The night before I walked my daughter down the aisle was one of the most emotional and reflective times in my life.
As a father, it was almost impossible to let go of the little girl who had always held my hand so tightly. My daughter had captured my heart the minute she was born. I stood in wonder and amazement as I held this brand new baby girl in my arms for the very first time.
Each day with her filled me with joy and such happiness. As she became a toddler, it was so much fun taking her to the park and playing with her. She made me feel like a kid too. Her smile would make my spirit soar. Her laughter would make my heart race. I had never known love quite like this before.
As my daughter entered school, it became our routine to have breakfast together before I would drop her off for daycare. Many days I would pick her up after school and take her to get a frozen carbonated drink. We would often get a brain-freeze together by drinking too fast. This always made her day special just as it had made mine.
My favorite memories were when I would come home at the end of the day and she would announce loudly, “Daddy’s home, Daddy’s home!” She would always run, full-speed, to me and launch herself into my arms. When her arms would wrap around my neck it was the most indescribable feeling. If you could put love in a bottle, this is what it would be.
Watching her become a young lady made me proud and supremely protective. I wanted the best for her including the young man who would someday ask for hand in marriage. I saw my daughter as a beautiful gift from God, precious, valuable and worthy of honor, respect and being cherished.
Only a great man could earn her hand in marriage. Try as I might, I ultimately did not get to choose her husband. Surrendering her to someone else has to be one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Looking back now, here are some things I would advise every father to do with their daughters to make this day easier:
Hold Her Hand
Touch is one of our most important senses. Touch creates an emotional bond between people. For your daughter, it builds a strong connection between you and her. Boys reach an age where they do not want to hold hands anymore. Girls rarely do.
Sing To Her
Singing can be a great comforter. I have a terrible singing voice, but I have sung to my girls from the very first day of their life. Singing, even when you are out of tune, has a great bonding ability. You will see this when you see your grown daughters sing the same songs to their children.
Read To Her
Teach her that there are great adventures in reading stories. Teach her to dream about her future and what can be accomplished when she finds her knight in shining armor.
Also, every story does not have to have a happy ending. Let her know there is good and evil in the world by reading about it.
Play With Her
Be a kid with her as long as you can. Make memories that will last a lifetime. Make a fool of yourself in front of others, while you make yourself a hero in your daughter’s eyes.
Talk To Her
Since your little girl will become a woman, she will need to process daily situations through dialogue. Talking to her includes listening to her, too.
Sometimes you will just need to be available to listen and not talk. One-way conversations with your little girl will tend to shut her down instead of promoting open and honest conversations.
Keep in mind, somewhere in her teenage years; she will completely lose her mind. Keep encouraging her to talk. Eventually, she will regain her sanity.
Enjoy Being With Her
As fathers, we get about 18 years with our little girls. On a scale of life, this time is so short and fleeting. Do not waste it. Take advantage of every opportunity to make her the center of attention. If she knows love from her father, she will not turn to others for love before she should.
Tell Her About Boys
Let her know how boys think about girls. Do I need to explain this one? Be truthful without being too graphic. These conversations should always be age appropriate. Do not let her find out about boys from one of those boys that you would never let in your house. She needs to know how to be treated in all types of situations.
Take your young daughter on dates before she reaches the dating age. Let her see what respect and courtship should look like. Give her an idea of what kind of man will respect and honor her. This will go a long way in her evaluating future dates with young men.
Your daughter wants to have boundaries even though she will test them. Lovingly correct and instruct your daughter, then give her time to process the conversation.
Expect pushback and the testing of your resolve. Stick to your rules and be consistent. Sending mixed messages only opens the door to boundary failures.
Correct out of love, not out of anger.
Tell Her She Is Beautiful
Your daughter needs to hear that she is beautiful. Doing this is more about increasing your daughter’s self-image than highlighting her outward appearance.
A positive self-image will decrease how much your daughter will want to please others with her outward appearance. Girls already have enough pressure about their appearance from the supermodel magazine covers. Beauty is not about her appearance; it is about the condition of her soul.
Tell your daughter that she is special. Help her see her strengths and help her with her weaknesses. Be her No. 1 supporter and defender. Life will throw her enough curveballs as it is. Be her backstop and champion. She will rise to the expectations you help her establish when she is young.
Say “I Love You” Every Day
If you have been married for a very long time, you understand that every woman has a daily unspoken question. “Do you love me?”
Every once in a while this unspoken question becomes spoken in married life. For the husband, our unspoken response if often, “I married you didn’t I?”
Of course, it is not a good idea to ever speak these words out loud. My point here is that your daughter, and your wife, needs to hear this every day. Say it sincerely and with true feeling.
Finally, be sure to cherish each and every moment with your little girl. The 18 years or so we have with our daughters will pass by in a flash. Showing your daughter genuine love will help her find the man that can carry your love for her forward into marriage.
Jerry Wright is a NewsOK contributor, an ordained minister, author and business leader. He also serves as a speaker and venue moderator at one of America’s largest Christian men’s gatherings at Oklahoma’s Falls Creek “Rewired” conference.
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