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My Daughter's Privilege of Authentic Fatherhood
June 21, 2016
This was the first Father's Day I experienced as a parent. Previously, I was always the daughter, daughter-in-law, niece, friend, etc. I was never the other parent. Watching my husband interact with our daughter this past weekend was both a beautiful and deeply reflective experience. As we spent almost the entire weekend together as an immediate, and then an extended family, I reflected on the powerful privilege of fatherhood.

Having your father in your life is a privilege. Having a positive male figure in your life is a privilege. Having a diverse, and well-rounded view of manhood is a privilege. There is much talk about absent fathers, especially in the Black community. And while the CDC has done amazing work to dispel this very flawed theory that Black fathers are MORE absent, the myth still exist. I know I can't change that perception overnight, nor will I try. Instead, I want to pivot the conversation a bit. The real privilege of fatherhood lies not in the mere presence of your father, or father figure, but in the relationship that their presence brings.

I didn't fully understand this concept until I had a daughter and saw how, even as an infant, she clings to her dad. Their bond is evident. Not only does she look JUST like him, but she yearns for his presence. She smiles when he enters the room, mocks his movements, and follows him all around the house. It is magical to watch.

But, developmental, my husband is also providing vital room for our daughter's growth. For example, he allows our daughter to explore. She crawls, takes the beginner steps to walking, and generally expands on her natural curiosity. There are many moments when I cringe in fear as she debates crawling and "walking." In those moments my husband almost always says, "She is fine. She can't learn if we don't allow her to fail." Yes, this is in reference to her using the end table as a prop, or feeding herself green beans, but the implication is huge! I do fear her failing. I fear she will fall down in front of the end table and cry as we console her. I also fear she won't make friends in school. Or will experience a crushing breakup before prom. I worry she won't like sports and will force me to become a Cheer mom. These are real thoughts I have. And while I take comfort in my husband saying, "She will be fine," our daughter needs to hear those words even more. He is setting the standard by which she should feel safe. If he is concerned, then it's probably not worth it.

I recently read a report that daughters who have active fathers in their lives have better self-esteem. Additionally, they are more emotionally equip to deal with challenging situations. When our daughter feels the unconditional love her father has for her, she is taking notes, and storing those feelings in her heart. I see it forming already at only nine months old.

Research also suggest involved fathers have girls with greater critical thinking skills, and the buzz word of the year: grit. I can't help but think that grit is built through failure - of which my husband is much more comfortable allowing. Her critical thinking is built not so much from fancy baby puzzles, but from having to maneuver from the end table to couch to floor without crashing to the floor. Again, these are moments I hesitate to facilitate.

There are moments, really sappy ones like now, where I sit and reflect on how blessed our daughter is. These moments almost always involve my husband - her dad. He is exactly who she needs him to be at all times. That is what authentic fatherhood is. It's more than showing up. It's more than being the financial provider for the house. It is choosing to be involved in ALL aspects of her life - from the delivery room to diaper duty to infant swim lessons. She is a complete reflection of him, and I am totally fine with that.

I salute you Charles, and I thank you for being who Vivian and I need you to be. I also salute my father and father-in-law for your unconditional love and support. The privileges I gained from our relationships have made me a better wife and mother. Lastly, I salute all dads who are present, and fostering positive, meaningful relationships with the children in their lives. Your reach and impact is substantial. It matters!
Written By
Victoria Graham
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