, what you said about looking at filth or participating therein.

60 Naomi September 22, 2013 at 9:05 am

“Every time you choose to view pornography, attend a strip club, solicit a prostitute, or in any other way, treat a woman like a piece of flesh rather than a person, remember one thing: That girl is some man’s daughter.”

So is a man’s wife, partner, girlfriend…! Hopefully it won’t take having a female child to reinforce this. If you want to be respected as a man, not as flesh, respect women as being the beautiful beings they are and not just your ‘entertainment’ (as it so commonly called)

61 Diana December 23, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Wow what a great article! Thanks for sharing your heart. I loved your concluding paragraphs in point #5. So true. All the best raising your little girl. Sounds like your already on the right path.

62 Wee Loon January 26, 2014 at 3:47 am

It doesn’t just take raising a daughter. These same lessons can be learnt when you found someone you love.

63 Vlad March 27, 2014 at 1:19 pm

My first child and daughter is about to arrive at any moment now. Can’t wait to meet her!

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