For many fathers, daughters are the biggest challenge to the arbitrary gender roles that keep us in a stoic straightjacket. A daughter doesn’t know that Daddy is supposed to be strong and silent. She knows that she loves Daddy unconditionally, and she has cultural permission to be emotional about it. She wants Daddy to show that he understands how she feels, and that he feels the same way about her. This requires that Daddy rapidly acquire some emotional intelligence, a resource nearly absent from the “everything’s-fine-I-don’t- need-any-help” approach to life. If we can’t see the shortcomings of stoicism once we become fathers—a job entirely about relationships— when will we see them? But even if the guy who called me is right, and his relationship with his daughter couldn’t be better, he’s still missing something that would make his life richer and more fun.
If he would do something as simple as join the dadtalk online e-mail group, or attend a fatherhood workshop, he’d recognize what he’s missing. If he did seek out the company of other fathers, he’d find a ton of “Aha!” moments as he recognizes his own struggles and triumphs in the lives of other dads. He’d feel the fun, funny, firm, and affectionate support of his fellow fathers. He’d understand how much they need the wisdom of his experience. He’d learn that the glow of fathering energy doesn’t get packed away like holiday lights in January; instead, it can illuminate our way throughout every part of every year.
Just like having a daughter, it’s too good an experience to miss.
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