“Behind every great woman, you will find her dad.” According to an article by Joanne Richard in the Edmonton Sun, that’s the kind of extraordinary power that a father has over his daughter. Dr. Mary Jo Rapini, a psychotherapist and author, declares that the way a dad treats his little girl determines how she will feel about herself as a woman. If fathers admire their daughter’s achievements, character, and looks, says Dr. Rapini, that girl will become a confident and self-assured person who will choose a husband who treats her the same way. In fact, Dr. Rapini echoes the old maxim that the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.
I think Rapini is on to something! Research studies indicate that daughters tend to marry someone who treats them like their dad treated them. That is true in our family. My husband often says that he is grateful that I am a “daddy’s girl” because he is the beneficiary of my father loving me unconditionally. Our daughter is a “daddy’s girl,” and our son married a “daddy’s girl.” It certainly has proven to be a good formula for successful marriages in our family.
Research indicates that before the age of 12, 90 percent of a girl’s self-esteem is shaped by her relationship with her father. Though my dad has been dead for over 20 years, I see him in the shape of my hands, in the color of my eyes, in my exuberance and in the ways that I face life — in both good times and during adversity. My dad encouraged me to try anything, and he gave me the confidence to believe that I would succeed whenever I do my best.
My sister laughingly says that she was in college before she realized that she wasn’t the most talented and beautiful girl around. That was the legacy of our father: each of us grew up confident in our abilities, looks, and potential. We are all confident and accomplished because daddy believed in us and encouraged us from our earliest memories.
That should not have been the case, because we lived by much stricter standards than our friends. Daddy was definitely the HEAD of our house; we were not allowed to go to dances or movies. But Daddy’s strict rules were not burdensome; he explained why he believed those rules were good for us, and in our weekly “family counsels” we had the opportunity to “talk back” and complain. It didn’t change his mind, of course, but we let off steam, and he listened respectfully. Plus, Daddy was fun. When Daddy was there, life was a party. We had a good time; he was always ready to go to the ballgames at our school and to take the family on a picnic, to a park or on a trip.
Daddy was “called to preach” when I was 11 years old. No one in my father’s family had gone to college, but he determined that he could not offer God less than his best. So, he committed to getting the education necessary for full ordination and the theological training necessary for being an in-depth and powerful preacher of the Gospel. That meant uprooting our family and moving us to another state so that he could enroll in college. During those years when he was working full-time as a student pastor and attending college and seminary, we saw the light in his study shining under the door as we went to sleep. We grew up understanding the sacrifice that was necessary for excellence and the importance of giving your very best to God.
Daddy was not perfect, of course, but we never doubted his love for mother or for us. He made it easy for us to believe in God’s love because his love was so constant and unconditional. To paraphrase George Santayana, “A good father is one of God’s Masterpieces.” Certainly, a good daddy is one of God’s greatest gifts to a little girl.