In our Daddy Issues series, a father of a young daughter seeks guidance, hoping to raise a strong woman. He looks to women for insight.
When you're the new father of a daughter, you hear that Chris Rock joke a lot. You may know the one—something about your biggest duty as a dad is to keep your daughter off the stripper's pole.
OK, funny the first time. But when every guy you know says it, it gets old. Fast. I seriously must have heard that joke — no joke — 50 times.
Then if your daughter arrives and appears even halfway adorable, every older woman you know is going to say something along the lines of, "Better get a shotgun!"
What is it with people and girls? Have a boy and people will mumble things about football or baseball — "What an arm!" But have a girl and she's either destined to be a ho or you're going to find yourself on the front porch at midnight, clutching firearms to hold at bay the inevitable zombie invasion of hormonal teenagers.
If raising a girl is so damned important, why can't people offer you some serious advice?
I'm not talking about those sappy Hallmark sentiments "Be Honest! Be Brave!" — those are a given. I'm talking serious life skills, useful crap she can call upon as she gets older and finds herself in new or awkward or frightening situations.
So I'm starting a list — the Top 10 Things a Dad Should Teach His Daughter.
1. How to change a flat.
I was late picking up my daughter from school last week because I had to stop to change a flat. My jeans were a mess and my hands were soiled black. The kids gathered around to examine my hands and wanted to know all about it. One teacher said he would have just called AAA. On the way out of class, my daughter asked if I remembered to put the lug nut lock back in the trunk with the jack. She may not be strong enough to physically change a tire just yet, but she knows what to do. This is going to be useful on some country road some day, I just know it.
2. How to pee on the trail.
We take a lot of hikes, getting out of the house as much as possible on sunny days or throwing on rain boots to go stomping in puddles after a storm. But what do you do when you're a mile away from the trailhead and your daughter suddenly has to pee? You wouldn't think twice about sending your boy behind a tree, so why not your little girl? I've been on hikes with people who turned back, speed walked to the car and drove away instead of letting their girls pee on the trail. I think that's just plain weird.
3. How to use a reciprocating saw.
OK, maybe this is too specific. The point is, kids should learn how to safely use power tools. The saws-all is just a kick-ass piece of equipment that will help her out of a carpentry jam sometime in the future. I also taught my daughter how to use our sewing machine. I see no difference between it and other tools. With all of them, you do a boatload of measuring first and only then do you flip the switch.
4. How to negotiate the price of a new car.
My daughter listened in as I called around to different dealerships, looking for the right car at the right price. (Negotiating by phone is so. much. easier. but she should also learn to do it in person.) If anything, I hope she learned you can be polite and be demanding at the same time. It's business, not personal. If you don't get what you want, shop around.
5. How to bake a cake.
Or a cupcake. Or a dutch baby. Anything. I think it's important to have at least one memorized recipe to call on, so you can help a friend in a pinch, cook up an easy dinner party dessert or just have some fun in the kitchen every now and then. When I'm hiking with my daughter in the late summer, we look for blackberries so we can hurry home to make a clafoutis — the one thing I have memorized.
6. How to save.
When I was younger, I threw money away left and right, buying crap I can't even remember 20 years later. When I got older, I got into trouble with credit cards and their mounting late fees. I wish I had been smarter with money, and it's something I hope to impart to my daughter. And apologies now, kid, but you're going to have to pay for some of your higher education. Money management is key to independence.
7. How to throw a flying arm bar.
She should be well rounded. I like to sew dresses with my daughter. And I like to wrestle with her UFC style after dinner. She knows how to lock in a leg triangle and she knows how to put someone in an arm bar. Now we're working on a flying arm bar because, well, it's just fun and she likes to do it. Some girl friends of mine said their fathers taught them how to throw a punch. And I think this follows the same line of thought. I don't want my daughter going around knocking people out, but I want her to feel confident that she can get herself out of a physical jam if nothing else works.
8. How to be parallel park.
A friend of mine got to test out one of those self-parking cars a few years ago, before they actually hit the market, and she said when she pushed the button and then just waited for the car to park itself, she could still hear her father in her ear, yelling, "Turn, Jessica! Turn the wheel!" I hope to be slightly more patient when the time comes, but this is a skill that will save her countless hours when circling the block in search of a parking space. My mom actually taught me how to parallel park and now I can squeeze an old Buick into a space big enough for a Smart car. Important. Life. Skill.
9. How to do the dishes.
This may seem like some throwback to the era of 1950s housewives — girls, get in the kitchen! — but you will make more friends and save more relationships by simply getting your ass in front of the sink and doing your part. If someone cooks, you clean. I don't care if you're a boy or a girl. You should get in there and give the host a break after a party or help your spouse out after a long day.
10. How to drink.
Look, I'm an alcoholic. I gave up drinking three years ago because I didn't want to be a drunk as our family grew up together — neither my wife nor my daughter deserve that. I may not be the best person to offer this life lesson, but I still think it's important to learn to drink properly — whether that means knowing the difference between whiskeys or simply knowing when you've had enough. Tabletops are made for drinking on, not flashing on.
I could go on and on with these. A lot of girl friends said that "being aware of your surroundings at all times" was the most important skill, while a couple of my guy friends said they wanted their girls to know that "just the tip" is a freaking lie.
Anything you'd add to the list? Would love to hear some input!
Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out!. He thinks a curve ball is also a thing of glory.
Image by Lauri Apple.