First it’s this…
“Oh man, you’re having a girl? Dude, you’re in trouble!”
And then it’s all of this…
“Oh, wait until they are crawling!”
“Oh, wait until they are walking!”
“Oh, wait until the terrible twos.”
“Oh, wait until they start talking!”
“Oh, wait until they start talking back!”
“Oh man, you’re having another girl? Dude, you’re in trouble!”
“Oh, wait until they want a cell phone!”
“Oh, wait until the eye rolling!”
“Oh, wait until they like boys!”
“Oh, wait until the tween years!”
“Oh, wait until middle school/high school/college!”
“Oh, wait until they want to get married!”
Here’s a little secret, fellas, the one they don’t tell you at the sports bar or in the Mommy and Me classes you aren’t invited to attend: You can go right ahead and forget all that crap. All of it.
I have a simple, four-word message to all dads with daughters, especially guys who are just now starting out on this journey, the guys welcoming newborn baby girls into their lives. It is a message I’ve taken to actually saying out loud to dads I see with very young girls by their side—and if you know me at all, you know talking to strangers about anything remotely related to parenting (or, um, anything at all) is not a strong suit of mine. But I’ve jumped that personal introvert hurdle because it’s crucial that dads receive a counterweight to balance out all the BS macho guy talk they will hear in regards to their daughter(s) and their role as dad to a daughter: It only gets better.
Yeah, it gets challenging. No shit, Sherlock. Parenting isn’t always Pinterest-perfect cupcakes and Instagram-worthy rainbows, but why would you want it that way, anyway? What a colossal bore to have everything scrubbed and sanitized, silver spoons and phony-smile photo packages. Challenging is good! Entering into challenging situations makes us think, evolve, grow, change, get better, and helps us find new ways to love the people we adore so much already. Yeah, your precious little princess will eventually crawl, walk, talk, talk back, crave some overpriced technology, be sweet on boys and/or girls, awkwardly grow into her tween years, have her heart broken, break a few herself, enter high school and maybe go off to college. That is all absolutely true, but there is nothing in your daughter’s timeline that you need to fear. Nothing. The only thing worth fearing as the dad of a daughter is not being there to share in her experiences.
As her dad, you get to be a steady knee to hold onto as she props herself up learning to walk; to be an example of calm in the face of adversity as she tests her limits as a toddler; to defuse the tension with funny eyes in response to her eye rolling; to teach her how to be a good digital citizen on social media with her new phone; to hold her tight while saying nothing when she goes through her first breakup; to know that even though you are a “fixer” by nature, there are moments in her life when she’ll need to cry into your shoulder or scream her lungs out and to know that all that’s required of you in those moments is to be present, to live life not through her, but alongside her as daddy, mentor, confidant, counselor, consoling presence, friend, and dad again.
I need you to hear this and believe this, for I know it to be true: It only gets better.
The conversations get better. The jokes get better. The hugs get better. The laughs get better. The nights out get better. The Saturday mornings get better. The concerts get better. The love, it gets better. And stronger. It all gets better.
So, the next time some blowhard warns you of whatever impending doom he insists will befall you as the dad of a daughter, and makes some terrible joke about needing a shotgun to protect her, ignore him and know that it only gets better.