Survival Guide for Single Fathers of Tween and Teen Daughters
By Gretchen Gross
You’re a smart guy. You read The Perfect Storm and now you find yourself living it. Your daughter, who yesterday was happy to hang out with you at Home Depot, now cries for no known reason. Last week you were her soccer coach and ‘the best dad there ever was, really,’ and today on the way home from practice she turned away and stared sadly out the window and wouldn’t say a word to you. She’s hovering around adolescence and all of a sudden you’re flopping on the daddy-deck in a panic. What the heck is about to happen and how are you going to get through this? How can you help her get through these difficult years when honestly, you don’t totally understand it yourself? If you’re a single dad, it can get all the more complicated. You might not know who or where to go to for the real deal, the inside scoop. When did her body start to change? Where the heck do you buy a training bra, and when? Do you have to take her or can you pay someone else to do it? What about dating? Or the girl clique thing you’ve heard about. Can’t you just ignore it and raise her just like you would a son, just like you were raised? This book is for any man raising a tween or teen daughter, but particularly the single man who does or doesn’t have full-time custody. This is the definitive guide to helping dad and daughter get past ‘survive’ and onto ‘thrive.’ Written for any man raising daughters, the authors geared this book for the single dad who may not have a woman in his life with whom to confer about issues their daughters may be facing like sex, friendships, boyfriends, alcohol and drugs, and personal hygiene. This book covers it all, from what to keep stocked in the bathroom to how to talk about sex without being blown off. The authors help dads gain a better sense of what their daughters are going through, how their bodies are changing, how their relationships are changing, and how best to handle the ups and downs of these challenging years.
Here’s an extract from our book “But Dad! A Survival Guide for Single Fathers of Tween and Teen Daughters”:
Why would dads listen to anything we’ve got to say?
It’s not a stretch to say that through the course of history, men have been flummoxed, perplexed, mystified and completely confused by women. As a single dad of daughters who are about to enter, or are smack dab in the middle of puberty, you feel like a Giant’s outfielder during game 3 of the 1989 World Series. You’ve heard the small scraping sounds like nails on a chalkboard, felt the slight ground tremors. Like the Giants, the Athletics and the thousands of fans in the stands, you know ‘it’ is coming but didn’t yet know what “it” is or how much damage might be done. The ground underneath you is shifting.
Puberty is, at best, a hugely complex process for both boys and girls. The rate of change, and it’s meanings, has shifted for young women. Currently the age of onset of puberty hovers around 10 years old. This means that internal hormonal shifts begin even earlier. The changes are biological, sexual, physical, emotional and social. It’s big stuff and the more any parent knows about it, the better. So here is one book, a single resource, that you can keep on your nightstand, in the garage, the workbench, in your computer case or when ever you want, ready when ever you need it, so you can be a prepared, have some questions answered and be a great dad to your daughter.
And let’s face it, it’s as rocky a time for moms and dads as it is for young girls. The better prepared you are, the easier this passage will be for both of you and any other close family members who live with you.
You made a smart move buying this book. You can now, whenever you want and wherever you chose, tweak your fathering skills by flipping to the chapter of your choice. Imagine this. Within days, your daughters will start saying “Gosh Dad, you’re really growing and learning as a father! You’re the best! I love it that you’re learning more about me so you can be a great dad!” The reason we said “imagine that” is because that scenario will occur only in your imagination. If your daughter sees this book, she’ll likely respond with something quite opposite. Something more along the lines of “That book just looks stupid, Dad. Why did you even buy it? Please don’t even say the word “cramps” around me. That’s disgusting. Don’t think you’ll find anything in that book that will work on me!” Kids don’t think you can learn anything about them in any book. As the penguins in the movie Madagascar said “Smile and nod boys, smile and nod.”
Here’s what you won’t find in this book: psychobabble (well, not too much), charts or useless graphs. You won’t need a degree in sociology, psychology or developmental biology to get through these chapters. All you need is an interest in being the best dad possible to your daughter as she rocks and rolls through some of the more challenging days of her life.
You will find this a simple book with easy access to what you want to know. This is the Consumer’s Digest on daughters, the playbook on puberty, the racing sheets on raising daughters. When you really need help, you can crack this book, find the chapter that answers your questions, and find out all you want and need to know on any given topic related to single parenting a young girl. It’s just that easy. After feeling completely inept, as all parents do when dealing with pre-teen and teen daughters, you will …. Step 1: Curse under your breath, mad at yourself that you didn’t see that argument or conversation coming and you swear to do it better next time so you …Step 2: Pull this book off your bedside table and turn to the chapter dealing with the issue de jour, and you…Step 3: Read, learn, and say “Why didn’t someone tell me about this before? I won’t make that mistake again.” That’s how you use this book.
Let’s cut to the chase and talk about why you should take our word in any of this? A few weeks ago at a holiday party, a male friend asked “why should a guy listen to two women tell him how to be a good dad?” This guy is a Major in the military, has flown F-16’s, has a big intellect, and is a pilot for a major airline. I said “Mark, if I wanted to learn how to fly, I’d learn from someone like you. Someone who’s been there, done that. Someone who knows about the details and the generalities of flying. Someone who knows how not to crash and burn, right?” He nodded and puffed up his chest a bit from all the compliments. This guy knows his stuff. I’d feel safe in a plane with him at the stick. “So follow me, Mark. If you needed to know about cramps, tampons, mood swings, dating boys, middle school girl cliques, throwing a great slumber party and when is it okay to start to wear makeup, who would you ask?” He paused for a moment, looked thoughtful, then he responded “Got it. Want a beer?” For Mark and I and his fabulous wife, Penny, that was the end of that conversation. They have 3 sons. No need to know the details about raising teen. Mark went back to his discussion about his deep desire to buy a Porsche 911 for his impending midlife crisis, while Penny and I smiled and shook our heads. There you have it. The reason why we wrote this book is because we have the goods, we know the secret female handshake, we’ve got the 411 on pads, tampons, cramps, heels vs. flats, zit creams and shaving legs, why a girl might miss her mom and what to do about it, eating disorders and what to say about dating besides “I know what boys want, honey, and you can’t go out with him!”
Pat and I are both female so we know the inside stuff, been there, done that. We’ve both raised daughters and co-parented them with ex’s. So we have a sense of what men know, want to know, and what they think they know but need some help with. Because we’ve had to, women know how to get blood stains out of bed sheets, how to talk to daughters about dating and sex, and how to help her pick out clothes that are age appropriate for that upcoming Bar Mitzvah. We know the difference between hormonal mood swings and bad behavior. We understand the complexities (and really, they are complexities) between mini, maxi and maxi-pads with wings, and which are the most comfortable under leggings.
The more you understand about this age group, what they want, what they need, what’s going on, what they aren’t telling you, and what you would rather not ask your ex, your mom, or the new woman you’re dating, the better father you’ll be and the more prepared you’ll be for the changes of adolescence.
As parents, we’re all at wits ends more often than we care to admit. At least we are. When we want some answers, we don’t want to read through chapters and chapters on Oedipal issues in adolescence or family dynamics as they affect only children. We want quick, clean, information from someone we trust, and can maybe laugh along with. That’s why this book is chock full of info, short on theory and long on kitchen table wisdom with a dash of necessary humor. We include references if you want to read more deeply into topics. But we also want to just give you the “quick and simple” so you have fewer moments of feeling like you’re flopping around on the deck as your teen daughter walks away. So let’s talk about you for a minute.
Why Fathers Matter So Much
Have you noticed that there are plenty of books about mothers and daughters? In her book “Mothers and Daughters During Adolescence” Teri Apter wrote “the strange, disturbing, and sad picture seems to be that during the daughter’s adolescence, the distance between them increases.” Sadly, the “them” she talks about is fathers and daughters. On its own, this is a distressing observation. When you think about this from the perspective of single fatherhood, it’s awful.
Since when did fathers get marginalized, pushed off to the side, rendered invisible? Ironically, if you do happen to be a research hound, you’ll find the data on the importance of fathers. Sadly, this information has not leaked into the everyday life as much as it should. The truth is dads are incredibly important to the development of healthy daughters. Dads’ level of involvement with their daughters is positively correlated to their daughter’s level of success at work and their overall sense of comfort and mastery of the world around them. That sounds pretty essential to us. You are important. As a single dad, your time with your daughter is more important than ever.
By Gretchen Gross
Co-author of “But Dad! A Survival Guide for Single Fathers of Tween and Teen Daughters” (links to Amazon) available at all major bookstores and online retailers.