My daughter was 7 when her mom and I separated and I ended up with custody of her and her brother. Now, it is important to understand that she saw her mother all the time so it wasn’t like I was completely alone in raising her, but the bulk of the responsibility fell on me.
There are two major, related, issues that most people would assume would be difficult for a father raising a daughter alone: menstruation and sex. I am a well education, well informed person, and I make every effort to find out as much as I can about subjects that I might have to discuss with my kids. I’m also not shy, squeamish, or inhibited by these subjects either, so actually talking to my daughter about menstruation and sex wasn’t a big deal, or at least I didn’t think it would be.
When it came to menstruation I knew all the basic medical facts. I could explain what was happening and why. I could, from my research and experience with my mother, sister, and ex-wife, handle making suggestions in dealing with cramps, bloating, and such.
What I didn’t have answers for were questions like, “When is it better to use a tampon vs. a pad?” “Which product would be best for a particular menstruation flow situation?” It wasn’t that I was uncomfortable thinking or talking about this, I just had no clue what-so-ever. I was lucky in this respect in that by the time she reached this point in her development, I was remarried and her step-mom was able to step in and take over.
I was also lucky that she learned the basics of sex from school and her mom. Well, not lucky, but at least a lot of the work had been done for me. She and I were then able to have long discussions about the ramifications of having sex. We talked about all the different physical and emotional issues that being sexually active can cause. We talked a lot about the social implications as well, about how sex can affect your relationships with people you aren’t even having sex with, especially in high school. And, of course, we talked about the health risks associated with unsafe sex such as diseases and pregnancy.
So these two issues were easier for me to handle that most people might think. But, lurking out there were issues I’d never even considered.
Let’s talk about fashion. It isn’t that I can’t understand fashion. I majored in Theater Arts and as part of a course of studies I learned about fashion (costuming), architecture (set design), complementing and contrasting colors (set and lighting design). I understand fashion.
What I don’t understand is what is fashionable today, especially to teens. This presents a problem when my daughter asks me not only what I think of a particular outfit, but what would go well with it. It is pretty easy to tell if she looks good in something, but accessories are a different matter. Something might match well as far as color and style, but that doesn’t mean it matches the current fashion.
Another thing that is difficult is giving advice about her relationships with other girls. Guys I can relate to, having been a teenage guy way back when. I understand what guys that age are feeling and what their expectations are.
Teenage girls, however, are a real mystery to me. I know teenage girls can be harsh to each other sometimes, but all I can say to my daughter is to ignore the ones who are mean. Fortunately my wife seems to be an expert on teenage girls’ interpersonal relationships so she is able to provide a lot of advice.
As my daughter gets older, it gets easier to deal with the things she is going through. She is a very mature young woman and we are able to talk about things as two adults do. Of course, she’s still young in a lot of ways and I have to take that into consideration. Mostly that involves helping her learn responsibility, for instance, with her job now that she works. I have to remind her how important things like punctuality and reliability are. Mostly, though, she has made a very smooth transition into the working world.
Being a single parent hasn’t always been easy, and being a single dad raising a daughter has been challenging and, at times, perplexing. It has also been extremely rewarding. I have managed to develop a close relationship with my daughter and, I think, I have helped her become the strong, confident young woman she is today, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.
Featured image by nosuchuser