“On behalf of every man
Looking out for every girl
You are the God and the weight of her world
So fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do.”
– John Mayer – Daughters
I have two daughters. Audrey, 11, and Sally, 9. Being a father to little girls is something you pretty much figure out as you go along. You get a lot of things right, and you get a few things wrong. I don’t think I’ve raised my girls much differently than I would’ve raised boys. I started taking them outdoors about as soon as they could walk… camping, hiking, floating, fishing. They’ve sat in my lap and driven my Jeep down little country roads. They’re not afraid to bait their own hook.
One thing I always knew that I wanted to do with my children is spend a lot of one on one time with them. Time spent together, alone, letting them know that they are special to their dad. It was advice I was given early on and it made a lot of sense to me, so I followed it. We’ve created a lot of memories along the way. The other day Audrey brought up a trip she and I had taken to a ballgame in Kansas City when she was 6 or 7 years old. She was recalling how we’d driven up Highway 71 with the top down and she’d looked up at all the millions of stars while “Paradise City” was playing on the radio. God’s beautiful creation set to the music of Axl Rose… you never know what you’re gonna get when dad’s in charge.
I mentioned camping – my girls have probably spent more time around a campfire in their few short years than most folks do in a lifetime. There’ve been a lot of marshmallows roasted, butts warmed and stories told around those fires. This year I got a little $5 trophy and had it engraved “Best Campfire Story.” It’s a traveling trophy and changes hands at each outing. It’s amazing how much better the stories have gotten since a cheap little trophy entered the mix.
On Thursday evenings Audrey has choir practice in Fayetteville, a neighboring town. I take her down and we usually go out to dinner afterwards. More often than not we’ll end up at Noodles, a local Italian restaurant. Sitting on the patio there last year the conversation turned to boys. Imagine that. We were talking about a boy she liked and I asked what she liked most about him. She didn’t even have to pause to think. A sense of humor. For the next 3 or 4 weeks on these dates we’d talk about what is important to her in a boyfriend. It turned out to be a really neat series of talks, and she came away with a better idea of what she valued. A sense of humor remained at the top.
I tell this story for a reason. If you ask either of my girls to describe their dad, the first thing out of their mouth will be, “He’s funny.” I don’t think it was a coincidence that a sense of humor is the first thing Audrey looked for in a boy. As our daughters grow and mature, they will look for us when they look for love. If we’re gentle, they will be drawn toward a gentle man. If we’re loving, they will be drawn toward a loving man. Substitute any word … distant, selfish, abusive. The premise will hold true.
So I’ve been coasting along for all these years now, smug in the fact that I’ve been a “good dad” by pretty much any measure … spending time with my girls, listening to their stories, knowing their hearts, providing discipline with love. My girls think I hung the moon. And then it hits me. I’ve failed at the most important thing. Loving their mother as I would want them to be loved. Modeling a marriage where I serve my wife. I remember hearing once that the most important thing a father can do for his children is to love his wife. I believe that whole-heartedly. And at this I had failed.
So this is the next great parenting frontier in front of me. Being the kind of husband I would want for my girls. Modeling unselfishness. Serving my wife. I know their eyes are on me, they don’t miss much, actions or words. So as I’m leading my girls toward their teenage years, my passion is turning toward being a husband who values his wife. Giving my children the best gift I could bestow … a vision of a man loving a woman fully and completely. Being the husband God has called me to be. Being number two instead of number one.
This article originally appeared at ReadyAimLife.com.
Image by: Kelsey Johnson, SXC
James Kissinger is a husband, a father, a student of life… a man with more questions than answers. He lives in the northwest corner of Arkansas with his beautiful wife, Sara, and daughters Audrey and Sally. He was raised on sweet tea and fried foods and is thankful for his Southern heritage.