Fatherhood is an interesting concept for me to think about because although I have a father, I can never become one. In the wake of Father’s day weekend, I’ve been thinking about why I appreciate my own father so much. While he’s done so many things for me that I can never be grateful enough, one trait, in particular, stands out.
My dad always made my sister and me feel capable. He always encouraged us to get out of our comfort zone, learn new things, and have new experiences. He rarely made us back off on a new opportunity because he was scared for us. This was prevalent when we were kids when he would push us to be better at our respective sports, or when he would try and get us to read books outside of class that pertained to classroom topics to increase our knowledge so we could get ahead.
Even as adults he never tries to pull us back for safety’s sake. A chief example is the nearly two-month long trip I went on by myself last summer. No family, no friends, just me! Most people, especially men who are my dad’s age, balk at this and say something along the lines of “Oh I could never let my daughter do that!” When I ask these people why, they always say something like “oh she’d get lost”, or “What if she’s attacked or taken”, or sometimes they don’t even have a reason! And I think to myself ‘Do you not think of your daughter as a capable person? Do you not think you’ve raised her to be smart and competent enough to be ok on her own?’ I don’t get it at all. When I said I was going alone, my dad barely batted an eye because he knew I was totally capable of handling any chaos a trip like that could throw at me. He has always thought very highly of my and my sister’s abilities and I’m only just now realizing how much it meant that he never underestimated us.
Nowadays, I work with a lot of men that are my dad’s age, and they sometimes develop this strange protective affliction. I say ‘affliction’ because they’re NOT my parents and shouldn’t be concerned with protecting me from work and should respect my ability to get the work done. But they sometimes end up treating me like their own daughters, but unlike my dad, they treat me as though I’m naive and fragile, and unable to do certain things on my own.
My dad NEVER does this. He would, of course, teach us new things or skills, but he never just assumed we needed protecting and for things to be done for us because we were incompetent. He EXPECTED us to know how to do everything for ourselves.
Surprisingly, and unfortunately, I’ve found that my dad’s behavior is a huge departure from how many fathers treat their daughters. Most tend to protect and worry about them more so than their sons and think them more at risk in the world, and less capable of handling that risk. Even if they don’t mean to do it, they feel their daughters are more fragile, and thus need more protection – from boys, knowledge, the world, EVERYTHING – but not my dad.
I could go on and on about everything else that makes my dad special, but he already knows he’s the best so I’ll leave you all with the thought that daughters should be expected to be capable, confident, and competent and any father who stands in the way of those traits, stands in the way of his daughter’s success.