10 Things No One Told Me About Having A Daughter

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Average people have a habit of turning into wild soothsayers when they find out you’re expecting. Volumes of prognostications were given about what being a father would be like or how it might feel. Here are some things that NO ONE prepared me for. If you’ve ever wondered what was happening in the hearts and minds of dads with daughters, consider this list a kind of soul peep show:

1. No one ever told me how soon she might pay attention to boys. Like many of us, I pretty much bought into the social anthropology that sees boys as the romantic aggressors and girls as, at best, generously tolerant of their pursuits. This all changed one night at the gym when Mary Grace tugged at my arm and earnestly pronounced, “Daddy, do you see that boy over there? I like that boy!”

As we sipped our smoothies in the gym café, she continually turned around to see where he was and watched him intently. At one point, he even came over to the table. His name was Harrison, and to her credit he was polite, cheerful, and well-spoken. He treated her kindly and with great respect. The one drawback to her first crush was that he was a 6’4, 19-year old with surfer good looks and the physique of a linebacker. He was the café worker. And she was three. Seriously.

2. No one ever told me how much I would genuinely enjoy manicures, tea parties, midday wardrobe explorations, impromptu waltzes, pastel tackle boxes, or Fancy Nancy.

3. No one ever told me that all of my previous attempts to understand the female anatomy would be completely revolutionized by a single nasty diaper. The resultant force of uncovering a tiny baby vagina that is smeared with poop is staggering. I have literally stood over my daughter with a baby wipe in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other, surgically removing flecks of feces from her hoo-hoo.

4. No one ever told me that having a daughter would automatically turn me into a feminist.

5. No one ever told me what waits for you on the flip-side of all that tenderness. It is very common for daddies of daughters to hear the quip, “Oh, you think you know what love is, but get ready! You’ve never felt anything like this”. And, in part, they are right. The “daddy’s girl” with her father wrapped around her little finger is well-documented. What is less discussed is all the immense RAGE that makes up the back side of the coin, that tender bit of tender. There is an indescribable, kinetic ferocity that gets into your bones. I can remember walking white-knuckled through a crowded farmer’s market with baby girl in the stroller, unable to enjoy myself for the visions of violence I was prepared to mete out upon any member of the throng who so much as cut in line. It is a complex thing for the heart of a man to be, at once and by the same catalyst, so moved to both give his life away and take it from another. Perhaps there is a lesson in it.

6. No one ever told me that the song “Butterfly Kisses” is the greatest song ever written. No matter how sappy, cloying, or contrived that you believed it to be, once you have a daughter it wields a mysterious and violent emotional power over you that is irresistible. Last summer at my friend’s wedding, me and some of the other groomsmen spent the first half of the song laughing and scoffing… and then I spent the second half of the song sobbing as I danced with my daughter. Say it with me: “I am Bob Carlisle’s bitch”.

7. No one ever told me the extraordinary importance of the color pink. Last Christmas, M.G. asked Santa for a “girl puppy”. When Claus asked her what color she wanted, she unflinchingly said, “pink!” I have seen her moved to tears upon hearing the report that her pink plate was in the dishwasher and unavailable for use at dinner. A radiant, white-robed Jesus could manifest in her room and present her with a blue, winged unicorn and I honestly believe it would go something like this: “Um, ‘hank you Jesus for my flying horse, but you forgot one ‘hing- PINK! Now, about that white robe…”

8. No one ever told me, well, maybe my wife had told me this, but I never really believed it: Lots of girls really do start thinking about planning their weddings from the time they are toddlers. Personally, I blame Disney. Every piece of white linen in our home is fair game for a pretend wedding rehearsal. She acts it out in detail. At first it was supremely cute because she wanted to marry me, but recently a pre-school compatriot has overtaken my place as groom-to-be. She says it is because he’s “silly and handsome”.

9. No one ever told me how irrationally crushed I would be the first time my little girl wanted to marry the silly, handsome boy from pre-school instead of me.

10. No one ever told me how much more I could fall in love with my wife. Having a mini-version of Mary in the house cannot help but re-contextualize who she is to me. Many of the idiosyncrasies and dispositions that have tempted me to frustration over the years were suddenly recast in the person of our daughter, allowing me to see with new perspective and compassion some of her ways of being that seemed most alien to mine.

To give an example of my meaning: I never could understand the seemingly crushing disappointment that my wife experiences when plans fail. Even the most mundane engagements, extemporaneously altered, can greatly affect her mood. I once saw her have a complete breakdown in a cafeteria line as she watched the last carvings of “her” prime rib sandwich get distributed to the guest in front of her. Frighteningly, Mary Grace is exactly like this. But, since she is innocent I am forced to compute her emotions using a more charitable calculus, and in doing so I find that it is a wild enthusiasm for living that lay at the heart of all these tiny tragedies. And, in turn, I come to see my wife. I used to think of those moments as childish; now I know they are beautifully childlike. There is a profound difference. I wish that I could go back and always love her as well as I do now. She deserves it.

Related post: A Letter to my Daughter in the Future

Comments

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  1. 24

    says

    I had high hopes for this article, as a mom of three girls, but interest waned rapidly because none of my girls fit the “girly-girl, boy-crazy, pink-loving, wedding-planning” stereotype presented here. Add to that his description of his wife’s toddler-esque tantrum over a damn sandwich (news flash, guy: normal behavior for a three-year-old, totally delusional and irrational response from a grown woman), and he’d completely lost me. I can only hope his daughter evolves from the toddler world-view that everything revolves around her.

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    • 25

      says

      It’s not really a stereotype, he’s not talking about “all girls” he’s talking about *his* girl and she is a girly girl there’s no need to make it sound so derogatory just because you happen to have tom boys-I was a tom boy but I had many friends that were girly girls, to beach his or her own. As for the wife we know nothing about her some people have high levels of anxiety about certain things, as we don’t personally know her there’s no need to be making decisions about their character or the way they’re raising their kids, it’s obvious the father adores his little girl-the things nobody told him and all-and that’s the message. Or at least that’s my two cents-seems petty to disregard based on them not being exactly like your girls or the wife having reactions you don’t approve of.

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    • 26

      says

      Just saying my interest waned, because it wasn’t something I could empathize with. I had high hopes because I’ve seen so many “Moms of boys” articles out there recently, but nothing about having all girls. As for a tantrum over a sandwich, I stand by my original thought that it’s not normal behavior for an adult.

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      • 27

        Lisa says

        You could always write your own article about being a mom with all girls and submit it to Scary Mommy. They accept guest authors, and if it’s that important to you, I’m sure you can write an awesome article on it. Personally, I love reading the deep emotional feelings this man has for his wife and daughter, in all of their quirks. And I have no kids and no husband, and you don’t see me complaining that SM isn’t publishing articles for us single childless folks :P You want it, write it. And PLEASE, no reason to slam an author or his family. Imagine it was your article.

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    • 28

      says

      I sincerely doubt she had a childlike tantrum with her childlike behaviors. There’s a feeling of despair, especially with anxiety sufferers, that comes with not being able to be able to have control over a situation. It’s not about the sandwich, it’s about her soul.

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  2. 30

    says

    A few months ago I was sitting in a Subway eating lunch with my 4-year-old daughter when I realized that, instead of eating her ham and cheese sandwich, she was resting her head in her hands, elbows on the table, and gazing dreamily across the restaurant. When I asked what she was looking at, she sighed and said, “He’s soooo handsome.” I looked over my shoulder and saw a tall, very good-looking, 20-something young man standing not far from us. He wasn’t looking at us but he was smiling sheepishly and I have no doubt that her proclamation did not go unnoticed. About a week later she managed to make two boys blush when she told the teenage cashier at Target, “You look very handsome today.” Both the cashier and my 10-year-old son turned bright red and I almost died laughing.

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  3. 34

    says

    Because it’s what happens at his house, it’s being “stereotypical”? People, grow a sense of humor and read between the lines! What he is getting at is the difference in himself.
    Great piece. Saw my husband in most of this. And though our three daughters are not all girly girls, I have seen 1 or more of them go fishing in a pink dress.

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