When you get divorced you all of a sudden add new roles to your single parenting job. These are duties that you would probably not have had the opportunity to experience while still married. This is especially true for fathers of daughters.
When married the “girl things” were probably passed on to your wife to handle. Now, as the sensitive new aged single dad that you are, confusion, embarrassment, and often terror are a regular part of your day as your daughter’s increasingly feminine needs fall to you to figure out.
No one properly prepared us to help our daughters with these girl things. They often pop up unexpectedly. My goal with this post is not to give you all the answers, but to give you some things to think about ahead of time. Warnings that will help you properly prepare your already frazzled emotions.
1. Boys (or girls) Let’s start with an easy one. Right. Last summer I picked my daughter up from summer school. She plopped into the backseat of the car. With a pleasant tone I asked naively, “How was your day, sweetie?” She immediately burst into tears and wailed, “Charlie, cheated on me!!!!” She was 12.
Reading between the sobs it took a while to figure out what had happened. Apparently Charlie had started talking to another girl, and his mother was picking them both up from school…on a “date”. After speaking with the summer school teachers, and later with Charlie’s mom at the grocery store, it was clear that the boy had no clue that he was in any position to cheat, and the date was nothing more than the mom giving the girl a ride home.
Lesson: The emotional life of our kids is fluid and confusing both to us and them. Listen. Ask questions. Acknowledge their feelings and support them as they try to figure out who they are and what those strange feelings of attraction really mean.
2. Pants Do you understand what 6/29 or 4P or 8M or L means when it comes to pants sizes? Well neither do women. Once your daughter’s size moves beyond the girls’ section it is a free for all. Each brand has their own unique sizing, and it might even change from season to season.
Lesson: Unlike shopping for men’s jeans, don’t expect to go into the store with your daughter, walk up to the shelf, get the same size you got last time, and be home the same day. Be ready to bring armfuls of jeans to the changing room, and wait as your daughter tries them on. Out of the 100 or so pairs that she brings to the changing room, she’ll try on 80, buy one, and the rest will be used as a mattress for your overnight at the store.
3. Bras Steps to buying a bra with your daughter
Step 1: Get over fear of being arrested as a pervert in the intimate apparel department of Macy’s.
Step 2: Drive to another city so that your daughter is not afraid of running into any of her friends.
Step 3: Complete a higher degree to understand a bra sizing chart.
Step 4: Ask the elderly sales clerk to help your daughter pick out a bra.
Lesson: Be thankful you don’t have breasts.
4. Pads or tampons or what the hell? My daughter and I decided that it was important for her to be ready when she had her first period. We proudly drove to Kmart together. We walked to the section of feminine hygiene products. And then…
How do women do it?
Lesson: Call your girlfriend for help. We ended up getting a package of Always Maxi Soft & Clean, Regular Absorbance Without Wings (in case you want a base model to start with and don’t yet have a girlfriend to call for help).
5. Birth Control I started today at a pediatric endocrinologist’s office. My daughter, because of her special needs, is vulnerable to being taken advantage of. The boys she is currently interested in are clueless to her interests, but that will not always be the case. Being pro-active about birth control options for her is necessary.
Lesson: As a male trying to help my daughter make it as a young woman, it is intimidating talking with women about “girl things” that I have never had to deal with before. My daughter was also uncomfortable talking about hormones and sex with the doctor. Yet, we can’t avoid teaching our daughters about their bodies, how to develop into a healthy sexual adult, and how to protect themselves as they mature. It is our job.
Final Thought: I have often used my friends on social media to crowdsource questions I have about parenting a daughter. During one of these I received some really good advice.
One of my friends told me that as she matured, developed a woman’s body, and became more feminine her father began to pull away more and more. He was embarrassed, uncomfortable and unsure of himself around her. As a result he had less and less physical contact with her, and it had a lasting effect.
As fathers of future women it is our job to help them learn about themselves and the world around them. We have to overcome our discomforts and learn, along with them, the skills they need to grow into healthy women.