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.

A dad can positively influence his daughter’s choices. He can influence where she attends college and what subjects she studies. He can influence her career choices. More importantly, he can influence her choice in men. A large part of a father’s job is to treat his daughter in a manner that shows her the standard of behavior she should expect from the man she eventually chooses to marry. Treat her like the little lady that she should become, and she will grow up to settle for nothing less than that standard from the man in her life. It isn’t a perfect formula with guaranteed success. There is a little rebellion in all of us, and our children show theirs from the moment they learn to crawl. If we strive to raise our daughters in the way they should be, the chances are great that when they grow old they will not depart from it. I read that in a book somewhere.  

Raising my daughter is a celebration of life. I wish I could convince all men to feel the same way about their daughters. Because we almost lost Ada before we got a chance to know her, each day of the last eight years feels like a second chance. I don’t ever want to take her for granted. Every morning, living proof that God hears our prayers and answers them comes walking into the kitchen to ask if she can play video games before starting her school work. I remind her that she cannot play video games before her school work is completed. She snaps her finger and exclaims, “Aw, nuts!” Then she makes a bowl of ramen noodles with minced onions and “Latalian” salad dressing and eats breakfast. With croutons. You can’t forget the croutons.  

Raising a child is a celebration of life. I wish I could convince everyone considering abortion of this. Substitute the word “boy” for “girl” and “son” for “daughter” and this message is the same. All too often we bombard our young people with dire warnings concerning the consequences of premarital sex and unplanned pregnancies. They are valid warnings, but we need to expand the scope of our dialogue. If we do not celebrate life with all of its delights, as well as all of its difficulties, is it any wonder why so many people are convinced that the only option available to them when they are unprepared for pregnancy is the termination of the pregnancy? Life is a blessing from God, and the tragedy of abortion is that men and women are renouncing their heritage before they have a chance to enjoy it.

Each time I return home from a Boy Scout campout reeking of camp fire, my daughter meets me at the door, jumps in my arms, tells me that I’m stinky, and hugs me as if she will never let me go. This is the same girl who leaves me banging my head on the kitchen table in frustration after writing the number seven as her answer to all twenty-five math equations just because seven seemed like as good a number as any. Both are moments to be celebrated and enjoyed. And dads, when your daughter does the same thing, you should be celebrating, too.

Endnote: Byrd-Craven, J., Auer, B. J., Granger, D. A., & Massey, A. R. (2011, December 19). The Father–Daughter Dance: The Relationship Between Father–Daughter Relationship Quality and Daughters’ Stress Response. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026588 http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/supportive-fathers-reduce-daughters-stress-0103113/

Richard Barrette is a full time, stay-at-home, homeschooling father of three children. Married to a smart and funny lady affectionately called "The Boss," he enjoys a twenty-seven foot commute to work each morning, from the foot of his bed to the coffee pot.

© 2013 by Home Educating Family Association. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published in 2012 Issue 4 of Home Educating Family Magazine, the publication with the most meaningful discussions taking place in the homeschooling community today. Visit hedua.com to read back issues and for more articles, product reviews, and media

Publication date: November 6, 2013