Sunday, April 18, 2010

Strong Confident Women Part II

Strong Confident Women
Part II

Raising strong confident women meant making some hard choices as a father. It would have been easier to do what a lot of parents did and give in to your kids. But I always believed my role was bigger than being my kid’s friend. I am their FATHER. That meant having rules and being consistent with them. That meant not giving in because “everyone else was going to the party”. I still remember the year Maddie was 13 she told me I was the strictest parent of any of her friends’ parents. I said thank you. She was taken aback and told me it was not meant as a compliment. I thought it was. My job as her dad is not to be popular. I was not her father to be her friend though I hoped she would like me. They knew I loved them because in our house these words were always said. But my job was to be that guiding force that helped her be ready for what life would bring her. It was my true job. That job I do selling chicken just pays for my important role.

Early on Laura and I figured out that rules needed to be established on how certain situations would be handled. For instance, at what age is it ok for girls to get their ears pierced? When was it ok to go on a date? We seriously put lots of thought into some of these rules. The concept was that if we told them about the rules long before they applied then they would argue less about them. These became our “family rules”. The way we told them to the girls made it sound like they were written on a stone tablet that had been handed down through the ages and protected away in some sacred, hidden room somewhere. How could they argue with rules that had the appearance of years of tradition? The fact of matter was the family rules were simply crap that Laura and I made up. But it worked and in fact in a couple of instances they gave the girls a shield to hold up in difficult situations. Peer pressure can be brutal and giving them the opportunity to use the discipline of these rules as an excuse ended up making their life easier. More than once the girls told me they liked our rule that they couldn’t date an upper classman. It made it easier to brush off those creepy older guys than only try to date younger girls. See how protection can make you kid’s life easer?

But one of MY rules was that I needed to speak to every guy that was going to take the girls to a dance. And usually I spoke to two to four boys at a time. My daughters’ generation never attends dances outside of a group so every boy that was in the dating party would end up hearing the speech. We would always go out on the deck or go into the basement, somewhere in private. My ranting would always be done away from the girls as I didn’t need to embarrass the boys, just to scare the crap out of them. With the eyes and voice of a crazy man I would begin by telling them that my family was the MOST important thing in my life and my number one priority was to PROTECT my girls. BUT for this night and THIS NIGHT ONLY I was giving this job to THEM. I expected them to take this job VERY serious and THEY DID NOT want to have to come back here and tell me how something bad happened because THEY DID NOT DO THEIR JOB! Since my girls knew my speech would always happen before they were allowed to go to any dance they never dreamed of bringing a boy to the house that would not be respectful enough to accept the warning. Now see how this rule actually helped them make better choices in the guys? It really worked. And to my surprise some of the boys actually appreciated the speech. I was once stopped by a boy I didn’t recognize as our family was out for a night of bowling. He said a year before he was one of the boys with another date other than my daughter who was “lucky” enough to get the speech at my house. He told me that he could tell how much I loved my daughters and he respected what I did. He then told me he hoped to be that kind of father someday. Fuel for my fire, man…fuel for my fire!

Laura is a wonderful mother. My girls are very lucky to have been raised by her and she really did the heavy lifting through the years. She continues to this day to be a wonderful role model for them. But the function of a father is special in the life of girls. The good example you set will most likely become a component of the man they seek. If you do it correctly you help set the concrete foundation to their self confidence and respect of themselves. Helping them to have the self assurance to be comfortable with who they are and the strength to venture out. If you screw this up you run the risk of messing with their psyche and doing damage that may not repair. John Mayer had it right:

“Fathers be good to your daughters, Daughters will love like you do; Girls become lovers who turn into mothers so mothers be good to your daughters, too”

I have always joked that the problem with raising strong, confident women is sometimes you are successful. My girls are no pushovers and that includes with me. There have been many times their confidence has caused me much grief as they stood up to me for what they truly believed. But this is a small price for me to pay. This may just be the best protection in life from them having a relationship with a guy that is abusive. I won’t always be there to protect them. I might be doing 25 to life for the murder of the first guy that lays a hand on them. So giving them the tools and strength to keep from pairing up with this kind of jerk seemed like a good idea.

Don’t get me wrong. When I put my foot down as dad they did as I said. But now that they are older and they have made good decisions along the way it’s only right that they choose their own paths more and more. I think as they get older you need to give your kids a looser “leash” as they make good decisions…assuming you have laid the ground work with good but fair discipline previously. We should be getting them ready to brave the big, scary world all their lives. Too many parents can’t bear with the thought of their children moving on without them so they encourage their kids to cling to them. This is a probably the biggest mistake a parent can make. You shouldn’t wait until the last minute of your kid’s life at home to get them ready to live life on their own.

I am very proud of all my girls. Madeline Grace is a dedicated, disciplined woman that can multi task like nobody’s business and is a world class athlete. Katherine Ann is very strong in her beliefs, has a passion for giving and is very comfortable in her own skin. Mackenzie Alycia is a very hard worker with strong morals and has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. I hope that I get to influence them through the rest of their lives but what I accomplished in helping them thus far in being strong and confident will end up being my greatest accomplishment.

That works for me. I love strong, confident women.

Strong Confident Women Part I

Strong Confident Women
Part I

Before we had kids I was sure I needed a son to be “complete”. This was my own na├»ve belief brought on by both growing up in a male chauvinistic household and my youthful ignorance. I thought there was so much I could teach a son and me being a confident guy I was sure I could be that strong but supportive father that I knew was so important. I could also teach a boy to love women yet to respect them at the same time. My personal belief is that the men that get in trouble in this world never learned to respect women and in turn they don’t respect the world around them. So I was the perfect guy to raise the perfect son…so I thought!

When my wife Laura first became pregnant I was really hoping for a son. But soon that would all change when we were told about concerns with her pregnancy. After some routine blood tests our doctor told us there was a chance our child could be mentally retarded (yes that is what they called it 22 years ago) and I was scared to death. I already had worries about being a good father and this type of handicap made me wonder if I was tough enough for this level of trials. The fear associated with this possibility hit me very hard and made me feel not only afraid but helpless. So we were both relieved beyond belief when our doctor said it was a false alarm and our baby girl was perfectly normal. It was at that moment that my first child being a son didn’t really matter anymore. You know that old saying as long as they have ten fingers and ten toes? It’s true.

Maddie was born very true to her nature and she demanded much of our attention. Laura’s labor lasted 19 hours and much of it was what they call “back labor”. Laura had previously made the decision to have a natural child birth with no drugs but I think she ended up regretting that choice later. Me? I could have never done it. You have probably heard that joke that if men had the babies there wouldn’t be any? I really believe that. Laura spent hours on her hands and knees trying to get pain relief as I massaged her back. I later would joke with her that she had the easy part. She got rest on the table while I HAD TO stand and rub her back for hours and hours. I just don’t know why she doesn’t think I am funny.

After being up all night and knowing that mom and baby were fine I decided to go home, grab a couple hours of sleep and a shower before I brought the girls home. As I was getting ready to walk out the door on my way back to the hospital I had one of the most significant yet surreal thoughts of my life up to that point. I realized that when I returned to my house just a few hours later I would be bringing home someone I would be responsible for, for the rest of my life. This hit me like a ton of bricks. It was at this moment I began to appreciate my role as the father of a daughter.

Three years later Katie was born. Laura had experienced the natural child birth experience and once was enough. This time an epidural was on the must have list. And boy (excuse the term), what a difference drugs made. During her labor Laura chatted. She played games. She even napped. And before she knew it, it was time for Laura to push and our little bald baby was born. Another girl! At first I was a little disappointed foolishly holding on to the hope for a boy. But that feeling soon faded as I realized I liked the idea of being the father of girls, as in plural. Laura’s doctor teased me saying that when I become an old man a son would just lock me in the nursing facility but daughters would take me into their home and take care of their daddy. I am hoping there is some truth to that.

Seventeen months later Mackenzie came to this world very similar to how she lives her life today…big and bold. We rushed to the hospital beginning to understand that Mac was not the patient type. Little did we know that it would only be 45 minutes later she would arrive. And when we did meet her for the first time she made sure every human being in the hospital could hear her scream. I have two other daughters. I know what it’s like to have girls and what they sound like. They are soft and sweet and delicate. Who the hells baby is that? This one was different. But it was at this point I knew it was wonderful to be the father of three wonderfully different girls. And I was very glad Mackenzie was a girl. It was now I was figuring how I could make a difference being the father of three girls, helping them become strong. Besides a boy would have just screwed up the mix…AND he would have looked ridiculous in all those hand me down dresses we had in our closets. By the way, thanks for all those pretty little dresses, Grandma.

I have always thought women are special. They are just possibly God’s greatest creation. Is there anything as wonderful as when we men first discover how soft a woman’s skin is? Or seeing the sparkle in the special girl’s eye? How about how the smile of the woman you love can melt most any man’s heart? I have always told my girls that a man should treat them like they are precious gems and if they don’t, get rid of them. Don’t get me wrong I think women need to be strong and independent all on their own. Their self worth should not be tied to how a man treats them or what he thinks of her. They do not need men to be confident but men need to respect them. The way I was raised helped teach me it was my job to open the door for any woman I was with but I also think this came natural for me. I always understood that I could honor women as an equal AND open the door for them. Or by bringing them flowers for no reason other than to show my affection. I wanted my daughters to find someone that would make them feel as beautiful inside as they are on the outside. I realized the way to do this was to raise them to be strong and confident. This became my job.