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On Father’s Day–Fathers Be Good to Your Daughters

June 18, 2010

Sometimes a song, such as John Mayer’s, “Fathers be good to your daughters”, daughters will love like you do,” captures the reality, power and flow from childhood to adult love.  I see the intergenerational sweep of father-daughter relationships every day in my office.  Sometimes I see a teenage daughter looking at her father with apprehension–will he disapprove? At others, I see a wife pleading with her husband for more understanding; or scolding her partner for not taking better care of her. Sometimes I see a frustrated mother throwing up her hands over her wild indian of a son; or a depressed mother leaning on a son who is more sympathetic than her husband. All of these moments may reflect the earlier relationship of the now aging(or even deceased) father and the daughter who was once his little girl.

Too often, the daughter who confided in Mom in childhood never returns to her father to close the distance.  That emotional gulf opens up between being twirled by your father in a glorious rush of fun at age 5, to the experience of that same Dad, now older, tired at the end of the day, looking askance at your teenage wardrobe; critiquing the boyfriends, forgetting that you still need a compliment, making you  feel that you’ve somehow disappointed him. His distance creates your search for an admiring audience in young love.  Yet what young love doesn’t know is that how our Dads related to us  shapes our very ability to know what we owe and deserve in love and marriage. Sometimes our partners and children pay the price, always we do.

And fathers, historically, have just accepted that it’s “normal” for girls to be closer to their mothers. They too fail to imagine that the emotional gulf can be  filled. But how?  First imagine what a closer relationship would look like.  Would you need to address old hurts?  Next, could you turn to your father instead of your mother for a change?  Let him in on something important, something you’re worried about.  Perhaps you could you let him know that you just need him to care, rather than give advice.  This year, instead of a tie, give your father another chance. Happy Father’s Day to you both.

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