Dad Knows When to Let Them Go Barefoot


photo credit: pasukaru76 via photopin cc
photo credit: pasukaru76 via photopin cc

Dad lets her get away with anything. He won’t say no. Dad discipline? Please.

Dads, we once symbolized authority. Now? We wield the same power as the Queen of England. Or whoever is coaching the Dallas Cowboys. If we fail to believe in ourselves, how will our kids?

Please understand: Most of us aren’t just rolling over and playing dad. There’s a thought in our actions.

Fathers have a mission. Fathers have a role. Especially fathers of little girls.

Dads must adore their daughters. Sounds elementary, but there’s more to it: Dads must realize their girls can change the world. Want proof? Just look, dad, at how your daughter has changed YOU.

I say yes, a lot. Come with me to the store. Turn the radio up. Use my laptop.

photo credit: danna (curious tangles) via photopin cc
photo credit: danna (curious tangles) via photopin cc

Climb a tree. Audition for the play. Take a trip with your friends’ families. Run barefoot.

I’m aware of the perils beneath their feet. Broken glass. Hypodermic needles. Angry scorpions and jellyfish. I’m also not fearless, or worse, oblivious. I hate playgrounds. The ones a hundred feet tall, with no guard rails? Dammit. I hate them. I’ll also walk between my girls and traffic. Let my body buffer the initial impact of a wayward vehicle. It’s a dude thing. I also have a mental plan of physical sacrifice should my daughter and I cross paths with a grumpy Rottweiler that hasn’t eaten.

It’s not the act of running barefoot. It’s the idea. The idea that it’s fine to sometimes ignore the caution light. To eschew the safe route, and just feel the sand, the grass, the sidewalk beneath your feet.

Mom must teach her how to be a woman. I can’t do this. I’m the first man in my daughters’ lives. With any luck, I’m her first love. Her hero, if only fleeting. Her love and trust in me will find its highs and lows.

If I can navigate skillfully, she’ll love and trust me forever.

I need them to feel beautiful. Strong. Independent. To seek adventure, develop courage, feel secure.

I need them to see the beauty and strength and independence and adventure and courage and security of other women. There are those before them, to pave the way. There are also contemporaries.

EJP
EJP

They inspire them to their own heights, by proxy if not by touch, so that they can not only learn but one day also become. We can’t do this passively, dads. We can’t hope we are doing enough. We must want more.

My girls exude more courage than I ever have. I see them face adversity with determination in their veins, grit in their soul, strength in their breath. Struggling to find the go-ahead goal. Or pre-algebra answer. Or appropriate words. I didn’t create this, but I’ll give every ounce of my spirit to perpetuate it.

Run barefoot, girls. Take a chance. Live bravely, know your fears, trust your heart. Follow your vision. Find yourself someday becoming the vision and excellence that great women live every day.

I’m just a guy, and I can see it in you. And I will spend a lifetime seeing that you do, too.
barefoot quote

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41 thoughts on “Dad Knows When to Let Them Go Barefoot”

  1. Well I just cried my whole way through this, Eli. It is ask so very true. My Grandfather was the guy you describe here. My Husband is this guy. The roles a father has to fill for his daughter are so huge, so very important. My Mom once told us exactly what you said here. ..my job is to teach our Kidzilla how to be a woman; her Dad’s is to teach her how to see herself. My hat is off to all of you Dads who live this. It means more to your daughters than you will ever know.

    1. Sorry Lisa! I think it’s the hidden life of dad so many people don’t see. That your grandfather and husband are this guy, explains a lot about where you come from.

      Dads aren’t just the biggest play pal. My girls are strong, independent and compassionate. I’m so proud of that.

      I also feel pride for my team when I see other dads doing the same. It happens a lot.

  2. If only all Dads were like that! My Dad taught me to use a saw, a hammer, a plane, a chisel. He also taught me how to do secret writing in case I ever became a spy hunter 🙂
    He also gave me a great love of books. He died when I was fourteen.

    1. Being a dad is the best job ever. I love that you acquired such hands-on lessons from your dad. Spy hunting skills are something my kids have a little of too. You never know.

      I wish your dad was around longer to keep up the lessons. I hope you’ve seen over the years how much your father’s legacy still lives on within you.

  3. Loved reading this. I think the key to parenting is finding the delicate balance between respecting the rules and breaking them, between protecting our kids and letting them fly.

  4. Love this, Eli! It’s something I”ve been working on with my own boys… my nurse brain needs to take a chill pill sometimes and just let them run around in the dirt – barefoot.

  5. I love this even though we don’t have girls. (Chris would have been a great girl daddy but….)
    I think it is so important to foster that independence and courage while still doing the things we can (like being the buffer between our kids and the cars…) to protect them.

    1. Hey, it works with boys too in a way, doesn’t it, Kim? It’s like when they’re toddlers, and they go adventuring, but stop back by to check in with us, then go off again.

      They do this all through their life, really.

  6. My dad taught me how to fix most anything, and to be self sufficient. He taught me to give a firm handshake, look people in the eyes, and always say, “Yes sir,” and “Yes ma’am.” My dad taught me to love Hokie football back when they were called the Fighting Gobblers, and he put up with me when I became a Nationals fan, and no longer cheered his Yankees on. I was lucky to find an amazing man to be such a father to our children. I’m sure you daughters are equally blessed.

    1. Self-sufficiency is an under-appreciated gift, Deb. Even things like making scrambled eggs – my girls can do that.

      I can associate with the part about fandom. I prayed my girls wouldn’t pick the ‘wrong’ teams, but I knew I’d support them either way. (They didn’t, thank God.)

      I’m not surprised you found the man you did, because of what you’d had modeled for you. To me, it’s not about being amazing – it’s about not fouling up the most important duty a man will ever have.

      It’s like being a kicker. You’re supposed to make your kicks. When you do, sure, you celebrate, but you’ve simply done your job.

  7. I so love this post. My mom “left” when I was 14 years old, even though she only moved a quick drive away when she divorced my dad. Still, Dad was left to raise the 5 of us, ranging in age from 5 to 16. He did an awesome job and instilled a ton of self-confidence in all of us. I always say that I have WAAAAY more self-confidence than I deserve with this horseface, but hey, it’s there–partly because of my dad–and I’ll take it. 🙂 Awesome, awesome post!

    1. Thanks Shay. I’m sorry about your mom. And I’m thankful for your dad. I think the self-confidence is something dads can give instinctively, like many things mom give.

      I hear so much about the horse face … I’ve never seen it, but I’ve seen a lot of resolve and confidence and humor coming out from that brain of yours behind it.

      Awesome, awesome comment.

  8. This is so wonderful, Eli. I agree at some point in recent history Dad’s have become the third-party presidential candidate. There but not really there. Girls need their dad’s, to know how they should be treated. To know they have that safe place to land. It is time to bring back co-parenting where each parent shares their strengths with their children and they do not highlight the other’s flaws.

    1. Thanks Kerri. I blame TV shows for the demise of the dad, but that’s an argument for another day. We’re like the vents on the side of a Buick – there, but with little purpose.

      How a girl is to be treated is a huge lesson. Marie drew me a picture once that said someday she’ll find her prince charming, but that I’ll always be her king.

      Moms and dads have to bring their best.

  9. I think I cried through the whole thing too, because this is me in my parenting. I adore. I give cookies. I let them walk barefoot.
    I just.. get really happy sometimes that my kids have so many adults in their lives – all fulfilling different roles in such different ways, but ultimately all the same way too. Lots of love.

    1. You’re quite dad-like, T-Bow. Although that sells moms short. I know moms do these things, too, but it seems like the dad’s domain sometimes.

      If a kid’s lucky, she has grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins near and far, because they’re kind of guideposts and influences all in one.

  10. You rock, Coach Daddy, and so do your girls!
    Loved reading this 🙂

    PS: Whoever is coaching the Dallas Cowboys must have their sh** together. After all they beat the Seahawks last weekend.

    1. Thanks TG! I love this job.

      It’s funny, I originally wrote that post when the Cowboys were in turmoil and didn’t do so well. They’re definitely doing it right now! And I don’t mind Seattle losing. Not even a little.

  11. I think this is totally my husband when it comes to what you said at the beginning. He’s not the extremely rigid type that most might be used to seeing from a dad. But I heard it from his own lips, having a girl with me frightens him…(in so many words), but I think he’d feel the way about her and raising her the same way as you described so beautifully in this post. 🙂

    1. Dads are awesome. And dads are changing, and some of it is even good. Make no mistake – any dad who says he’s not scared sh*tless about having a daughter is lying.

      To raise a daughter is to face every fear imaginable and do it with resolve and backbone and compassion and love. That he’s scared means he cares.

      And that, my friend, is half the battle.

  12. Awww dangnabit…. I got some speck of something in my eye while reading this. you should dust your blog more. 😉
    I can tell you with absolute certainty the importance of being a dad in a young girl’s life. because I didn’t have that. I think I got there eventually – all those things you wish – but it certainly was the longer, more painful route. And still, there’s a tiny little part of my heart that will never, ever fully trust men. Will wonder if they ever truly have our best interest in the heart of hearts. And that’s sad to me: especially when there are ones like you that exist, and that do make all the difference.

    1. Sorry, Rore. This is one I’ve had in my pocket for a while. I do know your story quite well after all this time, too. I know the route you took. So glad you found your way.

      I think we guys do have things to overcome, though, and i appreciate your honesty about it. It reinforces just how influential we are in our daughters’ lives.

      It’s not a choice; it’s inherent. We have to be aware.

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