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.

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