Father's Day art © Jen Norton
“Reach for the Stars”, acrylic on wood panel (original Sold)

The vocation of being a dad is not for the faint of heart. I am a daughter, one of three sisters. I also have a daughter and mostly girl cousins. Almost every living being in our family, except my long-suffering husband, is female. Even the dog, cats, and we think a frog we once had. Consequently, I have a library of girl-raising insights. But that’s not enough.

If a mother’s influence teaches us how to interact in the world, a father’s influence teaches us how to FEEL about ourselves.

The one piece of advice I have insisted my husband practice in raising our daughter is to never, NEVER say anything disparaging about her looks, even as a joke. Girls remember and internalize every negative thing said about their appearance, eventually believing them to be true. And they remember forever.

Some guys might judge that to be a bit hormonal, but here’s the thing every father needs to know about raising girls: The world judges us first by looks, second by everything else, and it can undermine even the strongest of us. It’s unfair, it’s shallow, it’s frustrating, and it’s animal biology. To succumb to it is to deny the creative power of half the planet’s population and support a culture of death. But God has given fathers of daughters the special task of defending abundant life, one daughter at a time.

It’s harder than you might think, and not all fathers are “man enough” for this type of service. But those who are must use their natural protective instincts to shield their daughters from the onslaught of self doubt and hate that the world offers. They must encourage their daughters beyond their comfort zones so they can command the same respect from others outside the family. It requires consistent, long-term diligence similar to that required of a marathon runner or mountain climber. It asks a man to overcome his reluctance to talk about girl stuff…especially in the early teen years when “girl stuff” sends some fathers diving into the nearest couch for a re-run of “Deadliest Catch,” beer and remote in hand. The payoff for all his hard work is a daughter who knows her worth, who doesn’t compare herself with other women, and who is generous and kind, not shallow and self-centered.

A father who is up to the challenge consistently lets his daughter know through his words and actions that she’s beautiful, that she’s worthy and that he values her. He spends time with her doing things she likes. He knows that one tiny, ill-intentioned comment can wipe out years of hard work. It’s not a job for the faint of heart.

And that means fathers also must raise sons capable of the challenge.

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