- Family and Parenting
Daddy's Girls: The Father-Daughter Relationship
Daughters Look For Their Fathers In Their Lovers
Child development theorist Margaret S Mahler who co-authored the book, ‘The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant’ one of the most respected texts on early childhood, says that children in the second year of life need to establish some degree of independence from their mothers and express some anger in the process.
If little Mary scratches her mother’s face when she is told not to pull the cat’s tail and father is there to comfort her and reassure her that she has love and protection, it goes a long way in making her strong and independent. Will he be there when she needs him, will he love her even when she fails? Or when she’s sick, angry or sad? Is she attractive? These are the same questions she will ask of her mate when she’s an adult.
Susan B. says that her father was always the unapproachable type, immaculately dressed, with his life revolving not round his family, but his work and colleagues. He did not see the need to read her a bedtime story, soothe her bruises with band aids, watch her perform in school or comfort her when she woke from a nightmare. That was always Mommy’s job. His was to provide the financial support, not the emotional.
When she grew up, she married a man just like her father who was immaculately dressed and incapable of emotional warmth. Many rejected girl children grow into women who must woo man after man to undo the first wound and fill the emptiness that has now become infinite. Some marry much older men in the hopes of finding protective tenderness and yet they expect so little that they often get little in return. They tend to act girlish, helpless and incompetent in order to feel constantly protected.
A Loving Father-Daughter Relationship
Alas, that’s how many fathers have behaved in the past, with a few exceptions like my own who, although chiding about my wild late nights out dancing and my boyfriends, always said I would amount to something. He never fell from the pedestal I placed him upon. He would buy me rolls of expensive canvas and oil paints without a query when I asked for them. He would let me snuggle up to him after I’d had a bad dream, he would come into my room and caress my forehead as I slept after he had scolded me.
He never touched alcohol and although divorced from my mother, never remarried. He would wait up for me till I got back in the nights. He was a closet poet with a beautiful voice and Doon School manners, highly respected in his field of work. I wanted very much to be like him. He died of lung cancer at fortyseven.
I looked for him and never found him.
Men Becoming More Sensitive
Fortunately the image of the macho man is changing to that of the sensitive, caring man. Look at the commercials for Raymond’s ‘The Complete Man’; and Dustin Hoffman in the movie ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’, running through the streets with his little boy in his arms to the hospital because he is bleeding from a cut over his eye. In fact I know a father who perhaps spends more time with his two demanding sons than does their mother.
It is clear that the complex tapestry of childhood needs the threads of both male and female. Whether in the pain of rejection or the joy of encouragement, we are all Daddy’s Girls.