When Charlie Sheen, playing Charlie Harper, starred in the popular TV sitcom 2 1/2 men it was a running joke on the series that he was able to be well supplied with women in his life due to all of the poor fathers out there. Charlie provided a father figure for them because they lacked a real father either physically or mentally or emotionally in their own lives. While I love the series (and still do) it is one of my biggest fears to see my daughter seeking out a father figure other than myself, to fill the needs a father is supposed to provide for his daughter.
In her book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know author Margaret Meeker talks about the extraordinarily important role a father plays in his daughters life. It is a role that is not easily replaced.
Your daughter gets up in the morning because you exist, (Meeker 5).
Your daughter wants your guidance and support and it is never too late to strengthen her relationship with you (Meeker 6). Fathers, more than anyone else, set the course for a daughter’s life. Our daughters need our strength, our courage, our intelligence and our fearlessness but she also needs our empathy, our assertiveness and our self-confidence (Meeker 7).
Meeker says that much of what is wrong with young women today is the result of poor or unhealthy relationships with their own fathers. She has spent more than 20 years listening to daughters and prescribing antibiotics, antidepressants and stimulants to girls who have gone without a father’s love; she has been told by 14-year-old girls they have to provide fellatio, which disgusts them, in order to keep their boyfriends from breaking up with them – they also drop off varsity sports teams, flunk out of school, and vomit in junior high bathrooms to keep their weight down, all to see if their dads will notice (Meeker 8).
- Daughters are never lukewarm in front of their fathers, they light up or they cry, they watch you intensely and they hang on your words waiting for your attention, often in frustration or in despair (Meeker 8).
- Daughters needed a gesture of approval or a nod of encouragement to let them know you care and you are willing to help (Meeker 8).
- When she is in your company your daughter will try harder to excel and when you teach her, she will learn more rapidly. You will influence her entire life because she has given you an authority she gives no other man (Meeker 8).
If all of this sounds like a pretty large responsibility, it is. I have often heard that a daughters’ first love is her father. And I have seen throughout my life, that many daughters will marry men who remind them of, or are like their father. This is true in both healthy and unhealthy relationships. It’s often why a women will marry a man who abuses her, after watching her own mom be abused by her dad for much of her life.
Meeker believes that in today’s world adults do a terrible job of letting kids be kids (10). We are forcing them prematurely into an adult world (Meeker 10). By the time she gets into fifth or sixth grade she will learn what oral sex is, and will have a pretty decent chance of seeing someone engaged in it (Meeker 10). Teachers and celebrities often become the default source for our kids when they learn about sexuality (Meeker 10-11).
Many celebrities, including Sharon Stone in one case, made comments to the teens of our nation that they should participate in oral sex rather than intercourse, in what Meeker speculates can only be because she thought it was safer. Just to be clear, any sexually transmitted disease a kid can get from intercourse, he or she can also get from oral sex. Unfortunately, teachers, and most school administrators are no better informed, often following a sex education curricula that is vague at best, or actually ends up encouraging the very behavior we don’t want to start before they are ready. And speaking of celebrity, I won’t even get into Miley Cyrus’ recent activities on the VMAs.
Some of the guidelines provided to schools on sexual education includes topics on masturbation, for children’s 5 to 8, kids 9 to 12 discuss intercourse and abortion, kids 12 to 15 discuss sexually transmitted diseases and other types of intercourse such as oral, or anal, along with the various foams, gels and condoms for both men and women. By the time they are in 10 through 12th grade, topics of discussion include the use of a erotic movies and literature, and sexual fantasies involving mysterious or forbidden things (Meeker 11-13).
And we aren’t watching The Cosby Show anymore either. Studies show that the amount of sexual content on TV programs increased from 67% in 1998 to 77% in 2005. Three fourths of the shows your little girl sees have sexual content (unless she’s still in the Dora and Barney years) (Meeker 14). Primetime television now offers numerous allusions to intercourse and oral sex, and while you might not notice the scene of two people heading between the sheets you can be sure your little girl has all sorts of questions and her mind about what is going on (Meeker 15). That said, I’m not actually against all of these topics and these TV shows. But it is my job to protect my daughter until she is ready to handle this information, not to let teachers, or some Washington DC political agenda driven-curriculum, or the celebrity of the week instruct her on what is appropriate and what is not.
Here is more bad news:
- 40% of girls 14 to 17 experience unwanted sex primarily because they fear that her boyfriends will get angry if they don’t give it up (Meeker 20)
- Teen girls are greater risk for dangerous sexually transmitted diseases because the skin overlying her cervix is immature (Meeker 20).
- Nearly 50% of students, girls and boys, will be sexually active before high school ends (Meeker 20), and just because you were doesn’t mean she needs to be.
- Engaging in sex puts girls at higher risk for depression (Meeker 21).
Fathers, you are what stands between daughters and a toxic world. Toddlers who are securely attached to their fathers are better at solving problems, score higher on mental development tests and manage school stress better (Meeker 23).
For older girls connectedness to their father is the number one factor in preventing girls from engaging in premarital sex and indulging in drugs and alcohol; a daughters self-esteem is best predicted by her father’s appropriate physical affection, and girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention (Meeker 23-24). In fact, they will not feel rejected or ignored by a boy, she will simply feel that it’s the guy that is obviously missing out because her dad certainly sees all of her good traits.
Your daughter will take cues from you on everything from drug use, drinking, smoking, sex and in seeking attention from boys. When she is 25 she will mentally size up her boyfriend or husband up against you (Meeker 28).
Your daughter needs you to be her hero and it is a role she has given you the power to become (Meeker 29). If you shirk the role of hero, to coin a term from one of my daughters favorite TV shows, Good Luck Charlie.
Meeker, Margaret J. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2006. Print.