Being a Dad–Mama Mia Monday

I had the pleasure of meeting Brad Pesnell last year when I was out visiting son #2 during his summer internship. In just a few weeks, this son will be traveling back out to begin working with the team at Valley Real Life. Recently, Brad wrote and posted these words on his Facebook page. He says the things my heart knows to be true, and I was thrilled when he gave me permission to use them on my blog today.

So today’s Mama Mia Monday is brought to you by a dad. It would be my prayer that your heart would hear what he has to say.

Brad says,

“Some of my best memories of being a dad have been when I have intentionally invested into my daughter. My wife would always nudge me and try to get me to take my daughter out, but I don’t think I ever really understood until I actually did it. I would always take my daughter with me to do my stuff, but she was talking about me entering her world. My first date with my daughter, Lily, was when she was 4 years old. That day, I took her shopping and found a fancy dress and a pair of shoes. She was completely into princesses at that point, so we knew what we wanted.

Her mother fixed her hair and went with her to get a pedicure and manicure. All day they “girl chatted.” I have no idea how two people can talk for that long, but they never seemed to grow tired. I dressed in a suit that I had bought for a wedding and had arranged for a corsage that matched her dress. I had planned to pick her up at 5pm, so I showed up on time in my washed car and walked into the house and sat on the couch. My wife presented my little girl, and she walked in with the spirit of a queen.

I took her to a very nice local restaurant that had a ballroom. She heard music and danced around by herself and then out the door, down the sidewalk, and to the car while I followed and took pictures. People would stop, smile, and reminisce as she danced by them. She didn’t even notice them.

When we got into the car she began to sing . . . to God. She sang the entire 20 minute trip back to our house. Afterward, we talked all about the night with my wife–told her about the food, the ballroom, the waiter, the silly things that Daddy did at the table, and Lily’s new song.

That night, I opened the doors for her, pulled her chair out for her, complimented her appearance, goofed around with her, and just talked with her. It was the most intentional day of my life. Since then, we have supported a friend who has started an annual Daddy Daughter Dance at our church, because I want fathers everywhere to see the power they have in their family’s life. I don’t think most men are aware of the power they have in their relationships. Most men feel dismissed or disrespected, but I promise that if you decide to pull out all of the stops for one day and make your daughter feel like the most important person in the world you will never regret it.

As I continue to raise my daughter I see gaps, more than I can fill–and it terrifies me. I don’t know how to fix those, but I pray that if I just show her AND tell her what she means to me that God will fill the gaps. Trying to do it all seems to frustrate everyone. None of us are experts, so I wanted to share a few points that made me really think and examine. I hope they make you think too.

Points by Wayne Parker, Guide

1. Respect her mom. While girls like to love their daddies, their mom is really their number one role model. If you make an effort to show their mom respect, whether or not you are still married to her, it will help your daughter love and respect you more. If you demean her mom or make Mom seem smaller in your daughter’s eyes, you are just putting a distance between your girl and you.
2. Know her friends. Particularly in the later elementary years and early secondary years, your daughter’s friends become a really important part of her life. She will tell them things she won’t ever tell you or her mom. So make sure you know who her friends are. Host a few parties or sleepovers at your place so you can get to know them better.
3. Learn to listen. One thing I have learned is that girls need to be listened to much more than they need to hear what you have to say. Try listening without judging and without offering advice. Comment only in an effort to understand better what she is saying and what she is feeling. Reflective Listening is an important skill to develop as a father, and your daughter will appreciate your focused efforts to listen for understanding.
4. Read together. One of the things my daughter would comment on is the time we took when they were little to sit down together on the couch or the recliner and read books together. It not only helps them learn to love reading, but it gives you common ground for later discussions. For example, reading Alice in Wonderland together will help you later when you teach her about making good decisions, setting goals and getting and staying on positive paths.
5. Take her on dates. While I didn’t do it as often as I should have, taking your daughters on dates every other month or so is a great way to stay connected. Take her out to lunch, to a movie, or to the bowling alley. The one-on-one time a date offers, along with being in a more relaxed environment than at home, will be time you cherish and she will remember.
6. Get involved in her interests. If your daughter is into soccer, offer to coach the team or at least go to games and practices with her. If she is taking music lessons, listen to her practice and go to recitals. Complement her on her involvement in her interests, hobbies and diversions. Learn something about her interest so you can talk about it and so you can help her excel.
7. Help with homework. Now I have to admit, being stuck around the kitchen table for two hours doing homework is not my definition of fun, but it has been a great bonding time for me with my kids. And it lets your daughter know that you value education and developing life skills.
8. Be there at the crossroads. At the important moments in your daughter’s life, make sure you are there. Schedule and keep the appointments for the rites of passage like her birthdays, first day of school, first day at junior high, first date, first dance, first prom, and so forth. These are moments she’ll remember all her life, and you will have been a part of them with her.
9. Make and keep promises. The way we build trust with our daughters is by making and keeping promises. If you commit to take her out on a date, let nothing get in the way. If you tell her you are coming to her dance recital, make sure you are there. If you promise to keep a confidence, don’t share it with others. Her seeing you follow through on your commitments will build your relationship, and will let her know that other men in her life are able to be committed and trustworthy.
10. Be a little physical. Sometimes for whatever reason, we are a little stand-offish with our daughters. They do tend to usually be a little more touchy-feely than we are, but you can add an important dimension to your relationship by giving her hugs, goodnight kisses on the cheek and holding her hand. Our girls need to feel our love, not just hear about it.

As we work to build these important relationships, it’s important to remember that our daughters need us to be a great dad and the most important male role model in her life. Helping her have a great relationship with you is good for both of you, and will help her be a better companion, wife and mother later in her life.”

Mama Mia! That dad is (B)rad! Thanks for not just saying these words, but living them out as well.

Brad Pesnell is the children’s pastor at Valley Real Life in Spokane Valley, WA where he lives with the two loves of his life, his wife Jayme and daughter, Lily.

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