When I was a little girl, there was no-one who could touch my dad. In a confusing and threatening world, he was the still centre. When he held me in his arms, no-one could hurt me. Nothing could take me from him.
My dad did a great job and I wouldn’t swap him for the world. But one of the hardest parts of growing up was the discovery that my dad was human – he didn’t have all the answers, he got sick and he hurt and he wouldn’t always be there – no matter how much he wanted to.
A lot is made of the relationship between mothers and daughters. Fathers and sons. Even mothers and sons. We don’t read so much about fathers and daughters – but this too is a crucial relationship.
From our fathers, we first learn how to relate to men. Whether positively or negatively, they teach us about strength, authority and respect. Studies (e.g; Nemeth, Ansary, Seiden, & Keith (2009), show that the quality of relationship a child has with her father is often reflected in later attachments – both romantic and platonic.
Relationships between fathers and daughters can also have an effect on problems like eating disorders. In her book, ‘Father Hunger’, Dr. Margo Maine argues that many of her patients “felt disconnected from their fathers. They were desperate for approval and not getting it. Girls eager for attention from their fathers will diet as a way to get it. Fathers tend to pull away when their girls hit adolescence, which makes things worse. Dads have no idea how much their daughters need them at this point.” This is not to say that parents are to blame for eating disorders. But on a positive note, fathers, as much as mothers, have a vital role to play in raising strong and healthy women.
In the US, an organisation called ‘Dads and Daughters’ was set up by two dads who realised the impact that dads could have on raising young women. One of the founders, Joe Kelly, says this: “Since most CEOs are men, we write to them dad to dad and ask them, ‘Is this the message you want to send your daughter?'” In this way, the organisation has successfully persuaded major companies such as Campbell’s and Sun-In to pull advertising that perpetuates negative gender stereotypes.
I thank God for my human dad. But he’s not the saviour I dreamt of as a child. He’s human and someday he too will leave. Whether or not you’ve got the earthly dad you wanted, the story doesn’t end there. Our heavenly Father is perfect. Loving. Wise. Compassionate. He will never leave us. He looks on us with eyes of everlasting love. He rejoices over us with singing. He will never let us down and He will never let us go.