Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should KnowMeg Meeker, M.D.
I like everything by Meeker that I've ever picked up, but this is my favorite. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters ought to be required reading for every man with a daughter. It ought to be given out in hospitals after every female births.
The two adjectives I would use to describe this book are "Inspiring" and "Petrifying". Inspiring because of Meeker's high view of fatherhood and fathers. She makes me feel competent, wise, and tough as a father. She gives me confidence in my ability to raise my daughter to be strong because of my influence. "Friends, family members, teachers, professors, or coaches will influence her to varying degrees, but they won't knead her character. You will. Because you are her dad." (5) She inspires me to kick into action for my little girl!
Petrifying because of the innormous responsibility this gives a father. She shares story after story of daughters on the brink of destruction that were rescued by a strong dad; and stories of good girls gone bad because of neglect, hurtful teasing, or emotional abuse. None of this is written to make dads feel guilty, but to wake them up and show them their great influence in their daughters' life. "If you fully understood just how profoundly you can influence your daughter's life, you would be terrified, overwhelmed, or both." (8)
My daughter will be bombarded, starting in early childhood, by sexual dysfunction and self-destructive ideologies:
- "Everywhere your daughter turns, at school, at soccer, at home watching TV, these thoughts [of wanting to be thinner, sexier, more beautiful] will be reinforced." (69)
- "Defend your daughter's right to be a kid." (99)
- "If your teenager is not sexually active, chances are that she will be treated as a social outcast, an unsophisticated, abnormal geek.... Her friends are having sex, and even the nice guys she dates will expect it - very shortly after they start dating." (103)
She needs my leadership and wisdom to navigate this world:
- "As a father, you may think [protecting her] unnecessary. After all, you reason, your daughter is a good kid. That's exactly my point. Nice girls can be too nice. Over and over again nice girls tell me how they [are taken advantage of]." (117)
- "Frustrated as wives can be with husbands who are program-driven, goal-oriented, and task-solving, men have these qualities for a reason. It is a father's programs, goals, and actions that can make the difference in solving daughter's problems." (132)
- "Keep her world larger than herself and her talents.... If you teach your daughter that improving her talent, intellect, or beauty will increase her self-esteem, you're setting her up for a terrible lesson, a less that can be exploited by others." (80)
- "If you don't provide for her needs, she will find someone else who will - and that's when trouble starts." (30)
My words, facial expressions, and touch can direct my daughter into the woman she will become:
- "What you say in a sentence, communicate with a smile, or do with regard to family rules has infinite importance for your daughter." (4)
- "I've heard countless girls tell me they had sex with a boy simply for the physical contact, because their fathers never hugged them or showed them affection. Her body starves for you to hug her." (96)
- "She can't feel good about herself until she knows that you feel good about her." (30)
- "When she is twenty-five, she will mentally size her boyfriend or husband up against you.... Be it good or painful, the hours and years you spend with her - or don't spend with her - change who she is." (26)
As a pediatric doctor, her views come from medical research as well as practical experience observing girls and parents. Meeker's perspective can be brutally honest at times. For instance, she argues strongly that depression is an STD (emotionally, not biologically) from teenage sex (see chapter five). The greatest part of the book is when she goes beyond the statistics and inspiring stories, and practically explains how to be strong father. The wisdom is invaluable. She doesn't give us words to say, but rather suggestions on how to have those talks: "...ask her what her friends are doing. Ask what other kids, even the ones she doesn't like, are doing. Are they drinking? Are they having sex? Let her know your views." (119)
I'm walking away from Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters knowing that I'm the most important man in my daughter's life, that I hold enormous control over her self-esteem and future success, that her relationships with all men, including her future husband, will be sized up against my character, that even her view of God will be formed based on her view of me as her earthly father. That means I better buck up. It means I better speak up. It means God has given me much more influence than I deserve, and I better not take that lightly. "From the moment you set eyes on her wet-from-the-womb body until she leaves your home, the clock starts ticking." (28)