I remember like it was yesterday. It cut like a knife, right through my heart, to know that my baby boy would no longer peak his head in my room at night, after being out, to whisper: “Mom, I’m home”. At which time I could then fall into a deep sleep knowing all was well with the world and my babies were safe and sound in their beds.
Such is the bond between a mother and her son. But the bond between a mother and her daughter is different. It is tumultuous and yet solid. It is separate and yet tightly bound. It is knowing and yet confidently unknowing and even though I kissed and hugged my oldest daughter yesterday and said goodbye to her at college, I have a strange sense of peace that all is still right with the world. She is a strong woman. Extremely smart. Very beautiful. And on her way to becoming the woman God created her to be. I am so excited to see what that ultimately looks like.
But nothing could prepare me for the reaction my husband has had toward his little girl leaving home. According to Liza Mundy of the New York Times, the empty-nest transition might be harder on dads than conventional wisdom might have us believe…….
“I recently had lunch with a friend who was preparing to take his younger daughter to college, and he recalled how traumatic it had been to send off her older sister. ‘I just missed her like hell,’ he said, recalling how he would walk through the front door and get a strange, heavy feeling: some primitive part of his brain alerting him that a family member was missing. ‘What surprised me was the physical impact of her not being there.'”
I know my husband feels very much the same way. Our daughter’s sweet face at the counter each morning at breakfast. Seeing her relaxing on the couch watching some diva dance show. Just knowing she was there made him feel like all was right with the world. And now something is not right. And it will take some time to get used too. It is a painful process of grieving and release that many dads go through due to the deeper bonds that dads have with their daughters; more so today than the dads of 30 years ago.
He will get through it. Probably just in time to go through the same thing again with our youngest daughter in 5 years. Until then, there are a few things he can do to make sure she is reminded of his love for her and that the relationship they already have stays strong.
1. Make Her Laugh ~ This is one of the easy ones for my husband because he is, by nature, a funny guy. He will send funny pics or videos to her phone. Or simply be his goofy self when they talk.
2. Go For A Visit and Take Her Out On A Date ~ Fortunately my daughter is only 90 minutes away by car so driving to her school and going for lunch or dinner will not be a problem. It is one way to continue showing her how important she is to him.
3. Send Her Notes ~ In this day and age, texting is such a blessing. A simple “thinking about you” or “how are you?” in a quick note sends a message that daughter is on dad’s mind. And she needs to know that. Especially as she enters into new college territory where things can be a little intimidating and scary.
4. Send Her Flowers ~ How fun is it for a girl to receive flowers? I know I love flowers and so do young college girls.
5. Pray For Her ~ Since dad and daughter are keeping in close touch, a quick text asking how he can pray for her is always a good idea. Then DO IT! This week, my daughter is going through Rush. She will have things narrowed down in no time and it just might be a good idea for my husband to ask her about it so he can pray for her and this process.
6. Care About What She Cares About ~ This is probably the hardest one for my husband because he makes such a point of trying to calm down her moods, tell her how beautiful she is without makeup, and how she doesn’t need to impress others. But girls are girls and they get excited. They like to get all dolled up and will occasionally want to look cute if they are going out. So my husband needs to work on just accepting her for who she is and not judge. He’s already done the hard work of bringing her up to respect herself, have a strong sense of who she is and excellent character. What more can he ask?
Dr. James Dobson writes that dads are uniquely influential when it comes to their daughters……
“Fathers have an incalculable impact on their daughters. Most psychologists believe, and I am one of them, that all future romantic relationships to occur in a girl’s life will be influenced positively or negatively by the way she perceives and interacts with her dad. If he rejects and ignores her, she will spend her life trying to replace him in her heart. If he is warm and nurturing, she will look for a lover to equal him. If he thinks she is beautiful, worthy, and feminine, she will be inclined to see herself that way.”
Whether it’s a son or daughter leaving home it’s exciting and yet it sucks at the same time. It’s a paradox. It’s a cracked conclusion to the end of a lovely chapter in a lifelong story. As sad as this part of the story is, I can’t wait to see what happens in the next chapter!
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