We’ve all heard about how crucial a father’s influence on his son is when forging the man he will grow up to be. But what rarely gets acknowledged is how important a father/daughter relationship is, and how the impression a father makes on his daughter becomes the platform for her success, education and relationships.
And as relationships change and grow over time, the new impressions made will continue to mold a daughter throughout her adult life.
My father and I had a very different relationship when I was younger versus our relationship now. As a kid my father worked long, grueling hours forcing him to miss me cheerleading at my middle school basketball games, or the time I was in the school talent show. I never thought too much of it because I knew he had to work.
As a little girl I would confide only to my mother. I knew my dad as the disciplinarian and my mom as the negotiator. But that all changed in my mid-twenties.
Family Studies recently wrote an article explaining research shows fathers who are actively engaged in their daughter’s childhood help promote their academic achievements, athletics and self esteem. These young women grow to be college graduates and strive for higher paying positions, going after jobs that are traditionally held by men.
At 19-years-old I moved out of my parents house. My dad took this personally and had a very hard time admitting his first born was no longer a baby. When I turned 24 I decided I needed to make some serious changes in my life, prompting me to quit my job and spend two months overseas. It was at this time that my dad began to see me differently. He realized I was no longer a child, and that was okay. And it was when I came home that our relationship changed.
My father respected the fact that I traveled alone, went to his homeland, and taught myself about where he comes from and what makes up half of me. He was proud of the fact that I educated myself about the culture that influenced my upbringing.
But what was most interesting was how my father became more engaged in my life, when his work hours lessened and his time at home increased. And after coming home from traveling I decided to go back to college after a five year hiatus, to which my father was beside me every step of the way.
Going back to school was a scary thing for me, and my parents challenged me to push myself and go for what I wanted, especially my dad. He would call to see how I was doing, and ask how my classes were going. He constantly asked about my grades, and when he heard I made the Dean’s List my first semester he called to congratulate me. This was something so different from what I remembered as a kid, and the constant encouragement, words of advice and interest in my studies drove me to work harder and achieve more.
When my dad found out I decided to add on a minor in international studies he would spend hours talking with me about the topics I was learning about. He taught me about the other side of history that I didn’t learn about in my history books, and how to look at topics with a different pair of eyes. Our father/daughter relationship had evolved, and we had more in common than ever before.
The satisfaction of finally knowing my dad was proud of me only helped our bond. As Family Studies writes, daughters with a strong bond to their fathers credit them for their tenacity, ambition and success, and for me this couldn’t be more true. Because of my dad’s influence I learned about hard work, sacrifice, and chasing after what you want. And because of our bond I learned about the traits I have that are from him, yet I never knew I had.
I learned that when I speak about something I am passionate about my voice raises an octave, or how much of a perfectionist I am, or how the word ‘no’ only pushes me to work harder to achieve my goal. I learned that my definitions of family and loyalty are also his definitions, and ironically what a good story teller he is.
But most importantly I learned that no matter where I end up in life my dad will be on the other end making sure I am okay, because no matter how old I get I know in his eyes I will always be his little girl.