Not just a father but a dad
October 19, 2006 7:54 AM   Subscribe

Daddy-daughter advice, or what can you tell me that you've learned?

The missus and I are expecting our first child in early February, and the thought of me being a dad to a daughter is seriously stressing me out. My dad wasn't too close to me and my sister until we got much older and were off to college, and the same for my wife's relationship with her dad. And I don't want to be the absent (or weekend) dad to her.

So, MeFi dads, what have you learned or done with your daughter that you care to pass along?

I'm looking more for daddy-daughter advice no matter her age, things to do together, what you did, what you had wish you had done, etc. I have no doubts of her relationship with her mom, but I don't want to be pushed away.

I'm very close to my nephew/godson, but it's purely high-energy activities and the typical "boy" activities and gifts. What I hope is that someday she can look back and think, "Yeah, Dad might be a little weird, but he was there always and we did so much together and I don't regret a thing."
posted by fijiwriter to Human Relations (73 answers total) 170 users marked this as a favorite
Just do whatever you do with your nephew. Spend as much time with her as you can, play with her, drink cups of tea with her dolls, throw her in the air. It's all good.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:00 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Not trying to be hokey but I think just the fact you have posted this question says a lot. My daughter is now 5 years old and I absolutely love hanging out with her. I think you will find that the process moves slowly enough that you can keep up. Right now, you think of a girl more than a baby but she will be a baby for quite a while before that 'girly' side starts to really shine. You have time.

But my best advice is to throw away any pre-conceived notions you might have, hug her like it's goodbye every time and tell her you love her over and over. Kids want love above anything else. Sounds like hippy nonsense but it's true.
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:03 AM on October 19, 2006 [2 favorites]

Yep, I'd second the advice to just do with her what you'd do with a boy. If you have fun playing ball, running around the yard, whatever, do that. The worst thing you could do would be to give her the impression that girls have to be treated differently. I always knew during my childhood that my Dad had nooooo idea what to do with a little girl. It was clear that he thought there was some special trick to getting along with girls that he wasn't in on. There really isn't. Your little girl may like to do "girly" things, or she may not. If she does, she'll tell you and suggest things to play, but don't get all twisted up over it in advance. And just because she may like dolls, it doesn't mean you can't instill in her an appreciation for a fine baseball game, or whatever your thing is. Basically, just spend time with her and do what she wants to do with a mix of what you want to do, and she'l appreciate you just for being there and loving her.
posted by MsMolly at 8:10 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

My dad taught me how to change a tire, which is handy knowledge, but I wish he had taught me how to change the oil in my car. Or, I should say, I wish I had paid attention when I was "helping" my dad work on his car (read: handing him tools).
posted by donajo at 8:20 AM on October 19, 2006

as a daughter who loves her daddy, i third advice to just do stuff with her. the things that stay with me the most are the times that he and i would work on a project together - sometimes to completion, sometimes not, but always laughing and troubleshooting and stopping for snacks. he also came to all of my piano and violin recitals, was always there to cheer me on when i was in swim meets, was there for me when me and my mom weren't getting along and treated me like he loved me. which, of course, he does. there were things that i wanted to do that he wasn't interested in (or couldn't participate in), but he never failed to remember that i collected barbies, liked books and took the time to drop me off at and pick me up from movies he didn't want to see.

these days (i'm 26), we still build things, watch football and eat snacks together when we're in the same place. and he'll even go with me to the hello kitty store.
posted by oreonax at 8:25 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

When I was a kid, my sisters and I would take turns getting to out to lunch on Saturdays with my Dad. There are three of us, and we rotated, so it usually worked out to once a month. It was never anything fancy, usually Denny's or the local fried chicken place, but it was regular one-on-one face time with my Dad. I remember it being a real treat for each of us to be the center of his attention for one meal.

I'm not saying you have to do exactly that, but I think that if you create a pattern for one-on-one time around an activity that you would do anyway, it's a lot easier to keep up over time.
posted by ambrosia at 8:28 AM on October 19, 2006

Some things that my dad did right:

Every Saturday when we were little, he took me and my two younger sisters out to "the woods" -- old abandoned farms with rotting buggies and ancient dumps that we could discover things in, lots of wild berries, checking out the new beaver dams, lots of tramping through the woods and seeing what we could find. It probably also served as a break for my mom, but it gave us a neat set of memories with him too, partially it was something that he got excited about and really wanted to show us. That's not girly stuff, that's just fun with your dad.

When we got into high school, he did different stuff with us depending on our personalities. I'm one of those bookish girls, so he took me out for supper every other week or so and we had grand discussions about life, the universe and everything. My middle sister was more rebellious, so he started going to the bar she worked at and got her to teach him how to play pool. Instead of freaking out about her working there, he joined in with it. He always made sure to spend one-on-one time with us and do things that we liked, especially in our teenage years because he wanted to make sure not to lose that connection.

We just did a lot of stuff with him. I can remember being 7 or so and helping him load wood into the truck to heat our house. I couldn't have been a ton of help, but that wasn't the point.

I wouldn't bother avoiding the boy activities either. We were always climbing trees and riding bikes and playing with Tonka trucks instead of Barbies anyways. Just get to know her and have a blast with her.
posted by heatherann at 8:31 AM on October 19, 2006 [7 favorites]

I'm the oldest of 6 and I got to see my dad be a great dad to my sisters.

One thing from my point of view, to add to all the great stuff above...

Spend time alone with her. Doesn't matter what you're doing or not doing for that matter, just matters that its only you and her. Time with mom is fine, and with other potential future siblings, but if/when they do come, still make the time for just-you-and-her stuff.

That's love - that shows her that she, at that moment, is your number one priority.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:44 AM on October 19, 2006

My dad's the best and he's too cool to start listing awesome things he did for my whole life, but....I will share one thing that was especially great -

I went home to visit a few months ago (I'm 36 and live 3000 miles away, BTW) and one afternoon when my brother and I were both hanging out at the house, my dad went into his office and emerged with these huge manila envelopes and handed one to each of us.

Inside was a sampling of drawings, stories, artwork of ours, etc, that he had been collecting since we were tiny kids. He saved at least one or two things from each year of our lives in these folders, things that I had thought were long in the landfill.

I had forgotten about so much of it, like the journal he and I kept together when I was about 8 (I'd write something in it like, "I love my teacher she is grate" and leave it for him, then he'd respond and maybe ask a question "That's fantastic - what do you like about her?" and we'd go back and forth), and some stuff I remembered but hadn't seen in 30 years. I burst into tears and that is probaly one of the most lovely memories I have of my dad.

I am getting verklempt now...must find Kleenex....
posted by tristeza at 8:51 AM on October 19, 2006 [8 favorites]

nothing to add, but we're expecting a daughter in mid-February too :)
posted by lowlife at 8:57 AM on October 19, 2006

Among his three daughters, I am the one that is most like my Dad. Most of the quality time with my Dad was spent learning about technical or scientific things. He taught me how to build things with wood and nails (I had my own little workbench next to his), he taught me how to solder, we went on tours of hydroelectric dams, and he explained "how things work".

The best thing you can do with your daughter (or son) is share your skills and knowledge, because that's a way to show your love that enhances the affection you show. It has a lasting effect. Now I do things like go to the 100th anniversary celebration of the first radio broadcast and call my Dad on my cell phone and discuss just how much technology has changed, or call him to ask about house-related "fix-it" things.
posted by nekton at 9:01 AM on October 19, 2006

Praise. Effusively. Yeah, you got to discipline a child, but this should be balanced with all the praise you can shell out. Positive reinforcement, it's called, and it works. Make absolutely sure your kid, girl or boy, knows you are proud of her/him.
And sing her lots of Elvis.
posted by Sara Anne at 9:03 AM on October 19, 2006

My dad would occasionally take me to work with him decades before the whole "take your daughter to work" became a national thing. He's an artist, and when I was a kid he taught at the local university and also worked occasionally as a courtroom sketch artist. I always had a blast, and always felt very important sitting next to him, going out for lunch with him, etc. Sometimes when he'd go out painting on location, he'd take me too (with a small easel), set me up with a canvas, and we'd paint the landscape together.

I also have great memories of hanging out in the garage with him while he tinkered on cars, watching football together, going to art museums or bookstores, etc. Basically, he was always involved in understanding the things that interested me, as well as in sharing the things that interested him.
posted by scody at 9:04 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Ask Mefi: What does it take to be a dad.

- My father told me that I should trust men who have good relationships with/clearly respect their mothers. I've used that as a benchmark (although if they had a terrible mother, I still want a guy who respects other women).
- My father taught me how to hang objects on walls, and cover the holes when I move on. Invaluable advice in the various apartments I've lived in.
- My father taught me a lot about cooking and healthy eating.
- My father - known as being a stellar dad - has been such a great dad, even though he's a little shy, because he is fun and silly, big-hearted, hard-working, extremely reliable in the big picture (although lousy about showing up on time to pick me up at school).
- He helped us a lot with our homework, and seemed genuinely interested/excited by what we were doing or working on.
- He has fun with my friends.
- He let us put pink bows in his hair when we were little.
- He got us dogs.
- He walked me around the house for months on end when I was a baby, because he thought I was afraid of the dark.
- He was probably over-protective, especially about guys, but they all knew not to mess with me, and when I got older (22+) he relaxed about that and tried to be as unintimidating as possible with my boyfriends.
- When we were little, he tucked us into bed almost every night with a story he made up on the spot. (But reading a story is good too.) Now - when we go home - he still tells us lots of stories and jokes.
- He took us on lots of vacations around the world and in the US.
- He helped out a lot with school events - fundraisers, plays, etc.
- Very importantly, he treats my mother with love and humor and support, and so I've grown up with a model of how a woman should be treated.

Most of this applies to girls or boys, I think. He says what he loves about being a father to daughters instead of sons (and when my parents adopted, they chose a girl), is that he felt free to be fun and supportive, and he felt like if he'd had sons he would have had to be stricter. I don't know if that's true, but that was his opinion. And he says what he loves most about being a father, overall, is being able to give us a hand when we need one.
posted by Amizu at 9:04 AM on October 19, 2006 [4 favorites]

Really, it's all about spending time with your kids, whether a son or a daughter. Share what you're interested in, and learn about what they like. Talk to them about anything and everything. Listen.

A few things my dad did for/with me when I was growing up:

Sang me lullabies when I was a baby ("You Are My Sunshine" and "Mac The Knife" mostly, and my dad's not exactly a good singer so don't worry about little things like that).

When he was working from home, he made it comfortable for me to be around him.

I learned how to play basketball and baseball and any other number of sports from him.

He listened to my questions about everything and didn't laugh, and tried to answer them if he could (if he couldn't, often it became a trip to the library to discover the answer).

Taught me to cook, fish, take a photograph, and draw.

And that's barely a beginning.

awwww, now I miss my daddy!
posted by emmling at 9:08 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Tell her always and forever that she is the most beautiful creature you've ever seen. That way she'll know that even on her worst days, someone still sees her as a beauty.

Get her outside with you whenever you can. If you bike, bike together; run, run together; canoe, canoe together, etc. That way she'll know that the outdoors is a safe place to be.

Read her your favorite books. Play her your favorite music. Watch your favorite movies together. That way she'll experience the variety of life and learn to want to experience new things.

And as she gets older and starts trying to define her own personality, let her be. let her try and fail. let her try and succeed.

and every night tell her you love her.
posted by ilikecookies at 9:12 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

The gender difference need not matter. My 3 yr old daughter adores wrestling with anyone, but Daddy is the most fun at it. She also likes to get her hair done, and trusts Mom and Dad equally with the task. Even though her Dad doesn't really know how to "do" hair, he tries anyway, and she just loves the attention.

When I was pregnant, I had similar panics about not knowing how to relate to a boy. But now that I'm a Mom, I realize that as long as you spend time giving them your full attention, listening to them, interacting, the rest will follow.
posted by raedyn at 9:13 AM on October 19, 2006

My dad was in charge of helping me with my homework.

My dad read bedtime stories to my brother and me *every* night. When we got old enough to read ourselves, he would have us read the voices of the characters while he did the narrator parts.

Because of that, he was actually also in charge of sex ed, because my parents covered that by having a "Where do babies come from" book in bedtime-reading rotation before we were even old enough to notice. With "girly" problems in puberty I did go to my mother, but it was really rather awesome that my father was part of that process.

He taught me to tie my shoes.

He taught me to use a computer.

Most Sundays when we were growing up, we'd do some family activity like going to museums or the aquarium or just taking a walk. He was there, and participating.

He came to all my recitals, horse shows, plays, and such. More importantly, he stayed up with the progress of all those things before that point.

He was in charge of discipline, which for me basically meant giving me lectures when I was upset. They weren't always hugely relevent, but simply the fact that he tried to talk to me (or, at me) about my problems did mean something.

Most importantly, he was interested in my life and my opinions and my experiences. While he can be infuriatingly stubborn (a trait I strongly inherited!) which could turn dinner conversations into debates, he was engaged enough to have those dinner conversations and seemed to respect me enough to debate me as an equal. He gave me confidence in my intellectual abilities, which I think studies are starting to show is one of the major contributions (for good or bad) that dads make in daughter's lives. My mother always believed I was smart, of course, but there was something really important about having a big grown man treat me seriously, and with respect, that made me feel I could actually make it in the real world.
posted by occhiblu at 9:21 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Don't stop hugging her, even when she starts developing. I know this advice is coming about 13 years early, but it's important. It's not unusual for fathers to feel awkward and keep their distance when their daughters go through puberty. Don't be that guy.

I am one of five girls. The most important thing my dad did for us was share his love of fishing. We're all exceedingly proud of our ability to bait our own hook, gut our own catch and fry the whole thing up properly. None of us would have preferred doing "girly" stuff with him. That's what our girly friends were for.
posted by jrossi4r at 9:22 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

My dad read bedtime stories to my brother and me *every* night.

It strikes me on re-reading that he couldn't have been, actually, because he travelled every month or so for business. I do remember my mother filling in on those nights, but even though I was closer to my mother than my father, I remember a feeling of disappointment when my mother had to read before bed. It just wasn't the same.
posted by occhiblu at 9:23 AM on October 19, 2006

Lots and lots of good advice here. One thing I am seeing repeatedly here is the advice to do something *regularly*.

To my surprise, one of the most enjoyable things I do with one of my daughters (the other is too young yet) is that I take her grocery shopping with me.

It is a huge treat for her, because it is time she gets to talk to me one-on-one, and better yet (from her perspective), she always gets to pick one "special treat" to buy. She is always eager to go with me, which feels nice to a daddy's heart. She's five, I've been doing this for about a year and a half. Yes, it takes longer to shop with a little girl along, and it is totally worth it.
posted by Invoke at 9:24 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

My dad used to try really hard to include us in his hobbies and interests. He like astronomy, so my mother would drive us up to the big telescope where my dad often spent weekend nights, and we'd drink hot chocolate while my dad pointed out constellations. Even in high school, my dad and I walked out to an empty field to watch the space shuttle and ISS cross the sky within inches of each other!! To teach us about the limits of telescopes, he set up a mini-galaxy in the hallway and had us look through a peep-hole at various sized planets and try to guess how far away they were.

Girls like water fights and wrestling matches too, as well as tea parties and doll houses.
posted by muddgirl at 9:32 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

This thread is beautiful.

One of the best things you can do is to extravagantly love your wife, and to let your daughter (and other future children) see that. Especially when kids are young, the world is a confusing place. The idea that Daddy loves Mommy, has always loved Mommy, and will always love Mommy is a foundation that will give your daughter a lot of security and comfort.

You might extravagantly love her today, by getting her some flowers on the way home from work.
posted by Alt F4 at 9:37 AM on October 19, 2006 [10 favorites]

One thing that ties some of my stuff together: My father was home for dinner every night (unless he was traveling). He worked long hours and that meant that we ate dinner later than most of my friends (8pm or 8:30), but at least until I got a driver's license and a more hectic social schedule, we always had dinner together as a family.
posted by occhiblu at 9:42 AM on October 19, 2006

My daughter is three, and she's the third child in this house that I've had an opportunity to treasure. Even though I'd only had boys up to this point, I figured I'd been a pretty good daddy.

The thing that's different about girls and their fathers is this: As a father, no matter how much your little girl looks like you, when you look into her face, you'll see the young woman you fell in love with years ago, except in a fresh face filled with absolute adoration for you. You feel special just being the center of that attention.

Just the other day, as I was dropping my little girl off at preschool, one of the mothers there asked my girl where she got so many pretty shoes. Her exact quote was: "Does your mommy really like shoes? Is that why you have a new pair on almost every day?"

To my pride, she said: "My daddy likes these shoes. He says I'm pretty in them."

You could have punched me straight in the face for the rest of the day, and I would have just smiled and said thank you.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:49 AM on October 19, 2006 [21 favorites]

Seconding the importance of just doing stuff with your daughter. My father took me to work, taught me how to build and fix things, and basically established that there was nothing in the world I couldn't do. Add to that a fairly compentent mother, and you've got a woman who has a strong self-image and fairly happy with her life.

As much as I loved all the outings and games my dad would play with me, my favorite thing in the world was that every morning at breakfast there was lap time. After we finished eating, I would sit in my dad's lap while we read the funnies or did crosswords or whatever and Dad would have his coffee. I learned to read in my dad's lap, I learned about the Pythagorean theorem in my dad's lap, I learned about the Constitution, the Civil War, and how the electoral college worked all from my dad's lap. At thirty-two, my dad and I still work crossword puzzles together and read the paper together when I'm home. Although out of deference to his aging knees, I sit in the chair next to him rather than on his lap.

Of all my female friends, the most confident and seemingly the most happy are the women who had strong relationships with their fathers. I love my mother to death, and she taught me a great deal about how to be a woman and strong, but my dad...he taught me how to be a person.
posted by teleri025 at 9:50 AM on October 19, 2006 [3 favorites]

Okay I'm a daughter not a dad but I think my dad did a pretty good job so I'll throw in my two cents. As people have said, don't stress that you don't know how to play with girls. A lot of gender roles are societally conditioned - I'm not saying there is no difference between girls and boys, I'm just offering the fact that if you run around and go to the playground and teach her to throw a baseball, etc, she will probably have fun. I was never a big sports fanatic, but I really appreciate the time my dad took to teach me to ride a bike, rollerskate, play baseball (okay, tee-ball), etc.

Honestly, I think the best thing my dad tried to do was teach me what he knew and expose me to what he liked. My dad is a scientist with a knack for hobby-crafts, and I have very fond memories of him reading me Heinlein books, making model cars, going to the aquarium and learning about the fishies, etc.
posted by radioamy at 9:53 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you are a man who has a forceful and menacing or scary side to your personality, I believe it's important you never direct it at your daughter, or anyone else in your family.

Otherwise, I think you risk setting your daughter up to be more likely to accept an abusive relationship when she grows up.
posted by jamjam at 9:58 AM on October 19, 2006

I heard an old saying that, "A man is not a man until he has a daughter." I have a 12 year old daughter now. She has made all the world of difference in me. I grew up with two brothers and never really learned to relate to girls. Woman, maybe (ask SWMBO) girls no.

I was more afraid of having a son who would be just like me. A lot of pressure. When we had my daughter first, I was so relieved I forgot to think of her as a girl. She was just my child. I did and do whatever it is she/we want together. I take her to the batting cages, to the gap to buy jeans, to the Carvel before dinner, etc. I spend time with her. Her Mom deals with the puberty thing with her. I spend time with her. I refuse to let her moods interfere with fun.

I repeat the having a regular routine for spending time with her (and all your children). I second the encouraging words. I also think you have to insist on her doing her best at all times. Let her know that there is nothing she cannot do without effort and desire.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:02 AM on October 19, 2006 [2 favorites]

I nth all the great things people have said in this thread. My dad, who I've always been close to (I'm nineteen so the worst of it wasn't too long ago, but even then I think we always had a good relationship) did a lot of the specifics that other people have mentioned (bedtime stories, homework, conversations, etc.) but I think the overall theme that made it work was about respect. I have an older brother, and a little brother, but no sisters, and my dad always treated us equally without neglecting the fact that we had different strengths and capabilites. My older brother and I are only two years apart and so pretty much anything that he got to do, I also did if I wanted (which was almost always since I was a classic little-sister tagalong). My dad always encouraged us to pursue our interests and passions no matter what they were- he encouraged my brother when he got into, successively, both sewing and computer programming, and me when I became obsessed with astronomy and being an astronaut. Even though these interests switched pretty frequently, my dad never made me think that it wasn't something I could achieve, if I wanted to, and he would always encourage my interests by taking me to museums, or having these great conversations with me where we would talk about everything and anything (my favorite memory is one morning after I'd read a National Geographic article about jellyfish, at breakfast I engaged my dad in at least two hours of conversation about marine life). The best part was though, that although I always thought my dad must be really smart to be able to talk about everything I learned about, he really encouraged my own thinking about things- he didn't lecture to me, but let me make my own connections and explore them. Respect the person your daughter is, whether she fits with traditional ideas of being a girl or not, and let her figure out on her own what she wants to be, and she'll appreciate it.

Like other people have said though, it's not just how you relate to your daughter, it's also how you relate to her mother. Growing up, I saw that both my dad and my stepmom did all the same chores that my brother and I eventually inherited, which really reinforced that sense that I wasn't so much my dad's daughter as his child. It's really an incredible thing growing up female if you have as a role-model and caregiver a man who treats women as people and not by how much they do or do not measure up to some idea of womanhood.
posted by Oobidaius at 10:07 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just be there with her. At certain ages she will start to define the activities, but really it doesn't matter what you do, just be there, that is what will really affect her. If you are notorious for working late, make a deal with yourself to only work late 2-3 nights a week, and get home in time to spend some time with her before bed. Then work on trimming it down to 1-2 nights, and so on...

My experience is limited to my 2 and half yr old girl, and she actually thrives on the more physical activities... as Joe in Aus mentions, throwing her in the air is a favorite. Hide and seek. Read a book to her (you can do this before she's born even). Dig a hole. Pretend Play (this is everything from drinking tea to making her toys talk to each other or pretending to be super heroes). Make a blanket fort over the kitchen chairs. Finger paint. Piggy back rides. Picnic in the front yard. Go to the zoo.

I think most of the activities are genderless until they turn 4 or 5, and by that time you will be an old pro and shouldn't have these questions.
posted by tdischino at 10:23 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

(I think you're allowed to have questions even after your kids hit 6, fijiwriter!)
posted by occhiblu at 10:38 AM on October 19, 2006

What a great, heartwarming thread. My daughter is 5 and I loved a story I heard about Gwyneth Paltrow and her Dad so much that I am planning to do my own version of it:

When she was 10 her Dad took her to Paris, just the two of them. When asked why it was just the two of them, he said, "I wanted you to see Paris for the first time with a man who will always love you."

Replace Paris with whatever place/activity is important/affordable for you, but I think the underlying message is unbearably sweet and speaks very well to the unconditional love I have for my little one, as well as the difficult and exciting balance of protection and exploration that I think is unique to the father-daughter relationship.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:43 AM on October 19, 2006 [6 favorites]

Work hard to be the kind of guy you want her to end up with. Don’t teach your daughter that men are overly-focused career-driven workaholics with clearly-defined, backward ideas about gender roles, or there’s a good chance she’ll end up with someone like that.

I’m a divorced dad, so the stuff about loving her mom extravagantly doesn’t quite work for me. But it’s a good point that you will be one of the most significant male role models in her life—how you act will shape her expectations of what men are and should be.

That was a tough one during my dating years (I’m married now). Even through breakups, I was careful to treat women with the respect I want my daughter to expect from men. My ex seems intent on pushing the “boys are gross and stupid” stereotype on my girl, but I work hard to provide a counterpoint to that.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:51 AM on October 19, 2006 [4 favorites]

My experience is limited to my 3.5 year old and it has a little different flavor than most because she has special needs.

I try very hard to listen to what she is trying to say to me. I try to have patience and understanding under all circumstances. I play with her a lot. Somtimes we play games that she wants to, sometimes that I want to, sometimes that we make up together. I read to her a lot and let her finish sentences and ask her questions about the book we're reading. I've built a lot of assistive devices to help her out. We have a bedtime ritual that has evolved from birth, but it is a ritual and it usually ends with "good night. Daddy loves you very much." When she was an infant, I made a point of "going on dates" with her. Rather than feel cooped up in the house, I'd take her out with a bottle, some diapers and head to a place that would let both of us nurse our meals. When her brother arrives, I plan on resurrecting this so they both can share my time.
posted by plinth at 11:16 AM on October 19, 2006 [4 favorites]

My dad (I'm a girl) is awesome. When I was a kid, my mom was a nurse and worked the 3-11 shift. My dad would let me and my two sisters eat dinner (Kraft mac and cheese, chicken nuggets and Diet Coke) in front of the TV - all activities strictly forbidden by my mom. He would get us a "funny scary" movie and the four of us would sit there to watch it and really have a great time. In retrospect, it was good to have some alone time with my father - we were around my mother most of the time, and if my dad was around, usually my mom was too.

Also, even though I have no brothers, my dad never let us feel like we should be treated differently because we were girls. He played catch with us, coached our softball and swim teams, made us help him do yardwork and lift heavy things, etc. And he can be very silly and would be really goofy when I had friends over. We would all giggle and I thought my dad was the best. (still do!)

My dad also treats my mom very, very well, and I think that has helped me so much in dating and relationships with men. I remember once crying over some guy who had dumped me, and my dad telling me how great I was and how someday I would find a man who deserved me and treated me well, etc. That, more than anything, helped me a lot. I have a terrific boyfriend now who is like my dad in many ways, and I am glad.

Love her a lot, take time to sit on the floor and get silly with her. She will remember those times fondly.
posted by sutel at 11:39 AM on October 19, 2006

Father of 2 teenage daughters here. All the advice so far is great. Not having had any boys, I don't know what it would be like to father boys, but I honestly don't think I would have done anything different than I currently do my girls - mostly get to know them and let them get to know you. Also, take LOTS of pictures, LOTS of videos, and even keep a journal, if you can. You will not believe how much you'll forget about your kids' childhood.

I do think social relations with peers between girls are a lot uglier than between boys - girls can be really vicious with each other! Not knowing anything about it, I try to have them explain it to me, and my goodness, it's so complicated!

The mother-daughter relationship gets *very* complicated in the teenage years, so it's really nice for everyone that I have a good relationship with the girls. I have no idea how single parents do it!

I don't get angry much, but I do notice that the girls take my anger more seriously than they take their moms. Neither of us has ever hit them, and I'm not a shouting screaming guy, so I'm not sure where it comes from. It might be that I'm scary when I'm angry, but I sincerely doubt it. Certainly no one else has ever worried about me being angry, so I suspect there's a male energy thing going on that's invisible to me.

I've always invited the girls to help out when I'm using tools or fixing stuff - using a drill or building science projects or whatever is big fun for all concerned. I also try to make sure they know how gorgeous they are, because I think there's a lot of body tyranny out there in the mass media world, and I let them know I think slut/raunch culture is ridiculous. Thankfully, they both agree with me.
posted by jasper411 at 12:03 PM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Take pictures. All the time. Constantly. Close ups. Pictures that aren't posed. They grow up in a blink.

And keep your camcorder charged up and ready to shoot at a moment's notice. Even if you only shoot ten seconds of her covered in peas, that moment will turn to pure gold in a matter of weeks.
posted by ColdChef at 12:13 PM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've only been a daddy to a daughter for 4 months now, but previously I helped raise my neices. The most important thing I've found is to not try to be a mother-clone. You'll fail at it and it's detectably disingenuous. Be a male and a father, and keep everything very real with her.
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:34 PM on October 19, 2006

I was terrified too, up until the moment of birth.

Here's the thing: it turns out, it's easy.

I mean, don't get me wrong, being a parent is hard work, but it's not scary. Everything your worried about, is easy.

Just love her, is all you need to know. And you can't not love her - you love her already, which is why you're asking. Just listen, accept, encourage and love. It all falls into place. It's like magic.

Relax. You don't have to be at the top of your game all the time; you don't have to be high-energy. You just have to be accepting, supportive and kind. You're going to be her hero. You're starting out with 100%, an A+. All you have to do is not damage that - you don't have to try to get there, you're there already, Dad.
posted by castironskillet at 12:36 PM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with everything that's been said so far. Your daughter will always remember the unique ways you choose to spend time with her and focus on her. I could list plenty of nostalgia-inducing examples from my own childhood, but people have done a great job of that already. This thread is full of amazing advice.

One thing I have to add: stand fast with love in the face of her anger. Whether she's a tantrum-throwing 3-year-old or a rebellious teenager, make it clear that nothing she does will make you stop loving her. I remember my dad saying, "I don't love the way you're acting right now, but I will always love you." As a kid, I thought he was really weird for saying this kind of thing. As a teen, I was embarrassed by it. But it sank in, and it truly means the world to me.
posted by vytae at 12:42 PM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm agreeing with commenter somewhere above: going grocery shopping with my dad was one of the times we got to spend one-on-one (being the youngest of 6, it wasn't easy to get one-on-one time with either Mom or Dad). I'm old enough to remember going to 'the meat store' and 'the bread store' and 'the vegetable store' (well, that must've been a vegetable stand!) with my dad when I was about 7 years old. We must've have done this on a regular basis, because years later, we still referred to our usual breakfast (peanut butter and honey and butter on toasted fresh Italian bread from the local bakery) as our "Saturday morning special".

He also taught me how to bake, and I thought the coolest thing in the world was how he would lay dough into a pie pan, lift it into the air on one palm and use a butter knife to cut away the extra pastry from the edge of the pan. I knew then my dad could do anything!

and I miss him now.
posted by crepeMyrtle at 12:47 PM on October 19, 2006

My dad just included me in everything he liked to do. he taught me how to cook, how to play poker, how to root for kentucky in college basketball, how to love books, especially scifi, how to think critically about the media (seriously), and much more. my mom taught me a lot too, but maybe because she's a teacher I always felt like I was being taught. With my dad I always felt like he was just sharing what he loved to do with me, which was awesome.

Definitely don't get too wrapped up in the gender role stuff. Just be yourself, and share what you love.
posted by miss tea at 1:07 PM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

As a daughter, based on my experience with my father:

Share your interests with her. This can be adjusted throughout her life, to change as she gets older. When we went to our favorite Indian restaurant, my father would recount his trips to India and tell us simplified version of Hindu myths. (Corollary, of course: Show an interest in her pursuits, once they start differing from yours.)

Tell her about your work. My father is an analyst, and as a kid, I loved hearing stories from his patients’ dreams. Through his sharing, I developed the belief that one’s career should be something that one loves. I also learne about the human need for privacy—namely, these times were reminders that his job requires confidentiality, so I was always aware that he’d never reveal these people’s names or any identifying details.

Play games with her. We loved Chutes and Ladders when I was young and Scrabble when I was older.

You can find a way to participate in her “girly” things, too. When I was 7 or so, my father gave me and my sister an unfinished dollhouse for Christmas (just the wooden shell). We painted it, shingled the roof, inserted windows and doors. My mom took over for the interior décor (wallpaper, rugs, etc.), and then the girly stuff happened. It was great.

One last, great thing my father did when I got older: He laughed when I did something bad. I never got in trouble as a kid, so when, as a high-school senior, I tried to throw a party at his house while he was away, he made it clear what a terrible idea that was, then laughed with me about it. I knew he had done much worse as a teen, and it was his way of recognizing that I was just being a kid, that we were both human, and also that he knows I’m responsible and will basically always do the right thing.
posted by CiaoMela at 2:31 PM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Lots of great advice here, and a heartwarming question from the OP.

I'd like to second the lone comment above about physical affection. You can't give her too much, and its a wonderful way to share your love and a fantastic source of comfort now and later on. Keep doing it even if she pulls away (within reason) - just because she's embarassed by it doesn't mean she doesn't appreciate it.

My last thought is: encourage her. Tell her you believe she can accomplish her dreams (or climb the stairs, or pet the dog). I was very interested in being a nurse when I was 9 or 10, and my Dad always made sure I was considering being a doctor too. I was annoyed at the time (didn't wanna be a doctor) but I look back now grateful that he was "thinking big" for me.
posted by AuntLisa at 4:04 PM on October 19, 2006

My mother and father were divorced when I was 13 - I'm 23 now. Before the divorce, my father seemed distant and "scary". He was always quiet and seemed to be bothered by my sister's and my energy as little girls. It wasn't until I confronted him about hiding his moving in with another woman that he and I really started to talk. I love my father dearly, but I wish that our relationship had started earlier - and in a better situation.

Although the first 13 years of my relationship with him were mostly difficult for me, there are still many fond memories I have of my father:
- My sister and I going to work with him (in a large, loud, manufacturing plant). We sat in his office and played with carbon paper and copy machines.
- Every Sunday morning he would make 'big pancakes' for breakfast. I think they were crepes, really, but watching him cook was always amazing to me - no matter what it was.
- I read a lot as a child. After I finished a book, I would tell my dad ALL about it. Every line, every character... And he would listen (or at least pretend to).
- Watching NASCAR races and football games with my father when he was relaxing on the weekends. It was hard sometimes for me to be still and quiet, but I did it becuase I needed to spend time with him. I still enjoy watching NASCAR races with him on weekend afternoons, napping in our armchairs.
- His strength through the divorce and my mother's depression gave me strength. Knowing that he was going to take care of me, no matter what happened, was comforting. I believe this has signifigantly contributed to my strength and independence as a growing woman.
- He gave me The Stand by Steven King for my birthday in seventh grade. In the cover, he wrote a special message for me... This coming from a man that would only ever sign his name on a birthday card. I still love that book. It's very worn from me taking it everywhere with me.

Please, speak to your daughter - don't just stay quiet when something bothers you, for it lead me to feeling guilty constantly. And speak gently to her. Tell her you love her from early on - don't ever stop telling her you love her. Lead in and uphold traditions in your family such as holidays, birthdays, vacations or special weekly meals together. She will be interested in your life, so allow her inside. She will want you in her life, go there with her. Make home movies of the normal days with your family, not just special occasions - she will treasure these forever. If your wife is religious and decides to take your children to worship services, consider going with her. Show your strength to her, take care of her, and make sure she knows you are taking care of her. This will give her faith in you.
posted by youngergirl44 at 7:32 PM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

One of the best things you can do is to extravagantly love your wife (etc.)

This is good advice, but don't let it turn into "we're staying together for the sake of the kids"; if the choices are constant bickering or a divorce, the kids are probably better off with the latter. Demonstrating a good relationship makes a wonderful foundation for your daughter, and showing constant love for her mother makes her feel secure -- but what will make your daughter feel even more secure is, over time, showing constant love for her.

Have traditions that you can adapt as she grows. My dad and I used to play these great chasing/catching/throwing games he invented. These did not grow with me, the habits ended, and nothing replaced them. "Dad does dinner" days are perfectly adaptable.

Be prepared to adapt even more as she gets older. She'll say, "Dad, I can't have lunch with you Saturday, I'm going out with friends [going shopping, going to practice, etc.]." Sometimes it's true, sometimes it's not. The answer to that is "Okay, how about Saturday breakfast?" Or dinner. Or Sunday (if you follow through). Keep that date, even if you have to rearrange your schedule -- it'll show her you put your together time first. It'll take awhile, but she'll understand this eventually, and appreciate it.

Try not to have expectations about her, in matters big or small. Small -- stuff like "Oh, she's thirteen now, I guess she'll be on the phone constantly, ha ha" will just make her uncomfortable whether or not she conforms to the stereotype.

Big -- My dad assumed he'd be getting a girl like the ones he knew growing up, one whose prettiness and charm he would love to show off, and whose prom pictures he could proudly pass around to his coworkers. I was amazingly cute when I was little, which did nothing to disabuse him of this notion, but I grew up into a total fug incapable of accompanying anyone to the country club. He adapted, but slowly, and it took the form of praising me for major academic achievements...which was fine for awhile, but eventually they stop handing out awards. If I had been, say, a basketball star, he would've been equally surprised and uncertain. It's not that he doesn't see the value of academic or athletic success, or that he doesn't approve of women in those fields -- he was just expecting something very different. Try not to anticipate what "kind" of a daughter you'll get -- people are often very different from the children they were.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:16 PM on October 19, 2006

Aww, my dad's coming down to see me tomorrow, maybe I should send this to him.

My dad used to cut my hair when I was younger. I think he misses that.

He travelled loads and would get me something from where he went. Now I'm the one doing more travel (I'm living in another country now)...which reminds me, I need to get him something.

A little ritual we've done ever since I could remember was me going up to him Sunday morning and asking "Buy paper?" We'd then go to buy the Sunday papers and read them all. Sometimes I still do that with him, same voice and all.

argh you're making me cry!! thanks, i think i'll call my dad now.
posted by divabat at 9:18 PM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

All this has had me crying as well -- I miss my father dearly, as he passed away two years ago at the grand old age of 82. Here's some of my insight as to what can make a Dad really special in a little girl's eyes...

Don't ever be shy to hug her, I always appreciated that *both* my parents could get and give hugs all the time. Affection was such a normal thing in our family that when I finally got to high school, I truly couldn't comprehend those other kids who always said they hated their parents.

My Dad always told me I was beautiful and smart, even if I was not model-beautiful or genius-smart -- and it always gave me a lot of quiet confidence in myself. I believed it to be true and never had a doubt about it, even decades later when my body doesn't fit the stereotypes of media-beauty; I know in my heart that I am beautiful and smart in my own way. Especially important in today's environment of overly high media-based standards that are plastered everywhere.

Help her learn how to think for herself so she can develop some independence. I always appreciated how my Dad taught me how to analyze people and situations myself, so that I could make a good decision on my own. He also taught me money matters by lending me a sum to get small summer businesses started, since there weren't many local summer jobs where I grew up. I had to present my business plan to him and was expected to pay it back with some interest, which taught me some good business sense.

Share your time, skills and knowledge with her, whenever possible. I always appreciated that my Dad did all kinds of activities with me, from the big stuff to the everyday things. He helped to instill a love for books and reading which has stayed with me to adulthood. My Dad was also an excellent chef and from his I developed a love for good food and how wonderful it feels to cook for those you love. I still have special memories of the little traditions he created for me, such as the crazy little "gravy dance" that went with mixing the flour and water together in a jar, or how to properly squoosh a large sandwich so you could actually bite into it...

When I was a latchkey kid for one schoolyear (grade 3), he often used to make my lunchtime fun by leaving little notes for me and I'll never forget the time he cut a smiley face into a tiny tomato and placed it on the plate beside my sandwich in the fridge. Even at that age, I marvelled that he took the time to do such a wonderfully silly thing *just* for me!

He supported and encouraged me in all kinds of activities; from public speaking and learning to ride a motorcycle and even letting me take a motorcycle safety course so that I could get my license when I was only 15. Encouraged me to learn about our Italian Vespa scooter, by letting me take the engine apart myself. Not your typical girly stuff.

Occasionally Dad took me on some long driving trips with him when I was a young teen; I still have a vivid memory of driving up to the north of Ontario with him and stopping on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, in the freezing cold of night, just so we could "hear" the hiss from the colourful Aurora Borealis.

In summary, spend time with her whenever possible, support and encourage her in whatever her interests are throughout the years, and never be shy to show her you love her...
posted by Jade Dragon at 1:03 AM on October 20, 2006 [3 favorites]

I didn't read through all the answers, so this may have been said--but show an interest in your daughter. My dad didn't know my friends, what grade I was in, and sometimes even forgot my age. Even though he provided for our family and loved us, it was hard to respect him (plus he was on the violent side, and had a drinkng problem). I have one sister, and he had no idea what was happening in our lives, our interests, etc. He probably doesn't know how old I am at this very moment.

My advice--be involved in the daily care of your daughter. Know you she is, who her doctor is, who her friends are, and what's going on at school, etc. Just be there. Talk to her. Show her how women should be treated by treating your wife with kindness, love, and respect. Read Raising and Emotionally Intelligent Child, by John Gottman.

Congratulations. You are going to be a wonderful father.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:57 AM on October 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just want to say, this is my favorite MeFi thread ever.
posted by Alt F4 at 9:46 AM on October 20, 2006

Sorry I missed this yesterday. As a father of one 5-year-old daughter, I'll answer the best that I can.

So, MeFi dads, what have you learned or done with your daughter that you care to pass along?

I can't say it will be that same for you but when we had our daughter, the was/is an impenetrable bond that is stronger than anything I could previously imagine. When you are standing there in the delivery room with that little gooey, crying mass of humanity that you helped create, something happens to you. You cry, you can't believe what happening and you thank god that it did happen.

I grew up with no family to speak of, no womanly bonds of any sort and so I was totally expecting myself to be cold, somewhat uncaring and unequipped to handle the task. Once she was here, that all changed. As she has grown up, I've learned the following:

- Always listen to her. No matter how trivial, nonsensical she may sound, whatever she is saying at that point, means the world to her. She often makes more sense than I do!

- Strong back, soft tummy. If you discipline her, give her space, let things sink in and then let her know how much you still love her. She craves boundaries and is depending on me to provide them.

- I'm looking more for daddy-daughter advice no matter her age, things to do together, what you did, what you had wish you had done, etc. I have no doubts of her relationship with her mom, but I don't want to be pushed away.

- Do things with her. I'm always surprised how many fathers shuck off that responsibility on toys, T.V., computers and moms. God knows it's hard not to when they wear you out. Listen to the voice in your head and do it in spite of yourself.

- Read to her, hug her alot and fall asleep with her in your arms. Somehow, for some reason, it makes a world of difference.

- Don't be so hard on yourself if you can't be the perfect parent. I read books and listened to others and it helped a great deal. If you can do at least one or more of the above, you're in pretty good shape.

From my experience, having our daughter in our life changed us immeasurably, showed us strengths we never knew we had and in turn, enriched her life. At least we hope. :)
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:23 PM on October 20, 2006 [2 favorites]

Don't be afraid to show affection. Hugs are always good and us daddy's girls really appreciate them more when we get older.

Be cool. Don't get worked up over the small stuff. My dad had a tendency to get upset over small things and it became me & Mom vs Dad a lot of time and that sucks. Mom and I are still best friends but I know Dad has always felt a little left out. Keep your cool and your daughter will keep you in the loop.
posted by CwgrlUp at 3:33 PM on October 20, 2006

So now that im pretty much in tears...

I think all of the answers have been great and very heartwarming advice, as a daughter some of my favorite memories are..

Reading together, he read to me when I was very young every night, he taught me how to read and then I read to him every night. I remember reading the Lord of the Flies to my dad when I was pretty young and then we rented the movie and watched it together. It was kinda scary at that age but I had my dad with me so it didnt matter.

Talking, always talk to your daughter and listen to what she has to say. Discussion is the best thing to expand both of your minds. To this day even though my dad and I are completely different people with different interests, we still know we can have a completely respectful and loving conversation.

My dad worked with computers when I was a kid and I thought it was the coolest to go to work with him and look at the giant room sized computer in the mail room that made alot of weird sounds. When I was a little older my dad taught me some simple programming so I could make letters jump around and silly stuff like that. I really think that it also helped him stay excited about his job as well as excite me.

Talk to your daughter like an intelligent individual, when I was probably 11 or 12 my dad gave me a lecture about how he didnt care if I cursed, he cared if I said mean things to people. He said there was no difference if I said 'Damn' or 'Darn', that it was all fake. I have never forgotten that conversation and how true it was.

Teach your daughter everything! I know how to change a tire, change the oil, hook the vcr to the tv, fix problems on my computer, take care of pets, play basketball in the driveway, mow the lawn, read, whistle, blow bubbles with bubblegum, etc. The list goes on and on.

Just be there for her, love her with all your heart, treat your wife with lots of love and she will learn from you and love you, and have lots of fun!
posted by trishthedish at 4:00 PM on October 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

I can't believe I missed this thread, but for what it's worth (from a daughter's point of view):

- Teach her how to drive, and when you do, teach her how to actually get to places. I'm 18, so I only learnt to drive 2 years ago. When I was on my learner's, dad took me for drives on Sunday mornings, all throughout Sydney. He would quiz me on the general direction that the main roads run in, which roads lead to the Harbour Bridge and how to navigate the Sydney CBD in peak hour. I've got friends who get flustered driving in the city, but it doesn't bother me at all. Also, the long car trips make for great conversation. My dad and I grew a little distant in my earlier teenage years, bu after this, we were back.

- Let her accompany you to the hardware store. When I was about 8 years old, I absolutely loved it when dad went in search for gadgets and gizmos, and I seriously attribute this to my love for science.

- Teach her about sports. My dad has always been a fanatical sportsman, and I believe that he has not been without a Saturday sport since he was 7 years old. He fostered in me a real appreciation for sports that lots of girls just don't understand.

- Take her to work with you. My dad is an engineer who works in automation technologies. He used to take me to the factory and show me what he was doing and I loved it. I still do. This is part of the reason why I don't mind being the workshop slave in my uni holidays, doing the jobs that the 'qualified' people hate doing.

- Tell her what you're really thinking. For about a year, I had my heart set on studying engineering when I went to university. I'm not sure why, but I was going to do it. Dad sat me down and explained to me why I should do engineering, and then why i shouldn't. He genuinely believed that I wouldn't enjoy it. So I'm doing science. And am oh so glad that I picked it over engineering.

I could probably go on for hours about this.

Congratulations, I'm sure you'll be an awesome dad.
posted by cholly at 11:00 PM on October 20, 2006

Another daughter here... My dad used to take me with him once a week to the library where we would both return our books and get new ones - the beginning of my lifelong love affair with reading. We lived in a small town at this time, so we walked there, and the walking and talking was half the fun. He would take me for other walks, too, down to the pier to see the fishing boats and catches, and then on the way home, we would always stop for ice cream or hot chocolate, and pick out a treat to bring home to mom. As other people have noted, one of the important elements about these excursions is that they were regular events - something to look forward to every week.

And speaking of ice cream, my father's ice cream sundaes were a huge ritual with us; once or twice a month my dad would make a big deal out of making sundaes for my sister and me ... with chocolate syrup, sprinkles, nuts, fruit, whipped cream. That was daddy heaven. Just us three, huddled around making these outlandish creations.

My mom and dad are outdoors types, so we spent a lot of time camping, in the mountains, and at the ocean, and my parents didn't mind taking us out of school to do it. My dad always helped us with our homework and whatever work we brought with us, and I learned most of my multiplication tables with him, surrounded by sun, sea and sand.

There's much more, but you get the idea (and not just from me!). My dad has always made it clear that the most fun he could have is to spend time with our mom and us, and that's, as they say, priceless.
posted by taz at 10:16 AM on October 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

Be yourself and share what you are into. Don't pay that much attention to gender roles.

My boyfriend is an excellent father to his 2 girls (now 10 and 15). The youngest one loves fart jokes and is worshipped by all the 10 year old boys in her school. :-)

Here's some of the things I've seen him do, and his philosophies:

Solicit their opinion.
Respect their opinion - at every age.
Respect their privacy.
Give a reason for your decisions.
Lots of affection and "I love you's".
posted by xena at 5:33 AM on October 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

First-time dad of a 5-month-old myself, and I had a good dose of parental baggage, too. Don't think of them; think of her. She's a completely different person, and she'll respond to you.

And yeah, take her as many places as you can. My dad did this, to a degree that sometimes seems unsettling in retrospect, but I'm so glad he did. She may seem fragile, but her resilience will surprise you like it surprised me.

Don't assume that you have to get a lot of stuff to entertain her and spend time with her. Be yourself, only moreso, and when you find something she likes, stick with it. Unless you don't try at all, you will succeed at a lot of things with her. This is truly one of those things where just showing up and putting in a good effort does pay off. You don't have to be a perfect dad; you just have to be a dad.
posted by thescoop at 10:19 AM on October 26, 2006

I have two brothers, so I was the only girl in a house full of boys. Growing up, my dad learned early that he needed to include me in any activities that my brothers were invited to do with him. There was no such thing as boy things and girl things in our house. If my brothers went to a baseball game with my dad, I went too. If my dad cracked open the case of our desktop computer, I watched and helped too. If he took them fishing, I went too.

Every father daughter relationship is different, but when I was little, being included was the most important thing to me. I didn't want to be treated as "special" or "fragile" just because I was a girl. Because of the way my dad treated me growing up, I have many interests today that most girls miss out on because they aren't considered "girly" (including computers and football) - interests my dad and I have in common and share.

So, to sum up, my advice is to let her into your world. She may like it more than you think!
posted by geeky at 10:23 AM on October 26, 2006

One thing I always remember about my dad is that every single morning before he left for work he came in to kiss me goodbye and tell me he loved me. This was usually around 6am, and I would just roll over and go back to sleep. If he didn't come in, becuase he was running late or something, I would worry he had forgotten and I would get up and track him down. I never remember one time when he missed.

I still wake up most morning right around 5:45, even though it's been more than 15 years since he did that.

And nth the advice about how you treat your wife. My dad treats my mom like gold (and vice versa) and that has very obviously influenced my expectations in a relationship, I think for the better.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:03 AM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I love my dad dearly, but there are things, like others, that I wish hadn't happened. He wants to protect me from everything, and I don't want to be protected from anything. If your girl is a fighter, help her be a smarter one (and by fighter I do not mean "beating people up," I mean it more in a "Thank you for making me a fighter" way) rather than trying to make her not be one. I know now what my dad's motivation was, but at 16, it was demoralizing. It also meant that I went through a well-camoflauged rebellious phase.

Just support her. She may be weird. She may be opinionated. She may be a cheerleader. She may decide that black nail polish and Depeche Mode covers are the coolest things ever. But, as my dad wisely says, if you treat her as if she's smart enough to built the atom bomb from day one, then she will probably turn out fine. Respect her intelligence and her decency.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:42 PM on October 27, 2006

My favorite childhood memories are from Indian Princesses - it's a YMCA father-daughter program where you get together with other dads/daughters in a "tribe" and go on camping trips, have meetings where the girls do little crafts or plan skits to put on at the camp-outs, with lots of rituals tied in that define moments in time that you might otherwise miss. I remember, at age 7, looking up at the moon with my dad at my first meeting and deciding that my "Indian name" would be Crescent Moon (his was Crazy Moon.) Another positive thing about this experience was the part that competition played - at the campouts, we had "war games" and skits and other contests that inspired a lot of healthy competition, which I think can be something girls lack if they aren't into sports. It gave us something to be passionate about and banded us together as a unit and I think that's something really valuable to learn at a young age. Anyway, I think the experience varies wildly from place to place, but I would definitely recommend looking up a chapter when your daughter starts elementary school. I could write a book about all my happy Indian Princess memories. Also, don't be put off by the YMCA thing - there was zero religious affiliation except for the fact that the majority of our tribe was Jewish.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 10:18 PM on October 27, 2006

My daughter is 7. Never thought having a girl could be so life changing.
* Be her best friend
* Be her playmate
* Ask her opinion about everything
* Take her for a walk
* Read to her every day
* Look at her when she speaks
* Ask her to help you
* Share a cookie
* Ask for a hug
* Ask for for more hugs
* Ask for a kiss
* Kiss her boo boo
* Brush her hair
* Look at the stars with her
* Snuggle with her
* Be silly with her
* Love her unconditionally
* Play Candyland with her
* Be honest with her
* Play with her everyday
* Watch her do homework
* Turn the TV off, then draw pictures together
* Brush teeth together
* Take her to see the grandparents
* Take her to the movies
* Hold her
* Ask her what she did at school today
* Dance with her
* Give her horseback rides
* Go to her school events
* Take her to work with you
* Take off early from work and pick her up from school
* Be protective, but not overly so
* Teach her cool things
* Be yourself. Be Dad.
posted by hockeyman at 7:39 PM on October 28, 2006 [4 favorites]

My dad had this acoustic guitar, and he'd play it and sign silly things like Shel Silverstein songs or Hank Williams' "Hey, Good Looking". I remember when he'd supervise while I soaked in the tub at the age of 5 or so, he'd perch himself on a stool with that guitar and I'd be in mad giggling fits over whatever he was belting out.

We also used to build furniture. Crooked bookshelves, tables, etc. Also once we built a giant rabbit hutch because my mom said I could have a bunny if I paid for the cage out of my own allowance.

Oh, and cooking - when I was eight or nine we made spaghetti for my brother and sister. The sauce was a blend of pretty much whatever we could find and some tomato sauce. He kept encouraging me, saying, "Anything goes in spaghetti sauce, put in whatever you want!" Keeping in mind I'd be eating it too, the worst that went in was a spoonful of mint jelly from his bachelor fridge.

Once I became convinced that if I never went to Chuck E. Cheese I would just DIE, because all my friends had been, and my mom wouldn't take me. We spent an entire Saturday driving around Sacramento looking for one, and by the time we found it, it didn't matter the pizza sucked or that it was an hour after dinnertime. He'd made it his mission to bring it to me.

The making, the silly songs, the encouragement to be creative, those all meant the world to me and fostered many of my best memories.

My mom and dad divorced when I was 6. The bad memories are Christmases without him, months when my visits with him were cancelled without any reason, long stretches with no phone calls.

Don't make the mistake my dad made, ever: Even if you have nothing material to give her, nothing tangible to be held in her hands, a phone call and your voice is worth all the gifts in the world. A letter, a small message to say, hello, my girl, I love you. This of course assumes you will ever be away from her. I hope you never are.
posted by routergirl at 11:57 AM on October 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

(sign should be sing)
posted by routergirl at 12:22 PM on October 30, 2006

This is the 1st time I (a father of 2, a 14y/o daughter and a 10 y/o son) have ever been asked (sort-of) this question. There are a ton of good answers up there. Here's an idea. I am fortunate enough to have always had a 8-5 job. I wake at 6:00 do my thing and my daughter wakes at 6:30, we don't leave to drop her off at middle school till 7:30. You would not believe how much we talk in the mornings. Too early for ppl to be calling me. Too early for her to call anyone. We talk about the news, what's going on in school. I get to hear about all of the little dramas that are important to her. BONUS**, I get to kiss her goodbye (although only on the forehead) as she exits the vehicle each morning(she has an image remember?). I would offer a major limb if I had to choose between losing that time and the aforementioned limb. I am or have been a:
Girl Scouts Cookie Dad
Softball coach (she's NOT THE PITCHER)
Chess club instructor.
Drivers ed teacher

There is nothing my daughter will not try because "it's for boys". That does not matter.

#1 spend time with your daughter.
#2 ALWAYS tell her that you love her.
#3 respect her and her privacy.
#4 give her the knowledge to overcome stereotypes and predjudices
#5 give her the tools to be a productive, happy well-adjusted person, but let her figure out how to utilize those very tools.
PS. She is a honors student in the 8th grade. GT and earning credits for the 9th grade already. Extremely respectful. Never had to study and blows through any sports program. Is on the school dance team, yearbook club, radio club, softball, track, and SWAT just to name a few. Home has to be a home for her. doesn't hurt if your house is the one she and her friends are always at. You know what goes on in your house. It's the other parents house and what take place there you should be concerned about.

I think there is a song that says it all.

Fathers be good to your daughters.
posted by winks007 at 3:01 PM on November 1, 2006

As a male who grew up with a terrible father, this post is making me cry a little: from what I missed, and that there are so many people who had and will be good parents.
posted by Joybooth at 4:39 PM on November 1, 2006

As they say, boys are a nightmare when they're toddlers, but it's all smooth sailing (more or less) in the teen years. Girls are the opposite. So enjoy every second of the time you've got, while building up the tools you've got to make sure that your relationship stays strong with her once she hits puberty.

Be as amazing as you can be to your wife. She's carrying your daughter, and will do most of the heavy lifting involved with raising her anyway, most likely, so she deserves it just for that. Moreover, she'll learn from infancy what love is and how it plays out. You want to give her the best, most idealistic vision of that, above all else. You will be her model for how men are supposed to behave, particularly towards women. When you and your wife fight, make sure to resolve it lovingly before the end of the night. The same goes double for your daughter. And if something happens and you and your wife split up, never undermione her authority and never speak ill of your ex in front of your children. Your daughter will always need both of you, and resentment just breeds more resentment.

Know who her friends are. Always volunteer to do the carpooling if at all possible, and try to make your house the one where the kids come over to hang out. Part of this is about making sure that she's safe, part of it is just making sure that she's growing up as a cool, good, sociable person, and most of it is just so that you're always a part of her life and are never out of the loop as to what she's talking about. Once she's in school and is fretting and crying about something, you can bet that it has to do with her friends. You need to know them personally if you want to help at all.

Get into the mindset of looking at her mistakes as further amazing proof of how human she is, and that you created her. Be firm with your discipline, as she needs, and secretly desires, it - but never let the sun go down on an argument. If you must ground her for any reason, and you will at some point, make damn sure that you talk to her before bed about what she did, and why you had to resond the way you did, and take the chance to try to understand why she did whatever she did in the first place.

Instill in her traditions unique to the family you are just now starting. On paper, holidays and traditions are ridiculous. Why can't we get together and eat turkey in May? Why don't we give eachother gifts at every given opportunity. The magic in holidays and traditions, however, is that we come together to remind ourselves how much we love our families, and to revel in that for a while before going back to our own lives. It's not enough to have stocking and a christmas tree; you need to have an order in which things are done, and so forth. On Christmas mornings, my family would always open our stocking presents as the breakfast was in the oven, then eat our breakfast of brandy-soaked grapefruit with a marachino cherry on top, Cheese grits, and scotch eggs, then go to the rest of the presents. On birthdays we always had fondue. The fact that these things were only around the holidays added a sense of excitement towards being around family.

Encourage manners at the table, but encourage humor more than anything else. When I go home for holidays, my friends all flock to my house because our table is the most uproarious, as family should be. Remember, we're all, deep down, ludicrous people, and if family can't love us for our warts and all - and joking is a big part of showing affection - then no one can.

When she has a problem, your fatherly instincts are going to kick in to try to solve everything for her. From a young age get in the habit of helping her to work through her problems on her own. It's the most important step in her education, plusyou want her to be independent, while at the same time knowing that you'll always be there to help. Even if it's just a broken toy, use the Socratic method to make her feel in control of how to fix it.

Teach her to appreciate a baseball game. Then teach her to love it. Girls and women who love baseball are roughly a thousand times cooler and more fun than those who don't, even with all other tendencies added into the mix. Plus, there might be no better daddy-daughter activity ever created by mankind.

Teach her about music. Not just the music you love, tough that will serve as the basis for it, but the music she starts listening to when she's a little older. Most of that music will be, of course, total crap, but it will help you stay current with the 1% that isn't, and will give you something to talk about (or even sing along too, if you're lucky) when she hits her teen years and doesn't want to talk about her life to her parents. Some of my favorite presents from my parents from my parents (both wonderful, amazing squares) were CD's I badly wanted from groups they knew nothing about. I was surprised every time, and it showed not only a repect for me and my tastes, but that they were interested enough to know exactly what those were, even if thaey didn't understand them.

A corrollory: if she takes up an interest in any instrument, do whatever you can to encourage it, and if possible take it up yourself. Playing music is undoubtedly one of the most cathartic activites on earth, and when there are things that you can't say to eachother, you can still communicate by playing together. Just remember, as the Suzuki method says, when she pushes you away (from the music) let her. But always be there for her. In every respect.

Hug her at every chance you get. Even if it embarasses her a little bit. The time will come when, for a while, everything her parents does will annoy and embarrass her. That's her problem, not yours. Keep hugging her and telling her how much you love her.

When she gets her heart broken, do everything you can to help her put it back together, but remember that it's about her, and not about the kid whose ass you want to kick so badly.

Also, if you treat her boyfriends with respect and a friendly joviality, they'll be far less likely to do anything that mey hurt her. And you won't end up in a situation where she takes their side over yours.

Hug her and tell her how much you love her some more.

Dance with her at every opportunity.

Make sure to kiss the band-aid.

Don't just show an interest in her intersts - learn everything you can about them. If she plays lacrosse or field hockey, learn all the positions and their purpose and who on her team plays them. If she takes up the cello, pick up some Yo Yo Ma and listen with her and on your own as well. If she's in a play, rehearse with her. If she leans towards science, then you damn sure better help her with her projects and encourage her at every turn, but make sure that she makes her discoveries for herself.

She's the most beautiful person ever, and it's your job to never let her even question that.

Teach her how to read as soon as she can talk and walk. Then teach her to love reading. Give her books as rewards.

Listen. To everything.

But gently pull her away from being a gossip-hound.

Hug her some more.

Don't be afraid to reprimand her in front of her friends, or even to reprimand her friends as well, if need be. I learned at least as many vital lessons from my friends' parents as I did from my own.

Make sure she eats her vegetables, and then make sure she gets dessert.

Always stick around while she eats her dessert.

There will come days that you want to cry into your pillow over things that she chose to do. Let yourself cry, and then remember yourself and the girls you knew at her age.

Make sure to never let her start smoking.

And again, make sure that she respects her mother. The time will come when she both HATES her mother and also needs her desperately. Don't get in the middle of this except to support the woman who did all of this work that allowed you so many beautiful moments, and to try to bridge that gap as much as you can.

And yeah, let her in on the guy stuff. She'll be so much happier for it later.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:48 PM on November 3, 2006 [3 favorites]

I am a father of 2 daughters (6yrs and 1yr old). This thread is really touching, and it's interesting to see how many grown-up daughters talk about their fathers. It makes me wonder how my daughters will view me in a couple decades.

In fact, that's one thing I have to constantly remind myself: Don't worry so much about being perfect. Surrounded by well-meaning parents who are dying to be the best, I too want the best for my prodigy. This is natural. However, I think we moderns have a lot of media "advice" to contend with. When one is confronted by difficult decisions, such as whether to vaccinate your children or not, there is so much conflicting information to filter that you just have to reach inside and listen to your own heart, or instincts, or voice of God (whatever you want to call it).

Another thing that people don't talk about much (before you have children), is that the relationship you had with your wife, as you know have known it till now, will end. Face this fact, and you might be able to cope with the emotional challenges a new baby brings. Your wife will undergo profound physical, emotional, spiritual changes in a short period of time. You may feel like she no longer wants you anymore and that all her attention is on the baby. This is natural, and thankfully temporary, but it still took me by surprise.

I'm always hearing about how the father is expected to care for the mother (which of course you certainly ought to), but who will care for the father? Seriously, our culture (the US of A) provides very little support for fathers and fatherhood. You're just expected to do your job, keep your chin up, don't complain. Is it any wonder so many fathers become distant, become workaholics, alcoholics? So my advice to you is make sure that you yourself get some support, be it from family or friends or community. If you feel supported, it will be much easier to support your wife, and you'll be a happier daddy for your daughter.

Congratulations and good luck!
posted by tritisan at 9:39 PM on November 5, 2006

Going OT here: no daughters but an 11-yr-old son from whom I'm separated, along with his mom. They live nearly 900 km away.

Keep lines of communication open, whether child sleeps 12 m away in adjacent room or you're having to do your parenting for 5 to 15 min every day over the phone. Maintain contact. Let kiddo know how desperately you love her (him; whatever). Whatever circumstances arise that may minimize your face-time with offspring, you can still make sure you've got "mind share."
posted by pax digita at 7:09 AM on November 6, 2006

My dad and I have always been very close, with exception to my teenage years, which was just rough on us all. Now that I have grown up and forgiven my father for simply being a human being, I can truly see all the great things he has done for me, and all the great ways he has influenced me. He is one of my best friends and truly one of my favorite people.

These are my favorite memories:
-I remember riding in his big rusty pickup truck to the ice cream store every Saturday, just he and I and always getting a scoop of the same mint chocolate chip ice cream.
-Waking up to his pancakes in the morning.
-Watching my dad play guitar for hours, and listening to music with him.
-Dancing with my dad is my favorite memory I have. He used to pick me up and dance around with me all the time and to this day I can't dance without thinking of him.
-Making really simple nachos and proclaiming them the "McCue Family Nachos!"
-Telling me amazing made up stories.
-Always giving me a hard time about keeping a straight path, and not letting me slip in my grades.
-Always coming to my school plays, and always going the extra mile so I could go to theatre class, or play an instrument, or go to ballet class.
-Taking care of me when I had chicken pox and reading me all of the Wizard of Oz.
-Reading Romeo and Juliet with me when I was in 3rd grade.
-Letting me practise reading to him every night, even though he knew it would put him to sleep before dinner.

And finally, my Dad has since remarried and now has 3 children all under the age of 6. The coolest thing is watching him with my little sisters and brother, and seeing how happy he makes them and knowing that he is the best dad in the world all over again for another set of little kids. *I LOVE YOU DAD!*
posted by rubyeyo at 7:33 PM on November 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Late here, but: please don't hug your daughter if she doesn't want to be hugged. When she's three and needs your assurance after a tantrum, fine; when she's ten or thirteen and learning to assert autonomy over her body, maybe not so fine. Let her hug you.
posted by goofyfoot at 2:29 PM on November 12, 2006

Response by poster: Proud Dad here - thanks for the tips.

Daughter and her Mom are doing great: check Flickr for our photos.
posted by fijiwriter at 9:17 AM on January 29, 2007

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