By the time my daughter was six years old, she’d already experienced a greater number of deep, emotional relationships than has any grown man I’ve ever known.
On the surface, all the hand-holding, hugging, and sharing of secrets seems playful or “cute.” But what I now realize is that she is actively forging powerful interpersonal skills with other girls her age, who are equally wired for emotional awareness and spontaneous expression of their feelings – skills most boys won’t develop for another 20 years, if ever.
This is precisely why, in an ideal world, every man would raise a daughter prior to ever getting romantically involved with a woman.
Let’s face it, dads, even when you got married, you knew nothing about women. And this is coming from a guy with three older sisters so close in age that, when I was a freshman, we were all in the same high school together!
Sure, you figured out how to get girls to pay attention to you, possibly even influenced a few to see some things your way, and ultimately convinced one that you were dependable enough for long-term commitment. But as far as what makes them tick? You had no clue – and probably never considered it.
Fathers of boys: You’re no better off today and, likely, perpetuating the same ignorance.
When I was a kid, I related to other boys from opposite ends of sporting equipment or makeshift combat weapons – yes, there’s a bond there, but it’s called “competition.” My daughter, on the other hand, goes into every activity or experience expecting to develop another close relationship with a new friend, which she typically does, and it never ceases to blow my mind.
That said, I should mention that a new relationship does not negate the previous one; on the contrary, they co-exist in rank order. I cracked the code during a recent in-car conversation with my daughter: best friends are ranked by amount of time known. [Note to dads: Turn off the stereo, and maybe you’ll learn something.]
Why is it important to understand all of this before getting romantically involved with a woman? Think about all those times you thought your girlfriend was acting too “clingy” and you felt trapped or “tied down.” It wasn’t really about you at all; she was behaving in a way that was second nature to her long before either of you noticed the opposite sex. And you responded like the emotional neophyte you were – running in the other direction.
I’m not suggesting a deeper understanding would change your reaction to the situation, but at least you’d see it coming…
Admittedly, when it comes to raising a daughter, I am still a novice, but as an involved, observant dad, I can already recognize patterns and accurately predict some relationship scenarios. However, as her self-awareness increases, rivalry amongst peers becomes a factor, and relationships with boys complicate life, my education will continue to evolve, and I will be reminded of just how little I know today.