I once had a goldfish that saw the great pyramids of Egypt. Methuselah was one of three 22¢ feeder goldfish that I purchased when my son Noah was four years old. I had tried ornamental fish, but they were expensive and they kept dying. I placed all three fish in my aquarium and announced that whichever fish survived could be our pet. Methuselah lived for twelve years before he rode the porcelain water slide, which wasn’t a record for a goldfish but was fairly impressive nonetheless. Before the morning my daughter Ada announced that our fish was swimming upside-down, Methuselah managed to not only see the great pyramids of Egypt, but also Gettysburg, the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canyon, and a couple of Winnie-the-Pooh books, thanks to Ada’s penchant for throwing View Master disks into the aquarium.

The Bible tells us that children are a heritage from the Lord. Our offspring are a reward from him. One of my rewards made it her life’s ambition to show a goldfish the Seven Wonders of the World. Ada is the happiest and most carefree child I have ever known. When she dresses herself in the morning, she puts on her clothes either inside out or backwards. Her socks rarely match and her shoes are almost always on the wrong feet. In Ada’s world, dresser drawers only pull out. They never close. The day’s toys usually end up on the floor next to the previous day’s toys, until the toy chest sits empty in the corner of her room. Walking to her bed without impaling a foot on a sharp object becomes a test of will worthy of a Hindu firewalker, although I’d be more impressed if they replaced their bed of hot coals with a darkened bedroom room full of Lego blocks.

As both Ada’s father and her teacher, I have great insight into this wonderful girl with whom God has blessed me. I can tell within moments each day whether or not she is going to cooperate with her school work. I know how long I can get her to remain seated and working on an assignment, and why she needs to stand up and dance in the middle of a lesson. Sometimes a girl just has to dance, which is something that is allowed by only the most gifted of public school teachers. It’s her need to dance, her need to leave the table and run through the house, to express every thought that crosses her mind that makes home education the perfect fit for her. It takes a little time and effort to understand her quirks and idiosyncrasies in order to guide her through her education, capitalizing on her strengths while improving on her weaknesses.

Time and effort and desire are all that are required for any father to know his daughter. A dad doesn’t have to stay at home and teach his girl in order to know her, although I highly recommend it. A father needs a family dynamic where he and his wife work as a team to actively raise their children together, realizing that a father’s role in his daughter’s life is more important than simply providing a paycheck and disciplining transgressions at the end of the day. Both mom and dad need to understand the importance of a healthy father/daughter relationship. Girls raised by nurturing fathers develop better tools necessary for handling stress than do those who are raised by less attentive fathers. Girls raised without that critical father/daughter relationship experience more emotional volatility and less inhibition.1 Is it a surprise then that so many studies clearly show that an active father/daughter relationship reduces rates of illegal drug and alcohol abuse among teenage girls? It also reduces rates of promiscuity, teen pregnancy, and abortion. I know that there is a large chorus of feminist voices proclaiming these statements are not true, but I suspect the reason for that is that they were raised without the very relationship against which they rail.

Dads, here’s a simple formula. Make your daughter feel like she is the center of your universe, and she won’t go looking for something else to fill the empty void you will create if you don’t. It may look to the outside world like your daughter has you wrapped around her little finger. People who believe that are wrong. I used to bristle at the condescension from women of all ages as they smiled with that knowing look and made comments to suggest that I abdicated my spine at the moment of Ada’s birth. Then I realized that if dad invests a little time and effort he’ll have his daughter wrapped around his little finger, and those comments won’t matter.