Thursday, November 15, 2012

On being a man raising a girl

When Aimee was pregnant, I'll confess I had just a tiny tinge of hope that the baby would be a boy. Just a tiny one, mind you. Like most parents, my biggest hope by far was for a healthy child, and gender was an extremely distant second to that. But a while after she was born, maybe somewhere between six months and a year old, I realized I was really glad I'd had a girl. My relationship with my dad had been awful, and I realized that at some level I might be carrying a bit of baggage in regards to a father-son situation that didn't exist between me and a daughter.

Besides, I loved Rowan so much that I really couldn't have cared less what her gender was. She was just an amazing, wonderful kid.

Fast forward to now. I'm raising her on my own, at least for now. Not that I don't have help, because Donna is pretty involved, plus her sitter, and her teachers at school. Still, I am the parent at home. And I'm a man trying to raise a girl. As Rowan gets older, this has started to lead to some funny topics of conversation. For example:

  • I recently tried to describe "accessorizing your outfits" to her as a way of explaining why she might want to wear barrettes in her hair. Two things I know little about are accessories and hair (for those that don't know, I have had a shaved head for going on 15 years). But I am trying to teach her.
  • We routinely discuss what types of shoes go with the outfit I picked out for her that day. I have, on more than one occasion, completely changed her outfit for the day to match the shoes she wanted to wear.
  • Since she's been obsessed with Disney princesses and their fairy tale version of how people fall in love and get married, I've had to explain to her that daddy 'finding a new mommy' is a hell of a lot more complicated than she thinks. I can not simply attend a royal ball (I'm not a prince anyway, so even an invitation to such a grand event is not going to land me Cinderella). And kissing women who are asleep and expecting them to immediately run away with me will not only not work, but most likely land me in jail (think Snow White and Sleeping Beauty). Now maybe if I owned a castle my results would be different, but I already covered my lack of royalty.
  • A couple of months ago I got a book out of the library to teach her about anatomy for both girls and boys. I was uncomfortable as hell. Fair or not, that's one job I absolutely would have insisted mommy do, had she been here.
This is more up my alley, taking
her to the fair or to carnivals
I'm sure there've been others as well. The point is, I sometimes feel woefully inadequate to discuss some things with her.

But there then are the times when Rowan looks at me and says, "You're the best daddy, ever." And she's been saying that a LOT lately. I love it, even though she really has nothing else to compare me to, and I'm pretty sure I'll get the "I HATE YOU!" treatment at some point in her life. But that's OK.

A few nights ago she was sitting on the couch watching a show on TV (part of the pre-bed ritual). I sat next to her and wrapped my arms around her, and she just melted into my chest. As she did, I leaned down and kissed the top of her head, and just felt my little girl in my arms. And her posture told me she felt loved, safe, and cared for. And I was reassured that although we may not connect over barrettes or shoes, we connect as daddy and daughter. We love each other, and our bond is strong, and we're going to be OK. In fact, we're going to be better than OK. We're going to do pretty damn well.


  1. Pat just remember if there are some things you are not able to explain, help with, or are uncomfortable with at some point, Donna, is there and I am sure she will be glad to help in any way she can. And you are right you and Rowan will be ok, you have alot of friends and support around to help and be there for you. with you Rowan knows with out a doubt she is safe and loved, and you will protect her no matter what.

  2. Every little girl would be so fortunate to have a daddy like you. Great post Pat...

  3. You're doing a great job, and there is no need to sweat about accessories. She'll discover and covet those soon enough. I'm a firm believer in children wearing play clothes, and sturdy shoes they can run and jump in, so as long as you supply those, that's all she needs. If she desires frills and accessories, I'm sure the women in your lives can assist in the indoctrination, and then you're in real trouble! Put it off as long as possible! Those things can cost a fortune, and a lot of time in the morning is lost agonizing over accessorizing. (My daughter is now 13 and takes almost an hour to get ready in the morning!).

    The most important lesson you are teaching Rowan is not how to be feminine or girly, but what to look for in a partner when she is grown. By your example, she is learning that a man can be nurturing, compassionate, patient, and devoted. When she begins dating she will hold potential suitors to the high standards you have demonstrated, and will not likely compromise her beliefs or put up with abusive relationships. So many girls raised without fathers don't get this message, and then put up with terrible treatment because they feel unworthy and fear abandonment. You are giving Rowan a solid foundation to be a strong, healthy, and happy woman.