Fathers, Daughters, & Home Depot

By Greg Beeler

There are a lot of great quotes about being a dad. There are a lot of things said about how to teach your son to be the man you intended to be. There are a lot of opportunities to coach baseball, work on the car, & have father-son time. But, where does a man learn to be a dad to a little girl? How does a dad begin to understand what life is like for his daughter? And, even more difficult, because he went through life being the opposite, a boy, where does he learn to teach his daughter without being unfair, biased, or sexist?

I’m a guy. I do guy things. I love He-Man & laugh at Wonder Woman. I use to jump my bike over small creeks & flip-up little girls’ skirts on “Flip-Up Friday”. When I got hurt, I didn’t cry because my older brother would call me a girl. As I grew up, I started skateboarding & listening to punk music. Most of my friends were boys. Everything I was interested in involved being tough, competitive, & male. When my friends started drinking & doing drugs, I did the tough male thing & didn’t do them. When everyone else is rebelling, the rebel thing to do is not rebel. So, I thought of myself as the tougher male by not giving into the peer pressure.

My brevity & machismo was bound to be noticed by the males with less testosterone, right? Well, these kid adventures & teenage years began a long road of taking the higher ground, doing what was uncommon, & showing that I was eager to become a strong man. In my mind, I was going to be a man who could pass this knowledge & strength on… to my son.

In 1996, I found out that I was going to be a dad. I was ecstatic. My whole life had been lived with the ideal of being a dad as the grand accomplishment. To that day, I had never done a drug. To that day, I had never drunk alcohol. To that day, I had made every decision based on the questions: Would a dad do “X”? When I am a dad, will I regret that I did “X”? When I am a dad, will I be able to tell my kids about “X”? I fully expected to be a dad someday and turned down beer, drugs, & women because they weren’t the actions that I would be able to openly tell my children about. I had also avoided speeding tickets, dropping out of school, & numerous other things that look bad on a dad’s resume.

Now, it was almost time for my namesake to be born so that I could tell him everything that I had waited to share. My DAUGHTER was born the day before my birthday. After she recovered from some delivery complications, they wrapped her in a pink blanket & stuck a pink ribbon on her head. Without much warning, my whole future changed. All of my masculine knowledge was now useless. It was like a large female dog came into the hospital & ate 21 years worth of homework. Will my beautiful daughter appreciate my Lego building skills? Will my daughter ever care that the gauge measurements of metal seem to work backwards? Will my daughter ever have a lustful man look at her like I’ve looked at her mother? I wasn’t prepared to answer these questions. I had two younger sisters, but I had never talked to them about life. I had never asked them what they had for goals, ideals, or expectations from living as a girl. And, even if I had, I wouldn’t have related to their answers.

Three years after my first daughter’s birth, I was looking at another baby wrapped in pink & wearing a pink ribbon. By this time, I had come to love having a daughter. I still went to Home Depot when making my Christmas list. I still took my kid with me. Except, now we had to brush hair before going to the store & we’d stop at the paint aisle to see which slightly girlish version of blue she wanted to paint her bedroom walls. She wasn’t a total girlie girl, and we found a happy medium as father-daughter.

With my second daughter, I think the pink blanket bled into her blood stream a little. This new Princess was everything that I had dreaded. She whined, and cried, and threw tantrums. She loved pink, and animals, and loved to cuddle. For everything that I thought I avoided with the first daughter, I more than made up with the second daughter. And, together, these two little women knew how to work me over. They ended up with a Hot Wheels Jeep. A pink one. They both went to Home Depot with me. I got to shop for tools while carrying dolls. As my daughters got a little older, I had to face new questions. What kind of girl is a good girl? What kind of woman is the ideal for little girls to grow up to be like? What do girls want out of life? What do women want? What do girls experience day-to-day? I didn’t have these answers, but I wanted to have them. I was prepared to answer these things to a boy, but now I owe that same due diligence to my daughters. I needed to get a lot of answers before I was put on the spot. I would have asked their mother, but we weren’t communicating so well at this point. I would have asked my mother, but I stopped talking to her after the instructional conversation about yeast infections. I would have asked my sisters, but they were still little girls in my eyes.

So, I started reading & researching things myself. How do little boys & girls differ in activities & learning? Are the two genders equal in society? What troubling issues do young women face? What are the rights of passage for girls? Should I take different safety precautions regarding drinking & drug use among young women? What will peer pressure be like for my daughters? With my family history, some of the questions were medical. How does depression affect girls? Are some mental illnesses more prevalent in women? My daughters were getting old enough that I needed to be prepared. I needed to know more about girls, teenagers, & women so that I could be a better father. Since it was my job to protect them, I started with the scary questions.Some of the answers I found frightened me:

  • A girl’s first sexual experience is with a man 1-3 years older than her.
  • 60% of sexually active women, age 16, had their 1st sexual experience involuntarily.
  • 10% of child births are to teen mothers.
  • 50% of the women that girls see in media are portrayed sexually. 15% of men are.
  • In advertising, women are scantily clad 62% of the time. Men are 25% of the time.
  • 70% of teen girls have negative body images.
  • Plastic surgery for women increases 50% every year.
  • 90% of rape victims are female.
  • 60% of women with an STD were drunk at the time of infection.
  • 1 in 4 women have severe depression in their life. 1 in 8 men do.
  • When women drink, they are 3 times more likely to drink excessively than men.
  • 21% of teenage girls have considered suicide. 12% of boys have.

From the research, I was painting a very contradicting picture of women. In some instances, women were pursued by men & considered the prize. In other instances, women were preyed on by men & taken advantage of. Some women were trying to be equal to men & succeed in politics, business, or sports to gain respect. Others were flaunting their sexuality & capitalizing on being able to get something for nothing. Women promoted their own beauty & sex-appeal on one magazine cover and then damned men for doing so on the adjacent periodical.

From the facts, and the mixed messages that women were sending to younger women, I suddenly felt bad for my daughters. I had grown to love being a dad of two precious little girls & now I’m seeing that they not only need to be weary of men, they need to be weary of women as well. While looking for the answers, I just found myself asking more questions. Why do women willingly walk into some of these life traps? With all the talk about self-worth & being a positive woman, why do so many girls hate their bodies? At what point did people looking better & gaining confidence become an insatiable action for most women?
As a father of two daughters going through a divorce, this was too much. Couldn’t their mom handle all of this? Couldn’t their female influences just step in & steer them in the right direction? The answer was “no”. As much as little boys look up to their dad for guidance & approval, little girls look up to their dad for protection & acceptance. Realizing the harsh reality that my daughters have to face, I decided to do what dads do. I decided to protect them at all costs & not condone any of the things that I think will make their life more challenging than is needed. Their mom loves them. Their mom has survived through these pressures & confusing paths yet handled herself well. But, my daughters deserve my support as well. My daughters deserve to see me agree with their mom & maintain the same standard that we established, together, as over-protective parents. With all the depression, victimization, & substance abuse issues that face women; my daughters deserved to have me, and their mother, living as role models about what is right.
So, I didn’t start hating the world that my daughters were about to grow up in. I didn’t start hating that I had daughters instead of sons. I didn’t start hating women’s liberation, Vanity Fair, or menstrual cycles. What I did was start hating anything or anyone that could be a bad influence on my daughters. I started encouraging good young men to be better young men. I started being un-accepting of any woman who wouldn’t be a pillar of womanhood if she was lucky enough to ever meet my Princesses. I made a conscious decision to still ask myself: Would a dad do “X”? Now that I am a dad, will I regret that I did “X”? Now that I am a dad, will I be able to tell my kids about “X”? Using those questions to make my early life choices made me a good father. Continuing to use them as a divorced father of two young ladies will help me stay on that track. Who I am in my daughters’ eyes means everything to me. It is my measure of manhood & accomplishment. I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me. It’s not my job to please anyone else or to ensure anyone else’s happiness. My role as a dad will never include idolizing anyone other than the two daughters that give me a hard time about breast buds & feminine hygiene products.
Now that my daughters are old enough to talk to me about my views of women, and now that they have established their own views, things are getting interesting. Instead of asking female friends or internet search engines about girls’ issues, I am to the point where I can just ask my daughters. Teenage drinking & body image topics are pertinent now. My dislike of poor female role models can be called out by two fans of Katy Perry. After debating many topics online with women who have made the mistakes that I so despise, I have the opportunity to discuss those actions with two young women that haven’t been in those scenarios yet. I trust my daughters. I hope that they choose wisely & acknowledge that there are many pitfalls for young women. And, as much as many women who I know disagree, I intend to teach them that boys & girls are different. That men & women are different. I hope the things that get mistaken as dislike for women are actually seen to be the concern of a responsible father. Just like I wouldn’t like my sons hanging with the wrong crowd of guys, I don’t want my daughters hanging with the wrong crowd of women.
To both of my daughters: I love you & I wish life was easier. I wish I had all the answers. But, I do know that, no matter how hard or different your lives are than mine, nothing, not a single thing, could make me less eager to help you along the way. One of you is the most talented version of me that I could have wished for. And the other is the heart that I never had. There is no way to describe the kind of person I would be if you two weren’t in my life. But, I know that I wouldn’t be as happy or as proud. No one makes me smile as much as you two do. No two people have ever told me as many random & humorous things as what has come out of your mouths. You kids are the best thing that has ever happened to me.
“A father is always making his baby into a little woman. And when she is a woman, he turns her back again.” ~Enid Bagnold

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