“A note to Daddy,” read the little paper on my nightstand. “Daddy, will you take me on a date on Thursday, please? Love, Zoe.”
The heart melts.
That note reinforced something I learned recently—something I thought I already knew, but the full truth of which is more powerful and exciting than I had realized: that is, just how potent a father’s influence is.
It hit me with greater force thanks to a book I heartily endorse as a must-read for every man with a daughter: Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker. (This book is available in bookstores.)
Meeker’s decades of experience practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine, as well as counseling teens and parents, are clearly rooted in a basic respect for the biblical, father-centric model of family. In clear, frank language, she gives us a new, breathtaking perspective: seeing ourselves through our daughters’ eyes.
“Dads, you are far more powerful than you think you are,” she writes. You are nothing less than the epicenter of that little girl’s world.
“Daughters are never lukewarm in the presence of their fathers,” she writes. “They watch you intensely. They hang on your words. They hope for your attention, and they wait for it in frustration—or in despair. They need a gesture of approval, a nod of encouragement, or even simple eye contact to let them know you care and are willing to help.”
“When she’s in your company, your daughter tries harder to excel. When you teach her, she learns more rapidly. When you guide her, she gains confidence. If you fully understood just how profoundly you can influence your daughter’s life, you would be terrified, overwhelmed, or both.”
I have weighed these words against my interactions with my own daughters and found them to be true. I was simply not aware enough of just how focused my girls are on trying to gain my attention, to win my affections. I did not see how sensitive they are to my words, my deeds, my touch.
You are your daughter’s hero. She craves your awareness, your love; she needs your protection, your security; she values your convictions, your stability. Far more than you think.
Even your teenage daughter who is pouting or shouting and pushing you away is actually testing your commitment to her. A father must be man enough—his love must be tough enough—to tear down those obstacles and prove that he cares.
Our daughters need our masculinity, our ability to confront and solve problems, our logic, our firmness. “Let me tell you a secret about daughters of all ages,” Meeker writes. “[T]hey love to boast about how tough their dads are—not just physically, but how strict and demanding they are. Why? Because this allows daughters to ‘show off’ how much their fathers love them. If only you could be privy to the private conversations of girlfriends.”
It is from you that your daughter learns what it means to be loved—what proper, respectful male attention looks and feels like. It is from her interactions with you that she gains the sense of self-respect so necessary to resisting inappropriate male advances.
Our world is full of toxic influences. Pressures on our daughters to look and act in ungodly ways. Assaults on modesty, decency, virtue. This world tries to make them self-centered, beauty-obsessed and materialistic. Meeker does a superb job of giving the reader an unblinking look at this ugly reality—exposing the sexualized messages being pushed in public schools, within teenage and even pre-pubescent relationships, throughout the media. “While you want the world to be cautious and gentle with her,” she writes, “it is cruel beyond imagination—even before she is a teen.” The truth is shocking, and saddening, and enraging—but a failure to recognize it makes a father ill-equipped to battle it with sufficient firepower.
You, with God’s help, are your daughter’s number-one protection.You need to stand between her and those satanic poisons, and give her a chance to grow up with her innocence preserved and her dignity intact. Be a shining knight with a lion’s heart, carrying God’s banner in her life.
This book fanned the flames of my devotion to my daughters. It swelled my appreciation for how God designed the female mind to embrace fatherly authority. It increased my desire to take advantage of the limited time I have in their fleeting childhood to exercise that influence for good.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date to go on.