I am writing this on Memorial Day morning. It is early in the morning. When I got up, I met youngest daughter and her very good friend in the kitchen (the daughter of good friends). They had been in our house during the night. They had not slept yet. (Other friends left about thirty minutes earlier.) All are home from college. All were in our house during the night, talking and laughing. That is the youngest daughter.
Oldest daughter called last night. She and her husband just got back from Florida. They live in Murfreesboro, Tenn. just outside of Nashville. They went to Florida with friends and had a wonderful time. (She tells me in detail every kind of fish they had for dinner over the weekend! I'm a little jealous.) That is the oldest daughter.
Both daughters were raised by a dad who knew something about silent men. Yet, early on, I wanted them to feel a strong sense of connection with me as their dad. We began doing something early on that has continued for years. When they were still very small, I would take each daughter on "special days." Basically, that meant I would take a daughter to McDonald's or Hardee's for breakfast. (Charlotte, my wife, would not be with us, nor would the other daughter). This breakfast would be unhurried and leisurely. Again, we started this when they were very young. I have memories of one of them, Christine, having a long discussion with me as to how to get more jelly if you wanted it. Jamie, about three years old, once smeared a mirror in McDonald's with grape jelly. Most of all this was a time just for them. No cell phones. No sitting with people who happened to be there who we knew from church or elsewhere. (I have no idea why we began calling these occasions "special days.")
We did this for many years even through their high school and college years. Now there were a few changes. Breakfast became lunch. McDonald's became Chili's. However, the purpose was the same. This was a time where each daughter would receive my undivided attention. I learned, as my daughters grew older, that this time was important to them as well. Having this special time was one way of not being silent.
The greater challenge in raising my daughters has been day to day life. Far too many dads start off well with their daughters. However, when they become adolescents, the relationship with their dads sometimes weakens. Their bodies, emotions, etc. are changing. It can be a confusing and stressful time for a girl. Dads don't know what to do, so sometimes they pull away. They back off and (unintentionally) create distance. This is the last thing these girls need at this point in their lives. By the way--I didn't know what to do either. Yet, I tried to stay connected while learning what to do. No, it is not easy. Still, it is so important to stay connected.
This is probably obvious but the issue of the silent male is much broader than a relationship with sons or daughters. This silence can be a real difficult issue in marriage. This silence can interfere with work. This silence can get in the way of friendships. Remember this is not about a change in personality. Rather, it is a refusal to stay in the comfortable, safe rut of silence and passivity.
Everything I just wrote reflects years of my own intent and prayer. At times, getting beyond silence has been difficult. If this doesn't "feel" natural for you, perhaps I can relate. I will tell you that the Lord has blessed my imperfect attempt to stay connected with my daughters.
Let me encourage you not to yield to the temptation to be silent. You will bless your children by refusing to be silent and passive. This means being intentional. By the grace of God and through much prayer, your children will be blessed.
What do you think?