Dads and Daughters Togetherness: A Firsthand Snapshot

dadscoverbooktg.jpgWe interrupt this CBS program series recap to bring you word from the parenting trenches, sharing a magic media moment!

Promise I’ll get back to last night’s CBS advergaming segment (video clip here) but frankly, Shaping Youth’s readership is well-versed in the pitfalls of same…Especially since I’ve already covered advergaming here, and here, and here. (don’t ask me why it’s such ‘new news’ to CBS & mainstream media outlets)

Instead? Here’s a jolt of warm-n-fuzzy media from a Dad. This first-person e-mail so beautifully exemplifies the importance of father figures as influencers in kids’ lives that I had to halt and share.

It’s a message so positive about girls’ sports and papa power that I’m forwarding it directly to Joe Kelly, head of Dads and Daughters, as it literally could have sprung from the pages of his new ‘how-to’ book of tips for how Dads can get (or stay) involved with kids, at home, from afar, or any stage in between.

In this e-mail from a father, the pushback involves a daughter begrudgingly attending a Pac-10 event, and a Dad willing to resist a rebuff and cajole her into ‘an hour together’ knowing they’ll have fun once they get there. Ironically, Joe’s Togetherness Guide is described on Amazon as enabling dads to “grab their daughters by the hand and say “Let’s go…” And that’s exactly what this Dad did…

Obviously, there’s finesse required on the intuitive front here. (as opposed to self-centered narcissism trying to get the child to do ONLY what YOU want and drag them kicking and screaming; a bonding moment no-no) I’m talking about subtle parental prods in a healthy relationship with a ‘give it a go’ attitude!

Think about how often some parents cave, out of childish exasperation and wounded egos when tweens and teens try to bow out of an activity with a roll of the eyes.

Sadly, I’ve seen behavior befitting a two-year old with adults taking a similar huffy attitude, “Fine! You don’t want to go?” (to grandmas, church, vacation, whatever) “Then DON’T!” hmpf! stomp, slam!

Who’s the child here, folks? Take a deep breath. Read between the lines. Get to know your kids and cues and fergoshsakes don’t take this stuff PERSONALLY!

Sure it’s “easier” to let them play videogames and glue to the boob-tube and media…but just look what they’re missing in the form of intimacy if that’s the sum total of their entertainment. (yes, this e-mail moved me)

I’ll review Joe’s book later (this is just a prequel of what can be gleaned)…I’m an ardent fan of his other book, How to Inspire, Understand & Support Your Daughter When She’s Growing Up So Fast.

Bottom line? If I had to wedge Togetherness tips into a snappy sound bite for Dads gleaned from this e-mail, it would sum up in this media context:

This is your OWN reality program. Don’t get voted off the show.

Use your skills. Listen closely. Stay involved, even if it’s uncomfortable sometimes.

Without further rambling, here’s the e-mail letter that lit up my day:

“There are plenty of Dad-bloggers out there that might appreciate this, so thought I’d share my weekend…

This weekend I took my daughter to a track meet…not a typical college meet but the Pac 10 championship held at Stanford’s Cobb Track and Angel Field! I knew I wouldn’t have buy-in and get the ‘boring’ sigh, but since she just started participating in track I wanted to give her a broader view, since these events aren’t exactly the typical mainstay of network television.

She put in her usual disclaimer, (asking for my acknowledgement that we’d only go for an hour or so) and showed up about 40 minutes after the start, deciding to stay for almost four hours, not until the last of the women’s events!

Once exposed to the competition, she wanted to see ALL the women’s events.

The pole vault was especially interesting to a girl who’s always hanging and jumping from something. Surprisingly, she was even interested in the hammer throw. Her overall level of interest was beyond my expectations. (I’m not sure which one of us came away with the greatest impression; the world-class facilities and nationally ranked athletes were truly inspiring)

Her mother and I have always encouraged her participation in team sports, but never pushed…More ‘try it and see’ than ‘practice, practice.’

My main argument to her for team participation is the development of friendships from interaction with teammates. I’m STILL friends with some of my teammates from high school and have used those present friendships as a model to encourage her to build her own teammate friendships that often span not only classes but all the years of school; fostered by a common goal. (class friendships can be short lived, sometimes spanning just the length of a semester/subject)

The seats we had at the Pac 10 meet were awesome. (mid-field/6th row view of the track finish line, pole vault, triple jump and high jump pits, as well as the javelin distance marks) I highly recommend ALL Dads spring for the ‘good seats’ as it’s a BARGAIN compared to the price of pro sports, and kids can see it all up-close-and-personal which REALLY can make or break a shared event.

What she thought would be ‘boring’ was non-stop and simultaneous. We scanned the action like a three-ring circus with each of us pointing out the next event so that other wouldn’t miss an attempt!

We were close enough to hear the athletes encouraging teammates…Close enough to see the sprinters straining shoulder to shoulder for the finish line in the last 20 meters of the race. My daughter could not BELIEVE how fast the sprinters ran, as she has been participating in various sprinting events on her own middle school team.

Our seats allowed us to see the physical attributes of these incredible athletes too…and the obesity of today’s population you write about so often was strikingly absent. Fortunately, as these events foster the athletes to perform at their best, we saw personal and conference records broken.

The most endearing moment of the meet occurred after Stanford’s Erica McLain’s record leap in the triple jump…Erica threw a T-shirt into the crowd during her victory stroll in front of the stands. As she turned to go back onto the infield, everyone in the stands heard a loud male voice call her name. Erica turned and her face beamed as she recognized the caller and yelled, “DADDY!”

You could not only hear but also FEEL the warm reaction from the people in the stands. For my daughter, she heard another Dad yelling encouragement (in what would be embarrassing to her) in front of a huge crowd.

Erica’s jump broke a Pac 10 record, a Pac 10 meet record, a Stanford school record, the number 4 performance in collegiate history and the number 5 performance among Americans. It was the perfect backdrop to explain to my daughter how competition among the best encourages athletes to reach their highest potential.

We also talked about representing your school, your state, or your country as an athlete, as well as your own personal best.

I asked her if she could guess how many students attended the University of Washington, where I did my own training. (The U Dub Dawgs were in the competition) She guessed “a few thousand”…I told her it was 35,000, and that these few select athletes were the best from each of all the Pac 10 schools!

The point I hope I made is that it is a big world competing for those coveted slots on a team…AND…Maybe she’ll think twice when she doesn’t want to go to team practice because she’s tired. I don’t know if my daughter will have the personal aspiration to compete at the college level, but I DO hope she’ll compete at the high school level.

I’ll be there to support her at WHATEVER level she desires. It’s not my goal to live through my daughter; I still keep myself in good shape and do participate in our family’s water activities. It is my way to show by example that athletic activities are important for a balanced, healthful life. I try to tell her that she can enjoy sports now with her friends, will want to participate with her male friends, possibly with her husband and maybe even with her children if she decides to have offspring.

To see her competing at her middle school level is a joy, especially in track when the field is filled with boys and girls in all their various team colors.

In my day, it was boys only. Title IX came too late for the girls in my school years, but it certainly has opened the doors for today’s women athletes. For this Dad with no sons, Title IX has my FULL support.

I could not fathom my daughter not having the opportunity.

Finally…I’ve got to admit, attending the meet at Stanford was a bit overwhelming. I could not completely fathom the opportunity these women and men athletes have today to compete. As I have supported my daughter this past year in her participation in basketball, volleyball and track, I could not help but think of the girls I went to high school with who had no such opportunities.

I’m still friends with some of these girls who are now women with their own children in sports. When queried, they have said they wished the opportunities had been available to them.

As a Dad, I want my daughter to have the full experience of high school that I had, which involves the balance of academic, athletic and public service activities.

It’s her road to a full life now and for the future…I guess you could say it’s MY way of Shaping Youth.”

Wow. VERY cool. Men “have come a long way, baby” too.

Now, back to Shaping Youth’s ongoing coverage of Gotta Have It, the CBSNews series about the “Hard Sell to Kids.” (hey, we don’t have a ‘word from our sponsor’ so work with me, here!)

Tomorrow, more on this video of Adweek’s Barbara Lippert talking about marketers pitching to under 7 kids and statistics of how prevalent the “hard sell” really is. (nice synopsis of stats here)

AND…Here’s the latest CBS video, “Kids Go Mobile” featuring tonight’s piece on “celling to kids.” (how clever!–all about the third screen mobile messaging targeting the tykes)

Then, stay tuned next for a personal interview with YPulse publisher and Totally Wired blog and book author Anastasia Goodstein sharing her views on digital media, what tweens and teens are REALLY doing online, and deeper insights into the Totally Wired generation.

There. You have just been ‘snipe-hyped’ with media-style teasers…And you wonder why I left broadcast journalism, eh? 😉 Ahem.

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