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CREATING MEMORIES WITH HER

How do you create memories with your daughter? Where do you start if you want an extraordinary relationship with her? I have good news - it's not difficult, and here's a hint: start small. Little things add up over time. Big little things.

 

Consistency matters, routines of time and attention matter - regular events she can count on. One lady told me her best memory was going with her dad every Saturday morning to a nearby town to buy supplies for the home. She remembers listening to the radio in his truck, just her and dad. Every Saturday. Big little things. 

 

I have two words for you: Dunkin and donuts. It’s not complicated and it's not about the donut. But donuts work. So do flowers and chocolate. Write that down. Be the dad who looks up words in the dictionary with his daughter. 

 

If you are not sure what to do, go home and watch her. If she likes to play with Barbies, do that. You don’t know how to play with Barbies? Don't worry, she will show you. If she likes to get her nails done, do that. If she likes to go shopping, do that.

 

Just lost half the men reading this.

 

Dads, go shopping anyway. If she's trying on clothes and asks, ""How does this look?" you should hear, "I'm giving you an IQ test." She's inviting you in and taking a risk. She wants to know what you see when you see her. She wants your affirmation and your blessing. Give that to her. But tell the truth, the kind version of the truth - she'll know if you're blowing smoke.

For many years, I bought all my daughter's' clothes. I went shopping with them for their first dance dresses in middle school. On one day of shopping at Old Navy with Elizabeth, age 13 or so, she took a pile of clothes to the dressing room, trying them on one at a time for my feedback. I remember liking some better than others, some a lot, some not much, and being honest with her. After a few "not very much" outfits I said, "It seems like I'm not liking a few things you tried on, sorry. I'm just telling you what I think - you should pick what you like." I still remember her response: "That's ok, it's why I like shopping with you. I know if you say something looks good it does." She's 21 now and just yesterday, as I'm writing this, came in to model an outfit and get my opinion. 

DAD TIP ON SHOPPING: You have a job to do with boundaries around what is and what isn't appropriate for her to wear. Don't always delegate this to mom.  I once said, “Looks great! I’m willing to pay for more material.” 

DAD TIP ON CREATING MEMORIES #1: Just you and her!! If you have more than one kid, do this for each of them. One-at-a-time memories, when she has you all to herself, are the ones that will stand out. Those moments tell her how important she is to you.

 

DAD TIP ON CREATING MEMORIES #2: Take a picture with you in it!! Ask someone to help. As Steve Addis said, “No one ever refused.” I have thousands of pictures of my daughters but not many with me in them. Why? Because I'm the one taking the pictures - make sure she has some with you! 

ROAD TRIP: Here’s another idea: take her on a road trip. Just you and her. (Just lost the other half of men reading this.) But don't worry, if she’s under 13, all you need for a successful road trip is the promise of a hotel swimming pool at the end of the day. And her favorite blanket.

 

As she gets older, the pool promise will become less exciting. There will be more silence.

 

If she says, “I don’t feel like talking,” say, “That’s ok.” She will talk when she's ready. Then keep driving.

 

If she says, “I’m bored…” say, “I’m here if you want company.” Keep driving.

 

Maybe she will say, “I hate school.”

 

Say…. Nothing.

 

Shut up and listen, Dad. Another IQ test.

 

Not every question needs an answer and not every complaint needs fixing. I picked Elizabeth up from school one day in the 6th grade. She had a shocking story of middle school death and destruction. As I struggled to make sense of it and think of something to say, she said, "Can we get some ice cream."  I said the most brilliant thing ever - "What flavor?" You may be surprised how many problems get solved by keeping your mouth shut. Write that down. 

 

Let her be where she is and who she is. Don’t just say she can talk to you about anything . . . show her. Listen without an agenda and without trying to fix. If you listen long enough, she will tell you the stories of her life. The real ones. Somewhere between mile 200 and 300, in general, in my experience. 

 

They might not be easy to hear. When she knows you can hear without criticism, judgment, or fixing, eventually ... you will have a conversation. You will know when. 

 

Sometimes you just need to "Shut Up and Listen". 

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DEPOSITS IN THE MEMORY BANK

Over the years, I’ve asked many women to share memories of their fathers. Here are some of my favorites.

AIRPORT HERO: "It was the end of our family vacation. I was five years old. We turned in the rental car and were headed through the terminal to the gate. I realized I’d left my doll in the rental car. My mom said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get a new one when we get home.’ But my dad scooped me up in his arms. We ran back through the terminal, got on the shuttle bus, and returned to the rental car place...

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YOUR TURN

Someday Rachel will forget the day I took her flowers and chocolate at school. But she will probably remember how she felt when she got them: seen, heard, valued, cared for, important, and loved. Maybe not consciously, but the way she felt in that moment is in there. You can do that same thing. Start small—just start somewhere. And remember to document with photos so she will have them to treasure.

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So many memories to make. So many opportunities to teach her how valuable she is and how she deserves to be treated. Start small. Be consistent. All that's really required is your time and attention. Except...

That's not quite all. She will remember the things you did in your time together, yes. But as she gets older, she'll also take with her how you showed: It's the kind of man you are and the example you set that matters most in the long haul. 

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