“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Real Father’s Day Part I

Ordinarily I wouldn’t give my husband a Father’s Day gift. His children will do that. But these are not ordinary times, and I did surprise him with a Sony 12-megapixel, 4x zoom lens Cyber-shot digital camera, much advanced over his 5-year-old version.

 2 photos with the new camera

 

This camera is a symbol as much as it a functional object to record many, I hope, years of happy memories.

 

As a symbol, it acknowledges that “Papa” is and will likely be the only real father our granddaughter will know, as we have legal custody of her. Truth: I hope Joanna Leigh will never have to know her biological father. He is a meth addict with other children he has never had anything to do with; he has never shown any interest in our granddaughter other than signing a paternity affidavit; he is a loser who will soon go back to prison for meth use and manufacturing.

Reality: she may want to know about him or meet him one day. Thankfully, she will have Papa to provide the father-daughter relationship that every female child needs and help to prepare her to face hard realities one day.

Newsy Fathers and Daughters

I can speak to the father-daughter relationship, particularly to the positive, healthy, and wonderful kind, and I’m forever grateful for it. The potential in that relationship is without bounds. Fathers and daughters, and by implication their special relationship, is a current newsmaker, thanks to Malia and Sasha Obama and the relationship with their father, who can serve as good a role model and ambassador as anyone. His primary message is that fathers need to be involved and included.

Instinctively we know that the father-daughter relationship is both special and necessary for the daughter’s emotional health and stability. But sometimes we don’t know how or why. Today, though, we are lucky today to have 10 or 15 years worth of science that solidly supports our instincts. I have been researching and reading in total amazement of the quantity. Thank goodness my father knew it instinctively.

Joe Blow - WebPhoto by Emory Kimbrough 

War Torn

Military service and war has always separated fathers and children. This was my story for the first two years of my life, which will be the subject of the following post.

There is so much research out there that it is hard to summarize. A lot is for a father’s involvement with sons and daughters. A start might be Jeremy Adam Smith’s The Daddy Dialectic blog, particularly the July 14, 2008, post “The Astonishing Science of Father Involvement.”

Science for Fathers

He lists factors that research shows matter, but a surprising one goes like this:

There's another factor that I don't think gets mentioned often enough: early involvement with infant care. When a child is born, testosterone falls dramatically in men. In fact, studies by biologist Katherine Wynne-Edwards and others show that pregnancy, childbirth, and fatherhood trigger a range of little hormonal shifts in the male body—but only if the father is in contact with the baby and the baby’s mother, a crucial point.

He also leads the reader to an important blog site, Half Full: Science for Raising Happy Kids:

My esteemed colleague at the Greater Good Science Center, executive director Christine Carter, posted two very nice summaries of research into fatherhood over at her "happy kids" parenting blog, Half-Full. The first asks: Are Dads as Essential as Moms? The answer is, Of course!

One of Carter’s points addresses the leading cause of the breakdown in the relationship between fathers and children:

One of the biggest problems with divorce is that when a father moves out, the father-child relationship frequently falters. If he stays in the game, his kids will cope far better with the divorce.

Science for Fathers and Daughters

The mother lode (sorry, couldn’t resist) of information specifically on the father-daughter relationship is Dr. Linda Nielsen’s site.   A professor at Wake Forest University, Nielsen teaches “the only college course in the country that focuses exclusively on father-daughter relationships.” She is the author of numerous works, including Embracing Your Father: Creating the Relationship You Want with Your Dad (McGraw Hill 2004) and Between Fathers and Daughters: Enriching & Rebuilding Your Adult Relationship (Cumberland House, 2008). These works are aimed at the daughters and how they can take steps to repair relationships with their fathers.

One of the most compelling reasons she gives for tending to this specific relationship follows:

    • Fathers generally have as much or more impact as mothers do in the following areas of their daughters’ lives: (1) achieving academic and career success—especially in math and science (2) creating a loving, trusting relationship with a man (3) dealing well with people in authority—especially men (4) Being self-confident and self-reliant (5) Being willing to try new things and to accept challenges (6) Maintaining good mental health (no clinical depression, eating disorders, or chronic anxiety) (7) Expressing anger comfortably and appropriately—especially with men.

Wow. If you have daughters, this resonates.

But she is changing direction. Because of the huge numbers of fathers and daughters affected by divorce, she is working on Divorced Dads and Their Daughters. She wrote a 1999 article for Journal of Divorce and Remarriage,  which likely is the groundwork for the upcoming book, and more information on this topic is already available in Embracing Your Father. The last paragraph of the article likely foreshadows her book’s themes:

In many ways then, our research is reminding us that divorced fathers are often demoralized and demeaned in ways that make it difficult for them to maintain close relationships with their children. Many of our personal and legal beliefs about divorced men and divorced women work against fathers. We still have far to go in providing the support and the compassion that divorced fathers deserve as adults whose marriages have ended, but whose feelings, needs, and desires as parents endure.

What science has discovered about the effects of a father’s presence in his daughter’s life offers one clear message: The knowledge makes it clearly our responsibility to make the father-daughter relationship happen.

 

The 78 rpm record above will be explained in Part II

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