In Praise of #GirlDads and Empowering Father Figures

Search the hashtag #girldad on Twitter and you’ll find men gleefully announcing the impending arrival of baby girls and celebrating their grown daughters’ accomplishments. You’ll also find women honoring the fathers who helped shape their lives in large and small ways.

My daughters are lucky to have a #girldad. At 4 and 7, they don’t know that Dad reading to his two young daughterssome men don’t get as excited about the delights of raising girls, with all the glitter, nail polish, detangling spray and unicorns that can entail. They don’t know that fishing, playing sports and building fires in the backyard aren’t things that every dad likes to do with his girls. They also don’t know that having an involved father will have positive lifelong effects, ranging from better grades to a better ability to resist risky behaviors.

They do know their dad makes the best pancakes on Saturday mornings. They know his arms and kisses are as good as mine when it comes to making “owies” feel better. They know he’s always up for outdoor time, from playing makeshift hoops in the driveway, camping or riding bikes.

Two girls around the campfire with their dadThey’ll remember that he didn’t let them get away with everything, but that when discipline was required, it was delivered with love, understanding and calm explanation.  They’ll learn that their dad views me as an equal partner and that we make decisions and work together as a team. They’ll see that he treats his female students, staff, colleagues and boss with respect. And they’ll feel his support and pride in whatever they decide to pursue.

I asked the girls what they liked best about their dad. “I don’t know, there’s too many things,” our 7-year-old said, perplexed. After more prodding, she told me he makes her feel happy. Our 4-year-old agreed, noting that “he exercises, and I like him exercising.”

Dad holding a toddler daughterMe too, because I want him around for a long time. I want him to continue to model healthy behaviors and emotions. I need his steadfastness as a dad and partner as we help mold and shape these girls into the people they’ll become. I want to see him meet the girls’ friends and romantic interests as they get older. I imagine him walking them down the aisle and holding their children, if marriage and kids are life choices they end up making.

My husband has no sons, but he doesn’t need sons to leave a legacy. Although that’s been the narrative for centuries in our patriarchal society, I’m happy to see the rise of the #girldad and I feel very fortunate my girls will know the power of having one.

Raising strong women who feel valued and know their worth looks different for every family. It’s important to acknowledge that the love and structure of having a #girldad can take many forms.  Grandpas, uncles, coaches and community leaders fill the role for some. Women have always known the inherent worth their daughters possess and girls growing up watching their single moms do it all with grace and strength have an awe-inspiring example to follow. Households with two moms or two dads are equally able to raise strong children and do so every day.

This Father’s Day, I’m celebrating our family’s #girldad and every adult committed to raising empowered, inspired girls.

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