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Fathering Females

When I was born, the doctor misspoke. “It’s a bo… ,” he told my parents, “a girl!” I work hard to avoid pondering what it is the guy thought he saw. My dad was surprised to feel a twinge of disappointment. “It only lasted a split second,” he assures me. “And I probably wouldn’t have felt it at all except for Dr. Slip.”

I don’t begrudge him his momentary grudge. As the mother of boys, I know that being a yin and begetting a yang can make a parent uneasy. My boys like to beat on things, jump off stuff, and generally behave in confounding ways. And when I shepherd my three-year-old to the bathroom at 2 a.m., I’m ill-skilled to help him aim. Or shake. You might as well ask me to repair a blown head gasket.

Thus do I feel a certain kinship to the fathers of daughters. Girls are complicated, and raising them is tricky — especially when your model for “father” is the fella who taught you to throw a long bomb and “take it like a man.”

I know a guy who cursed when he found out his wife was pregnant with a girl. “I remember distinctly yelling ‘#@$%!’ in the muffled cone of silence my car offered,” he said. “At the time, it was just one more thing that I felt was not going my way. I would come to the realization years later that it’s your child’s personality you fall in love with, and it’s irrelevant what that personality is attached to.”

Still, dads and daughters occasionally make for awkward pairs. One friend said his little girl was forever scarred when he took her, at age three, into a public men’s restroom at Thanksgiving and “there stood Santa, pulling up his drawers in front of a urinal.”

Another lamented his artlessness with a hairbrush. “I’ve stumbled through numerous French braids,” he admitted. “The French came up with a braid no father can contend with. I’m still trying to master the simple bun.”

“I felt pretty low reading the My Little Pony books with its overly sweet names,” added another. “I still may burn that book with some speed metal blaring in the background.”

One father is considering buying an RV to use as a male safe house when his three daughters start menstruating on synched-up cycles.

Another carefully monitors his household’s “sentence velocity,” the number of sentences uttered per minute. “It increases with the number of females present,” he said. “I’ve learned that when it gets to a certain rate, it’s a good time to empty the dishwasher or catch up on the New Yorker. Staying out of the fray gives the impression that I am a ‘good listener,’ when, in fact, I simply don’t comprehend.”

There are advantages to being the lone dude in a house chock-full of chicks. “I’m the one who can smush the spider and fix the plumbing,” said a father of two girls. “They love me differently. I’m their hero! What beats that?”

He said it’s made him a better communicator, too. “My girls ask questions about things no little boy has ever talked about. Grown men don’t even talk about them. I’m forced to articulate my feelings to my girls.”

My dad said the best thing about daughters is you get to keep smooching them long after the age when fathers tend to stop kissing their sons. “That’s a sweet deal,” he said.

These dads hope to teach their girls what a “good man” is — and to be educated from them, in turn. “I think I’ve learned the same things I would have learned with boys,” said a father of two young daughters: “The joy of being a parent, how great it is to have kids in my life, and how good I look dressed in a pink tutu.”


Published inColumnsParenting
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