“6 Things My Daughters Have Taught Me”

This Father’s Day marks my 12th year receiving cards, phone calls, hugs, kisses and warm smiles, often times from strangers. Twelve years may not sound like much, but as I’ve come to learn, every day counts in the world of fatherhood. My wife and I are blessed to have two amazing daughters — which is more than enough. Madeleine (Maddi) Reid, age 12, is a superstar athlete, equestrian and world-class student. Savannah Francis, age 10, is a budding young artist, hip-hop dancer and a warrior for social justice. Watching them travel on their personal paths to growth and maturity has been nearly as sweet as listening to Miles on the trumpet, or watching Jordan drain a 3-pointer from the top of the key. As pre-teens, I know their journeys are just starting. Like the season finale of Suits, the anticipation is killing me. In the mean time, here’s what I’ve learned from them that, I hope, is making me a better Dad and person each day:

1) Patience is the partner of communication.

Let’s not pretend there’s no difference raising girls versus boys. To do so is like suggesting there’s no difference between the moon and stars since they both comfortably exist in the nighttime abyss. I have come to understand that their minds move a mile a minute and things go in one ear and out the other. Taking time to help them understand the relevance of my instruction is just as important as the instruction itself. That requires patient, yet confident communication from me.

2) Don’t lie — if you do, make it a really good one.

We’ve all been there. Your child asks you a question that you simply have no answer to or explanation for. What do you do? Make it up. Wrong! I’ve learned to quickly admit I don’t know it all, or not for certain. Shocking as it may be they’ll appreciate your imperfection. If you do feel the urge to tell a tall tale, please make sure it’s a good one — with purple cows and neon hippos.

3) Know when to hold’em, fold’em, and to walk away and run…

Like most kids, my girls are active. Sports, horse playing around the house and sometime just plain ‘ol clumsy. I’ve learned every fall, bump, bruise and scrape doesn’t require a surgical team to be flown in. My rule: if there’s no blood, no bone poking out, there’s no real problem. Put an ice pack on it, take deep breaths, and relax. My wife rolls her eyes and reminds me I’m not a doctor.

4) Be a Dad, not a friend.

When she was much younger, Savannah would often get mad and tell me she didn’t want to be my friend — to which I would respond, “Great, I don’t want a friend who has to be in bed by 7:30pm.” She quickly learned “unfriending” me was getting her nowhere. Bottom line: we all have roles — mine is not to be a friend or buddy, it’s to be a father.

5) Laugh out loud

Laughter is an emotion they need to hear and see. Like crying, it humanizes you and debunks that insane notion men won’t show emotion. Maddi likes to tell stories of the goofy things she and her friends do in school. I’ve learned to listen, ask questions and enjoy a good, hard belly laugh with her — genuinely.

6) Love their mother like you’d want them to be loved

Dads, I believe, are creators of a daughter’s identity and purveyors of their confidence. Early seeds of such important character traits are planted through how you love their mother. For me, love is an action word — that I demonstrate through my sacrifice, time and willingness to share — or as Whitney Houston reminded us, it’s the greatest gift of all. Give that gift to their mother and they’ll come to appreciate and expect the same in their relationships as an adult.

— Jarvis Stewart, Chairman and Chief Strategist of IR+Media LLC

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