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Fathering Your Way

Excerpted from

Dads and Daughters : How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter When She's Growing Up So Fast


More fathers are accepting the freedom to change the lather role to whatever makes sense for them, no matter how it was done before. Younger dads seems to be developing some vocabulary to surmount the classic silence of generations before us. A year 2000 study by the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard finds that 79 percent of men between age forty and forty-nine said challenging work and career advancement were more important than additional family time. But 82 percent of men between age twenty and thirty-nine put having more family time ahead of work and career advancement. Seventy-one percent of the younger men said they would give up some pay for more family time.

Several professional athletes put faces to these statistics. In the midst of the 2000 Olympics, basketball player Alonzo Mourning flew halfway around the world, from Australia to Miami, to participate in the birth of his daughter (named, appropriately enough, Sydney). Mourning missed three games of the U.S. teams gold-medal run, and seemed bemused by the media fuss made over his decision. "What else would I do?" he said, a bit baffled as to why anyone would ask why he skipped playing ball to help his daughter be born.

Professional golfer Phil Mickelson led the prestigious 1999 U.S. Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina, when back home in Scottsdale, Arizona, his pregnant wife, Amy, was trying to delay the onset of labor. After Saturday's round, reporters asked Mickelson what would happen if his wife went into labor before the tournament ended-say, at the sixteenth hole of Sundays final round, battling Payne Stewart and Tiger Woods down the stretch. Mickelson said that if his caddy's beeper sent word that Amy's labor was under way, he would leave immediately for Arizona. But how could you live up the rare chance to win a major?' reporters pressed. "It's not worth the tournament," Mickelson replied. "Come the middle of June next year, we're going to have another U.S. Open. This is the birth of my first child."

As it turned out, the Mickelsons' daughter, Amanda, was born on Monday, the day after Mickelson lost by one stroke to Stewart at the eighteenth green-on Father's Day. As the competitors embraced, Stewart (whose own children lost him in a plane crash weeks later) told Mickelson, "There's nothing like being a hither."

Mourning and Mickelson each recognized that his daughter's birth was something that simply could not be duplicated. The same holds true for the rest of her life, too. My daughter's entire childhood happens as often as her birth: exactly once. I can't be satisfied with just being a Lamaze coach or a breadwinner.

The challenge (and the freedom) for fathers today is to carry our delivery-room intensity into the rest of our children's lives. Yes, it's an enormous obligation; it is also an exhilarating opportunity. Our daughters don't get second shots at having their childhood with us as their fathers, either-and girls like the following teenager know it, too.

So many parents of my friends are split up, and tiny come to school saying, "I hate my dad so much. I hate him. "And J think, "How could you hate your dad? "I can't understand how they could just never want to be around him. My friend repeatedly asks her dad to come to her games, repeatedly asks him to come to her choir concerts. And he'll say. "Yeah, I'll come." And he'll never show. She is so enraged at him right now. And that's scary. I couldn't live with that. Ana

In fact, a daughter's childhood is so fascinating that we seldom lack for motivation to be part of it. That's true even if, because of divorce, separation, or other difficulties, we live away from our daughter. If were willing to look, there are effective, loving, and supportive ways to be a vital part of our daughters' growing up, regardless of where we live.

Dean: I have this theory; right or wrong, that there's got to be some sort of normalcy during the time we're together. It's hard to have normalcy, 'cause we can't always meet in the same city, but anyway the normal thing for the two of us is that we both like to read. Well normally go to it bookstore, we'll buy a bunch of stuff, go back to the hotel room, read, watch a little television, order food, and act like it's our world. We don't do "Disneyland Dad" weekends because that isn't real.

Liz: Yeah. When we read books, we just totally click. We're in our own separate world together. We don't really pay attention to the outside the two or three days we're together.

The payoff for a daughter is easy to hear in how lovingly Liz remembers derails of hanging around a hotel room with her dad - just being together. Listen to how huge the payoff is for fathers who successfully parent across a distance, too.

Tags: Parenting and Families