Collaborations: Building Bonds between Fathers & Daughters

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There is no doubt that fathers are busy people with many commitments and responsibilities pulling upon our time, energy and attention. Active careers, household duties, community service, and even personal diversion all vie for the hours in our day.

Our daughters, too, storm through their days consumed with the work of solving quadratic equations, perfecting a jump shot, or creating a stunning image with paint or camera.

To be a part of all this action requires more than just serving as a career role model for daughters: it requires active involvement, discussions and collaboration. Begin by learning about the issues and projects that are going on in your daughter's life.

Following are some reminders I use to keep myself involved in my two daughters' lives despite our busy schedules:

Become Informed

Be aware of your daughter's projects and activities. Make a point of knowing what project is due next week in history, that the auditions for The Odd Couple (female version) are tomorrow afternoon, or that a sculpture in progress is in the art studio waiting for you. Get the basketball schedule and make it to the games. In my experience, daughters do not often volunteer this information about their lives, but are eager to convey it to interested dads.

Establish a structured time each day for you and your daughter. Discuss the day's frustrations and successes. In our family, the ride to and from school and the dinner table are good times to be attentive.

Get Involved

Become involved in your daughter's life. Knowing about your daughter's activities and interests is important, but the next step is to get involved. I watch my daughter play basketball as often as I can. After the game we talk about the need to go up with two hands to rebound effectively, or the coach's strategy in the final two minutes of the game. Maybe we'll play a little one-on-one on Saturday morning. Both my daughters are interested in creating art, so the art studio at their school is one of my favorite places to visit because it is their favorite place to work. I approach my daughters' works-in-progress with great enthusiasm and a gently critical eye because these projects reflect the issues and ideas that are important to them.

Communicate, Collaborate

Converse with your daughter. This elemental activity provides the greatest rewards to me as a dad. We talk, we discuss, we argue-about music, rebellion, politics, AIDS, DNA, artistic expression, and the ingredients for successful pasta puttenesca. But conversation does not always come easily between fathers and daughters. It needs cultivation, continued effort, and at times a little perception.

Always be ready to talk. What's on your daughter's mind? What book is she reading? On what issues have her activities been focused lately? How is she spending her free time? Conversations between daughters and fathers are, for me, the foundations of the relationship and well worth the effort.

Work together toward a common goal. Collaboration builds strong bonds. The friendships we develop from an experience on an athletic team or helping to elect a political candidate attest to this force. As a research physician and member of the American Heart Association, I help organize a statewide fund-raising walk. I recruit my daughters to help. The task is hard work: soliciting walkers, collecting donations, last minute arrangements, the walk itself. The shared sense of accomplishment and success is ample reward. Smaller collaborations are also important. A vegetable garden is a joint project that supplies our summer table.

Be attentive to these active young women, your daughters. Get involved in their lives, talk with them and work with them. You, and they, will be the better for it.

Credits: Frank Messineo

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