Dads and Daughters

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Daughters are precious to dads. Dads love and idealize their daughters, and it is not uncommon to find moms taking a firmer line on their daughters than dads.

I recently came across a scary question about raising daughters that made me think long and hard. That is: “Now that your daughters are grown, how would you raise them differently if you can do over?”

It is scary because it is immediately an admission of short-coming. And as a father, I desperately want to be as perfect as it is humanly possible. I know I cannot be perfect, but I want my imperfections to be so insignificant as to be unnoticeable. But truth be told, I am probably the last person in the family to notice my own short-comings! So any admission on my part would come as no revelation to anyone but me.

And when I start thinking about the question, I know I have more than one point to say about how I could have done better.

I have two daughters and a son. One value I have is to love my children equally, and not play favorites. It is apparent that I relate to my son differently from my daughters simply because his interests are different. But I wish I had related to my two daughters differently. I had noticed their differences, but I treated both of them in more-or-less the same way. I was relating to them as though there is a median between them, when in reality, I would have done much better relating to them as individuals. I allowed one value (equal treatment) to dominate when equal value does not necessarily translate into same treatment in many areas. I suppose seeking a mean or a median between my daughters would have been fine if they are both quite similar. But they are poles apart.

One daughter loves to elaborate and another loves to abbreviate. Just on this alone, I notice my failure to engage them differently. If I could do over, I will spend more them with each daughter, with one, to listen more and encourage towards lucid brevity; and with the other, to solicit more engagement. Whether loquacious or taciturn, I wish I had spent more time listening to them, because both silence and words can hide pain.

It is difficult to apportion airtime when the family is together. But my efforts were somewhat limited to family time and not enough individual time.

I had allowed the fact that they are both daughters to flatten out the other reality that they are very different individuals with quite contrasting aptitude, personality, etc. I was dispensing parenting as a broad-spectrum antibiotic capable of curing all ills rather than giving careful regard to each child’s different need. The result is that what they hold in common would be addressed, but what they hold in distinction would be ignored. And they had significant distinctiveness.

There is a word in current use, which describes my own short-fall. It is the need to be intentional. Intentional parenting for my daughters, one-on-one time for each of them would be what I would do differently.

My two daughter are born 14 months apart from each other. They rarely not-share what could be shared. Even as babies, we put them in the same stroller and people thought they were twins. They have always shared a room, sat beside each other at table, etc.

I do not regret raising them together. It was the only practicable thing to do, and it was fun for them, and for us. But I regret not spending intentional time with each of them. And I don’t have the excuse that I have too many children to be able to spend time with all of them. So, answering the question how I would parent my daughters differently has made me realize I still do not spent enough individual time with each of them. Perhaps it is time my regret should be turned into action.

As a child, I suggest you ought to create intentional time with your parents. You do not need to wait for your parents to create that time. They will be more than happy if you say you want to spend time with them to chat with them. As a parent, I suggest you can do better than I, if you will spend time with each child as an individual. And together, we can encourage each other to listen more than we talk—even in parenting.

Pastor Peter Eng

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