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daddy datesFOUR DAUGHTERS, ONE CLUELESS DAD, AND HIS QUEST TO WIN THEIR HEARTS
By Greg Wright
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Greg Wright and Another Door Opens, L.L.C. f/s/o Diane Dee
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Tree and Me
I don't come from a family of girls. I have a couple of brothers and a sister, and then all of a sudden there's a wife and four daughters, and I'm not even thirty yet.
Heck, even the dog is female.
I never thought I was the type of guy to have kids, and honestly I probably wasn't the type of guy to get married either. My dad is a country boy at heart, and my mom had a passion for city life, so it came as no big surprise when things didn't work out.
As a young man I was very self-centered and more than a little arrogant. It was all about me, man. If they were giving out awards for being selfish, Big Tex would've had a hard time pinning a blue ribbon on my puffed up chest at the state fair, it was so big. Definitely.
But then I met my wife, fell in love, and we tied the knot on Valentine's Day 1992. I was twenty-one years old. We were only a few months into marriage when my bride gave me a Hallmark card with little booties on it. You'd think that would trigger my comprehension of the bignews, but nooooo. What an idiot. When I finally realized she was pregnant, I remember feeling this tiny bit of excitement buried under a mountain of yikes, now what?
Then came three more precious baby girls—bing, bang, boom. They're about as close together as you can get without having quadruplets.
That much estrogen was too much for me to reasonably understand, and I knew that I was in way over my head.
When our littlest entered kindergarten, I had a very dramatic feeling that I was in danger of becoming a complete loser in the dad-of-big-girls department.
Frankly, that thought scared me to death because I knew that when it came to parenting, I was just shooting from the hip every day, and I wanted a solution. I wanted a plan. Now.
So I did what any reasonable male would do: I bailed. Not on my wife and kids, but to a mountaintop in Colorado. I thought some manly alone time would help me figure out how in the world I was going to handle my responsibilities. I was petrified that I was going to mess up the most important job I'd ever have.
That's when I found "The Tree."
I plopped myself down under a big ole pine tree and decided to take a business approach to this problem of dad-being and girl-raising. I took a notepad out of my backpack and clicked the pen a few dozen times, as if revving the engines on the paternal horsepower ready to leap onto the page.
The truth was anything but. What was I going to do with these four female dependents who depend on me to the tree and me be the Great Wise One? What do I know about women—of any age?
That was a nonstarter. I stuck the end of the pen in my mouth and tapped my teeth.
Okay, relax. I can figure this out. First, I need to set some goals. Yeah, that's it. But wait, I'm missing real goals in my own life, my own career, and my own marriage. And maybe I ought to get my life together first, because that's what mature, responsible men do, right? No, forget about all of that, I just need to get more on track with my wife. Or maybe, I should probably create a solid ten-year plan for my business first so I can top off that college fund. And what about retirement, buddy, you haven't even thought about that ...
Somewhere in this vast jumble of rhetorical nonsense, I realized I just needed to stop and focus on my goals for being a dad. Wasn't that my excuse for being here in nature?
So I clicked the Bic to the "on" position and wrote down each child's name.
Next I'll make a list of what I really know about them for sure.
And here's what I came up with: not much. It wasn't the first time I had that realization. A couple of weeks earlier, I accidentally overheard (okay, eavesdropped) the girls yakking at the table over homework and was struck dumb by my complete and profound ignorance about my own off-springs' desires and opinions.
Clearly, I didn't have a single clue—not even a clue of a clue—what my girls really thought about the world and what's important about it. I knew what my experiences of them were, but I couldn't say that I knew them. I didn't know what motivated them. I couldn't answer even the simplest question. How do they see me? How do they see their roles in life? What makes their hearts sing? Is the world good and friendly, Or evil and hostile? Is their favorite color pink or purple? Crest or Colgate? Who knew?
Not Dad, that's for sure.
And then it struck me that when I met my wife, I didn't know anything about her either, but I was lovestruck and did what a guy does when he thinks she's "the one." I made it my mission to find out what she liked so I could be her hero. (Or at least have a shot at being one.) I decided to discover who she really was and what she loved and feared and wanted in life. I pursued knowing her with gusto and wound up with the woman who gave me the greatest gifts of my life.
That's the moment I became really curious about the four adorable strangers in my house. I realized I needed a better strategy to understand what makes them tick so I could have a shot at connecting with them in a profound way too.
So I decided to write a focused Purpose and Mission statement about this dad thing. Why am I here, what's the point, what do I have to contribute as a father? Well, money, love, wisdom, and that kind of thing. The other X chromosome, of course. What else?
Okay, forget purpose. Too murky. We'll circle back around to that later. Let's go with mission. Good word. A real guy word if there ever was one. I can do that. So, what is my mission for being a good dad? If I'm here for a particular reason, and none of my children were cosmic accidents, and I'm intended to be Wise Father Wright ... well, then what? What's the next step? Or is that purpose?
I know that to complete a successful mission, you can't just park yourself and accomplish it. You have to have a game plan. Everybody knows that. So I spent an exorbitant amount of time trying to construct Greg's Grand Soliloquy on my fatherly mission and purpose, or purposeful mission, or whatever. I entertained myself and wasted hours trying to come up with that nonsense, only to find out that it was total garbage—meaningless platitudes, dog doodles on the page.
My tail hurt and I was hungry, but I wasn't giving up.
Yet I had to admit I was stuck. Apparently this dad-mission thing is pretty tricky too. I just couldn't get away from thinking of being a dad as if it was like being anything else, like the head of a company or a team leader or a professional coach—because that's easy. I know how to do that. What's my purpose? To help other people reach career goals and achieve their ambitions. Get through to the next level. Yada yada to some, but I believed I was pretty good at it. My clients were doing well and my seminar business was too. There was proof.
It took me a while to realize that parenting isn't a business, though, and after I drafted pages and pages of lofty language, I finally drilled my Dad Mission Statement down to three simple words.
Don't screw up.
Yeah, that works.
Chapter TwoWhat Do I Know?
Of course, don't screw up is totally fear driven. But at least it sounded right. It was honest.
Okay, check. Mission statement accomplished. But how, exactly, was I going to do it? I started looking at each one of my girls, and I realized I needed to know more about what I didn't know. That required research. Then an action plan. And I wasn't sure how I was going to do that; I just knew it was a goal.
Now we're getting somewhere.
So like most guys, I fell back on what I already knew. I wandered in my head back to my high school days. I definitely made a ton of mistakes back then, and I'm certainly not proud of some of the more idiotic choices I made as a teenager, but there was one thing I was proud of: I knew how to date. I wasn't a good boyfriend, but I knew how to date. I knew what that looked like.
Actually, I was very creative in my teenage dating life, and even a little competitive. I thought things through, I would plan out the whole scenario, and it would usually be something pretty cool and specially designed to please a particular girl.
Sometimes the date would go awry, but most of the time it worked out and the current object of my desire would say yes when or if I asked her out again. She would also talk to me a lot during the evening, and I knew she meant it when she said, "I had a nice time," because she told her girlfriends, "Hey, that Greg is a fun date." I earned a bit of a reputation in my circle at school for this minor social skill.
I liked that.
For example, in Dallas they have Shakespeare in the Park, and while most of my buddies were dinner and movie guys (at the most), I liked the finesse of something more creative. When I announced that I was taking my dates to Shakespeare, they would look at me like a calf at a new gate. I remember thinking, You can think Hamlet is uncool, but I'm the one getting the girls to say yes to going out with me.
I learned pretty quickly that I was good at this dating thing, and I dug that.
So here I am a dad now, and why can't I apply some of that same mojo to this situation? With a completely different purpose, of course: one pure of heart, with a new trajectory.
Although I'm ignorant when it comes to many issues about women, there's one thing I do get about our interaction and the nature of our inherent roles: I believe it's the job of every husband and father to understand that his job—perhaps his most important job—is to be the pursuer.
Not just at the beginning, but all the way through. I am convinced that to be successful in our relationships with the fairer sex, our role in life is to pursue the understanding of the women who are important to us, until we're no longer breathing.
That's pretty much it. That's why this chapter is super short. In my opinion, any man who gets this concept also "gets" women, including his daughters, wife, sisters, mothers, and female friends. Doesn't matter their age. Girls want us to discover their specialness, praise it, and treasure it.
Gentlemen, we have lift-off.
Chapter ThreeThe Pursuit of Happiness
I'm not exactly a bejeweled kind of guy. Yet I wear this woven thing around my wrist. My eldest daughter made it about a year ago, and when she gave it to me, I thought, Oh, that's sweet, but nothing too unusual—Tori's a thoughtful girl, and we have that kind of relationship.
But as it turns out, this wasn't any ole object d'art she created. I guess you could say it was a form of show-and-tell for high school that's still telling. It was part of an oral report assignment, which was to write an essay about the meaning of a best friend, and she said I was the only one in her life who fit all of the criteria. When she told me what it represented, I was moved to tears.
Yep, this true blue Southern boy wears a bracelet. Whenever I wonder if I'm on the right dad-track, it's right there for inspiration and encouragement. That bracelet will have to rot off of me.
The details are hazy about that conversation, but I clearly remember saying to my daughter at the time, "Gee, you have a million friends. Why did you pick me?" Tori looked at me like I was just plain silly. "Daddy, of course You're my best friend. I can talk to you about anything."
That just blew me away, and I now realize that this is a core concept for me as a father. Knowing a daughter—really knowing her—won't happen just by going to her soccer practice, no matter how many high-fives and "good jobs" you give her. Pursuing a relationship with your daughter is a conscious choice, and it takes energy and imagination, and (there's no way around this) the willingness to deal with messy emotions and questionable logic.
It doesn't mean you'll always want to do it or that it will be easy. But it is achievable, and you can learn how to observe the ups and downs in the relationship without getting seasick. And more than that, it's totally worth it.
Pursuing a daughter with the goal of getting to know what's in her heart and mind is how you will bond with her, build her confidence, and find happiness ... for both of you.
My payoff is that I have the kind of relationship with my teenage daughters that other dads envy. I have a blast with my girls, and we're superclose, but trust me, I'm no pushover. (Well, not always.) Do they mess up? Sure. Do I mess up? All the time. But I have their love and respect, and our teens are eager participants in family life. They're not perfect (and neither am I), but we're connected. Like superglue.
Now, by "pursuit" I'm not talking about chasing your little princess, spoiling her, or giving in to endless wishes and whims. I'm talking about making the effort to understand your kid, because that way, as she evolves and navigates the teen years, you will be able to follow where she's going mentally and keep her grounded so she'll be self-confident and less susceptible to losers, scammers, and avoidable disasters when she's out on her own.
She'll turn to you when she needs a strong shoulder until she gets married, and she'll actually want to be around the old man later on.
That's what we all want for our girls, right?
Let's get something straight, though. When you intentionally pursue how a girl thinks about things, it usually means how she feels. That's where it's a little different from being with a son, when you can sit there with a hot dog, watch a ballgame, yell at strangers, say little to each other, and still have a bonding experience. (Or so I'm told. What do I know about raising boys?) Girls? Nope. If Dad wants to get close and know how his daughter feels about a movie, a sport, a teacher, a trip, the big cosmic question "to diet or not to diet," or—heaven forbid—a boy, then there's only one way to accomplish that. You have to talk. And listen.
That one insight—that I wanted to pursue knowing my daughters—was the lightning bolt ah-ha moment. And then I came up with a strategy: dust off the old dating skills and put them back into action, but this time for a better purpose.
Pursue daughter-knowing by dating them. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Chapter FourMy Date with Destiny
Sixteen years ago, my birth-buddy assignment was to be my wife's coach, supporter, and videographer, the last of which I definitely stunk at. (I closed the camera shutter by accident and the first several minutes of the home movie about a major life event has sound but no pictures—a mistake I've never lived down.)
It was an astonishing, life-altering experience, but I didn't have an immediate connection with this newborn child in the delivery room, and I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me for not having a gushier reaction.
Then it was time for my still-slimy daughter to be taken somewhere else by the nurses. I tagged along behind the women in white—I don't know why. It was very quiet when they started cleaning up the infant and doing all those things that I'm sure they do to all babies, but when Nurse Ratched pricked little Victoria's heel and drew a blob of blood, I never wanted to punch a lady more in my life.
The moment that pin-dagger touched the tiny foot, my fist closed hard as a handball, but at the exact same moment my heart opened so wide so fast that I almost passed out from the onslaught of emotion. I suddenly had a feeling of compassion and protection so overwhelming for this brand-spanking-new little person that I literally couldn't breathe.
And that please-God-let-me-throw-myself-on-a-hand-grenade-before-harm -comes-to-my-child feeling has never let up for a second.
Fast forward a few weeks later. We're home, and I can't take my eyes off this kid. I can't even think straight. I can't find the words to describe this feeling I have for baby Victoria. I want another one as soon as possible, which is nuts because I didn't think I wanted the first one, and now I want another baby? What's wrong with me?
Excerpted from daddy dates by Greg Wright Copyright © 2011 by Greg Wright and Another Door Opens, L.L.C. f/s/o Diane Dee. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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