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DAD POWER

When I said Donna followed her dreams and passions around the world, I meant it literally. She has been an English teacher in Korea, an Outward Bound wilderness instructor, fitness director, algebra and trigonometry teacher, and hut warden in New Zealand. She  traveled all over the world working as a ski instructor, director of a human performance lab, a tennis pro, tax preparer, and field hockey coach. When Donna says Frank empowered her and her choices, she meant it literally.

In ways that are both conscious and unconscious, she will follow in your footsteps and your example - if you're doing it right, this will be a good thing. It’s also possible she will marry someone who reminds her of you.

Frank and Donna Dearborn

Dads: If you knew how much influence you have over the rest of your daughter’s life, you would be stunned.

She is watching everything you do and hearing everything you say. Your tone of voice, the expression on your face. How you treat your partner. How you treat her. How you let her treat you. Demand that she treat you with respect because she is learning how to treat other humans from you.

 

But respect is earned - it's your job to give her something to respect. 

Your relationship with her will impact every romantic relationship with men she ever has. If she feels safe and cared for with you, she will seek a man that makes her feel the same way. If you ignore her, she will try to find love from men that ignore her. If you tell the truth, she will value the truth. If you model kindness and compassion, so will she. If you model persistence, she will have tenacity in her life. If you believe in her and encourage her, like Frank did, she will follow her dreams.

Your relationship with her will ripple through the rest of her life. 

DO YOU LIKE HER: She is wondering. Do you think she’s smart, worthwhile, good enough? Do you love her? Does she feel valued and safe with you, or judged and discounted? She is looking for answers. Your answers will have a lot to do with how she sees herself.

She knows things about you. Things you may not know yourself, or don’t want to acknowledge. Or don’t want her to know. She already knows. She knows when you come home from work whether to approach you or go to her room and leave you alone. Every inaction, every missed opportunity you have to engage with her ... she feels that. She notices. Be the dad that makes her the first person you smile at when you come home from a long day. Sit in your favorite chair with her and listen to the stories of her day, for as long as she tells them.

Because if she learns you are a safe place to talk about her life when she’s six, she will do it when she’s sixteen—when she needs you the most.

You have another dad superpower (and responsibility): helping her understand her stories. Stuff is going to happen to her, sometimes hard stuff. Listen to her telling of the story and fill in blanks with new information if you have some, or simply help her puzzle though the details. Help her discern between what actually happened and the story she's making up.

 

A woman I know grew up on a farm with a large family and for decades carried a grievance against her parents thanks to one event. She finally confronted her mom: “Why did the boys get steak, but the girls got peanut butter and jelly for dinner?” Mom said, “Do you remember where the steak came from?" “No."  “The steak came from Gladys, the cow that we raised and slaughtered. You girls refused to eat Gladys." “Oh." For decades she thought the boys were more important.

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DAD STORIES

The Every Sunday Project is inspired by the life of an inspirational man and father, Frank Dearborn, and the relationship he created with his daughter Donna. When Donna left for college, Frank told her he would write her a letter, every Sunday. He asked her to write back and for 32 years they did. A letter every Sunday.

 

One day, Frank had a stroke and could no longer write, walk or express his thoughts. Donna visited him in the nursing home and told him stories to cheer him up. Stories about her adventures growing up with him in the outdoors. She began to write them down, and those stories became a book: “Every Sunday: A Father and Daughter’s Enduring Connection.” It is a true love story, the story of a girl who got the dad she deserved. To read more good dad stories, click below.

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WHAT MAKES A GOOD MAN?

Tom Matlack created a movement called the Good Man Project in 2009. He said, “My personal definition of being a good man means trying to make more good decisions on a daily basis than bad. It means showing up for my wife and kids even when it’s not easy. It means trying to help someone else out of generosity rather than greed. It means telling the deepest truth I am capable of. And it means forgiving myself when I fail. Because I still fail. If I make more good decisions than bad on any given day, that is a victory. And I sleep well.”

A DAUGHTER NEEDS A DAD:.

To be the standard against which she will judge all men

If you take nothing else away from this, remember: she is learning from you what it looks like to be a man in the world. You will become the standard against which she judges other men, good or bad. You have the power to help shape the women they become - use it wisely. 

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