Father-daughter relationship is the lynchpin
It follows that the relationship between a girl and her father is inevitably the lynchpin that heavily influences her future personal life. While she shares a lot with her mum, that relationship, though equally special, is more colleague-like; her relationship with her dad is different: it is that of a guiding light and it comes with some awe.
The father figure in a girl’s life – whether her biological father or a guardian or anyone else with a father role, is her pillar and standard of measure, especially of men’s approach to women. As she grows up, she makes vital deductions and conclusions about men in general based on the men who live under the same roof with her. Father and brother shape much of a girl’s view of the male world. Fortunately or unfortunately, her brother’s behavior is also shaped by the father figure — which means that ultimately the father’s impact on daughters will be felt either directly or indirectly through the brother’s influence.
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, a psychologist, marriage and family counselor, once wrote, “Regardless of whether he wants the responsibility, a father’s relationship to the world and to women sets down a template that will be played out for another generation.” In her article “Daughters need fathers-too“, she listed 10 basic principles for “Men who take their job as a father of a daughter seriously.”
Fathers too come from some parenting – in the past…
One has to realize that a father is himself a result of his experience with his parents. A father who was brought up by an abusive or absentee, or uncaring and irresponsible father, may have been affected to the extent that he does not know how to be a good father to his own children. Such fathers may end up offering unhealthy father daughter relationships without intention.
Inappropriate parenting standards
There are many parents who refer to their past when dealing with their children, with the notion, “if you lived in my times as a child…” In a sense, their parenting standards are informed by the hardships they went through and they may therefore work with a very low parent-child relationship threshhold. For dads who bring up their daughters the way they saw their fathers rear the sisters, the question is whether the standards they apply are appropriate.
The many types of fathers
As a result of many types of historical parenting, we have many types of fathers: There are gentle dads, rough dads, heroic dads, toxic dads, inspirational dads, destructive dads, caring dads, even insulting dads who tell their daughters strange things like, “You are just like your mother,” and so on. There are men who want to be dad and others who loathe it.
A man who claims a child he sired out of wedlock definitely demonstrates that he wants that child. Of course there are many reasons why a man would choose to have a child under his care. Some may be less noble — such as punishing the mum — but let’s first agree that a dad wanting that child is a positive step.
Fathers who love their daughters
There are those who want a daughter as a child; they are fathers who would do anything to protect their daughter. Even face death. There are also dads who forgo their personal ambitions in favour of their relationship with their children. A father who for instance declines an offer to work abroad because the work package does not include relocation of his family, is a treasure to the family.
Such loving dads leave a major gap in life when they die – you never forget them; they never fade away. They are spiritually present whenever you have a problem. You know exactly how dad would have dealt with this situation, and for that you miss him greatly. For many daughters, the thought of such a dad suffering, let alone dying, is unfathomable. Dad is supposed to be strong and able, in charge. Even if his health is failing, he is still seen as having the authority of a fully functional dad.
Fathers who did not want daughters
Further, then there are men who outrightly do not want a girl for a child. They come across as indifferent and uninvolved when the wife delivers a girl. The acid test shows results when when the daughter looks up to dad for guidance or protection but he simply does nothing. Or does not listen. Listens but does not seem to get it. Or gets it but thinks it does not matter!
Such fathers wield pain in both good times and bad times. If the relationship between a daughter and her dad is weak or non-existent, it becomes a heavy burden for her if she has to take care of him when he is ill. He did not care when he was able; he did not offer a hand; he did not encourage – why should I take care of him? Yet because he is dad, a daughter may have mixed feelings of love and hate for him. Rejection and duty. Her mind still carries the fantasy of a dad who never was, while her reality now puts her dad’s well being in her very hands. It can be frustrating and overwhelming!
When a “bad” dad dies, for most daughters, bitterness takes charge, with the knowledge that the dad she wishes he would be will never be. It is both sad and sorrowful, and there are daughters who do not know what to do with these kind of emotions. While some may feel relief because the father was negatively overbearing, abusive or even violent, the relief is rarely as deep as the regret – that he did not change.