“Oh my goodness, your hair is so pretty! Did Mommy do that?”
“No. Daddy did it.”
I swell up every time.
“Who did your hair this morning?”
“Dad. He’s the hair guy.”
You bet I am.
“Is your hair shaped like a heart?”
“It’s a heart braid. Daddy did it.”
Don’t tell them how easy it is. I want them to be impressed.
And they are impressed. I do my daughters’ hair usually six days a week (Sunday mornings are hard, being a pastor and all). I do regular braids and double braids and fishtail braids and four-part braids. I do half up and messy buns and regular buns. You can, too. I learned it all on YouTube, and it really is not that hard.
But everyone is impressed anyway, far more than if it was their mother doing their hair. Mom is supposed to know how to do hair. But if Dad does it… well, go ahead and submit my name for the Nobel Prize.
And isn’t that ridiculous?
I have been a father for about four and a half years now, and I never cease to get compliments and sympathetic looks and offers for help when I’m out in public with my girls. My wife never gets that. And when I show up at an event or function with the girls in tow, I invariably get asked, “Are you babysitting today?”
No. I’m a parent. What I am doing is parenting, not babysitting. If I was babysitting I would get paid and I could leave when my shift was over. My shift is never over, and I’m the one doing all the paying. Well, half of the paying. Mom does the other half, because we are equal partners. But it doesn’t seem so equal when I get all the compliments, when I get all the encouragement, when I get all the sympathy and offers for help, while my wife is just seen as a mother doing what mothers are expected to do.
So I do their hair. It’s a small thing, and it merits me plenty of compliments (even from my wife) which make me feel great. I do their hair because I am their dad, and I will always be their dad, and I want to be the best dad for them I can be. I do their hair because I am scared for their future.
My daughters were born with the deck stacked against them. Even in utero, the world was judging them and finding them wanting. Far too often, when we told people we were expecting a girl (especially the second girl), people would look at me with a wink or a knowing nod and say something like, “Well, you’ll just have to try for a boy next time,” as if a boy is automatically superior to a girl, a man of more worth than a woman.
The deck will always be stacked against my girls. Not as much as it is against some, I know, but still wherever they go in life they will receive unfair treatment. They will have to fight harder for less. They will be judged by their appearance over and over and over again, no matter what they accomplish or how much success they have had. There is not a safe place for my girls.
My daughters right now are aged four and two. In less than ten years, the real battle will begin. Their bodies will change, will become objects of lust. Their hormones will cause them to feel out of control and sick at times, elated and fierce at other times. They will fight for independence with no idea what they are trying to be independent from or for. They will fight me and their mother with words and actions that they will later regret and apologize for. And they will be judged- often publicly- every step of the way.
My daughters were born at the edge of a minefield. As their father, it is my duty to protect them, but I am scared to death because I know that the mines are unavoidable. My daughters will step on them, and will be blown sky-high by them.
But I will never let them think they are being blown sky-high alone.
If one of them is to be blown-up, then I will be blown up with her.
So I do their hair.
There is nothing that impacts a girl’s self-esteem and confidence like her father. According to Dr. JoAnn Deak, a father’s words carry a thousand times more weight than a mother’s. Research shows that a Dad impacts his daughter’s body-image, shapes her romantic relationships, and sets the course for her career. Being a Dad to a daughter is a huge responsibility, and it should be terrifying. All fathers should take their responsibilities seriously, and we must be intentional of how we are raising our sons and daughters alike. So I do their hair.
Comments on my daughters’ physical appearance are unavoidable. From infancy they are called pretty and cute and adorable and beautiful, and my daughters are all those things and more. But the physical comments will always come first, and will always be the most abundant. By doing their hair, I get to take some control over that physical beauty. I cannot adjust her body type, and God knows I’m a dead-end when it comes to clothing (there’s a reason I wear blue jeans and a solid color shirt every day), but I can do her hair. I can handle that, and give her something in her appearance that she can be proud of, that she can accept compliments about knowing that she and I both had a hand in it. We can share that compliment together; I take pride in her, and she takes pride in me.
Her body will change. Right now she’s a scrawny little stick of a thing, but that will not always be the case. By doing her hair now, I am laying the groundwork for the future. There will come a day when she comes out of her bedroom showing too much cleavage and too much leg, with her face painted to look closer to a clown than to my little girl. When that day happens, I want her to already know that I care about the way she looks. I want that interaction to be positive for she and I both. When I do her hair now (and maybe I’ll still be doing it then), she is learning that I love and care about the way she looks.
Some day in the future (not as distant as I want) my daughters will go on their first date. Before that happens, I want them to know what they should expect and how they ought to be treated. They must not settle for anything less. I want them to know what a good touch is. So I touch their hair, and when I pull too hard with the brush and they yelp I apologize and fix my mistake. I hug them and let them sit in my lap and even pull them into my lap at times. I rough house with them and tickle them so that they will laugh and when they ask me to stop, I stop. Dr. Linda Nielsen points out that girls with loving fathers are less likely to be sexually active at a young age, less likely to get pregnant as a teenager, and more likely to be in a stable, long-lasting romantic relationship as an adult. By doing her hair now, I am helping her make better choices later.
Later on they will know that I listen to their thoughts and value their input because today I am asking them, “What should we do with your hair?” Sometimes they know exactly what they want, but other times they trust me enough to say, “You pick.” I need them to trust me like that. My daughters will make bad choices. The older they get, the more serious those choices, and the more serious the consequences of those choices, will be. I do their hair so that when they make a bad choice they will come to me with it.
My daughters were born with the deck stacked against them. There is very little I can do to level that playing field, but there sure is a lot I can do to empower them to flip the card table over and refuse to accept it this way. And it can start with something as simple as a braid.
Seriously, dads, just YouTube it. It’s not that hard.