Strong Like Bull...
Comerica Park, Detroit, MI - Colorado Rockies vs. Detroit Tigers, June 17 - Fathers Day 2012
Make them strong, I say, or you'll regret it. Well, I don't always say that, in fact, this might be the first time, but I think it...I do...every day. I suppose it's only the photo that made me say it out loud.
I meet a lot of kids, most are broken, or at least bent at awkward angles, and almost all at the hands of their parents. I retreat, feeling defeated some days, thinking if only their parents had built them up instead of tearing them apart. The world would be an awfully different place, I think. Humility aside, as the Daddy of a rapidly growing daughter, this is what I believe...
1. Tell her no. Mean it. Don't change your mind, unless it makes sense and does no damage. Sometime in her life she needs to learn about disappointment, about not always getting what you want, that there will always be someone waiting to tell her no. She might as well learn those things from her Dad, who loves her enough to say them early.
2. That "it makes sense and does no damage" part is pretty big. Be wrong, admit when you're wrong, and give her a chance to explain to you why you might be. Sometimes the answer is still no, but you're building a woman who needs to fend for herself, not a dutiful daughter, so she deserves the chance to correct you.
3. Don't bail her out of every situation. Surviving the little stuff helps her survive the big stuff. Don't steal away her chance at becoming resilient.
4. Do the right thing...always, do the right thing...even when it's hard, even when no one is watching. The hard thing is almost always the right thing to do, so teach her early that short-cuts and fearful decision making aren't what gets you to the place you want to go, or to the kind of person you want to be. Doing the right thing will make her work hard, and since when was hard work ever the worst thing for you? Get her used to extra miles and difficult decisions. Everyone from her own kids to her high school basketball coach will reap the benefits.
5. Help her figure out who she wants to be. Take her places. Introduce her to ideas...big ideas. Steer her toward big experiences, and help her find meaning in all of it. Certainty and vision is a tough thing to rattle or shake. She can only become what she has seen, and what she understands. She won't become anything that she hasn't...it's impossible. Help her see who she could be.
6. Be the kind of person that makes her proud. Do things, say things...believe in something. For a big part of her life she's going to want to impress you, and she may even want to be you...make all that effort worth it. Be somebody that she doesn't want to disappoint and chances are she won't.
7. From the instant she can absorb whatever ideas it is that you're selling her, sell them. Don't parent thoughtlessly, or lazily, there are a billion opportunities for lessons to sink in, and they diminish more and more year after year. Teach her early and often.
8. Don't hide your mistakes. Shine a light on them and handle them the right way. She's watching.
9. Lean on her Mom. Show her that sometimes your strength comes from someone else, from her, and that sometimes the strongest person in the house is a woman. She'll take notice, and then she won't buy all that gender garbage that the world is going to throw at her as she grows. She needs to know that strength is gender neutral.
10. As cliched as it might be, that "anything is possible" line should be seared into her brain...because it's true.
And then one more just because we can...
11. Make sure that she knows, far beyond any question, that your love is unconditional. You're approval is not, but your love is absolutely inexhaustible.