She Doesn't Need a Man Standard

I don't want my daughter to marry a man like me. I don't want her to have marriage like mine. I don't even want her to think of me or my marriage as "good." So I've decided not to be a role model for my daughter.

On some level, I know that can't be avoided. Little girls idolize their fathers and look to them as the only example of manhood they have. This is why we often hear that girls with "good" dads will grow up to have a healthy view of men, and those with "bad" dads will have an unhealthy view. As wise as this sounds, I'm still uncomfortable ever being equated with "good" in my daughter's mind.

That's not because I'm afraid I won't be a great dad, I will. Call it pretense or call it resolve; either way, it's happening. But it's also the last thing I want my daughter to think about me. Because if she sees me as good, she sees good as me.

Not only am I not good (quite awful, really), most of me is neutral. Most of everyone is. Some people are confident and ambitious. Some people are meek and compliant. Some are introverts, some are extroverts, but none are more "good" than the other. These are neutral character traits. And everybody has peculiar ones.

For example, I value knowledge. I not only invest my mind in my job and my co-workers' jobs, I learn for learning's sake. This means that one of my biggest pet peeves is ignorance. As unreasonable as it sounds, I get frustrated when others don't know or understand what I do. My wife has even warned me about calling everyone an idiot in front of our daughter because of the messages it might send.

One of those messages might be that not knowing something is bad. This could prove quite frustrating for her if she doesn't have the same predisposition for knowledge retention. She might even develop self-confidence issues because she never feels like she can measure up. It's hard to be great dad if you're making your daughter feel like a failure.

On the flip side, imagine that I'm the failure and a genuinely awful dad (unlikely, I know). Another benign characteristic I have is the ability to laugh at virtually anything. In this case, my daughter could grow up hating people who laugh a lot just because I was a bad role model. And in both cases, a moral judgment has infected a healthy expression of personhood.

Humanity is beautiful and diverse, and part of being a great dad (in my opinion) is helping our daughters appreciate that. I'm not saying this will be easy. To the contrary, I can see how tempting it would be to let our little girls' natural attachment to us feed our egos. Affirmation, even diminutive, is dangerous without confrontation.

Just like children eventually need to be confronted by the reality that Santa isn't real, so fathers need to remember that they're not God or his gift to manhood. And the first step in doing this--and teaching our daughters the same--is validating the kinds of men that aren't like us.

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