From her first cry I began to associate our girl differently from her two older brothers. I believe most of this is subconscious as a result of the different physical manifestations of a girl. Her cry was very different from our boys. Our family waits to find out the sex of the baby until birth and I knew it was a girl when I heard her cry. The softer, struggling, curdle drew a different kind of compassion from me. I saw twenty years flash before my eyes in an instant. In those nanoseconds, I saw five distinctions that having a girl in the home made me a better father and husband.
I grew up not really understanding women (I still don’t), treating my sister harsh, and not appreciating or understanding the value of females outside of sexual attraction. I also didn’t have the maturity to admit any of this until I submitted my life to Christ, and that didn’t happen until after college. When you are spiritually blind and lost, you are also very selfish and self-centered. Being married to Johnna has brought much sanctification into my life. Having a girl increases the opportunities for sanctification exponentially.
Protection and Prayer
The first and foremost concern or responsibility I felt was, “She needs my physical protection.” This feeling persisted throughout the twenty-year-nanosecond-flash, as did my inability to be there for her at every moment. Thus the first level of protection I learned specifically from having a girl is the need to pray for my family incessantly. Of course boys need protection, but it’s a different mindset from raising protectors to raising the protected. My boys will have an obligation to protect others, my girl will have the ability to protect others. It should never come to her or the five men in the family have failed. The same applies for Johnna. I do not underestimate her toughness, she’s birthed 5 children naturally, survived two deployments, and lives in the trenches everyday, all day without recourse, remorse, or restitution. My prayer for protection is for the entire family, but extra emphasis is placed on the ladies. There is a lot of peace and comfort in God’s faithfulness, promise, and sovereignty. There is a lot of hopelessness when relying completely on my efforts; prayer is essential.
More Opportunities for Teachable Moments
Our girl and I have a lot to learn with very active boys around. The boys have much to learn about treating ladies as well. My girl and I have always connected where our other babies have gravitated towards mom in times of comforting. That probably has a lot less to do with chance than I want to admit. She still likes to be comforted by me when I’m around and I am ok with that. I teach the boys how to play, care for, and protect a lady. They cannot react to her with physical expressions of anger. They are learning to be peacemakers, to express emotions, and to react with self-control with the ladies. Lessons I am still learning and still fail at today. I avoid productive communication because I am stuck in some fit of silence or unloving overreaction. The lessons I have with them are instant accountability checks for how I am treating Johnna. I am often convicted, humbled, yet inspired to be a better example for the boys; a perspective that is initiated because we have a girl.
Reemphasizes the Necessity for Encouragement and Comforting
Having a girl has dramatically decreased the pressure I put on the boys. I had unrealistically high expectations for our oldest. I only doubled down on that because he was a guy. I know that his younger brothers will look up to him and he has to set an example that sets them up for success. Having a girl has lessened the burden I place on our oldest by revealing my drastic parenting inconsistencies. There are several reactions I would be vulnerable to our girl that I will consider now for our boys: rubbing their back, comforting when any of them cry, being understanding of their hesitations, and play that does not include wrestling.
Our girl is now at the age where I can introduce her to social interactions with people of all ages. She will need to be able to go out into the world; by encouraging and educating her at an early age to get out of her comfort zone, stretch her wings, and engage with others I am protecting her from social and spiritual ineptitude. This often contradicts that paternal instinct to protect her from all bad situations; however, for her own sake as a future mother, wife, and friend she needs to gradually learn what it feels like to fail, to have responsibility, or to take risks. She needs to have the opportunity to scrub her knees, bruise her elbows, and pick herself up from a fall. As a father, I want to be her greatest encourager so she doesn’t settle for some chump whether that be an authority figure trying impress false religion on her or a pimple face boy with bad intentions. Her level of expectation for love, truth, and support should be high because of how I have demonstrated those things in her life. I am realizing that same truth applies to our boys as well, to a much greater degree than previously committed.
I probably kiss our girl at least thirty times a day, estimating on the low end. I’m sure that will change as she gets older; however, it is a stunning reminder of how I can love and support Johnna much more. Our girl is helping me to a better husband with much more intensity and conviction than her brothers. If I come home and give our girl my full attention with kisses before and after, why have I not done that and much more for Johnna?
Conversely, how I treat Johnna informs much of the belief that our girl holds towards how other men will treat her. It is important for the boys in the house to see how I react to Johnna. When you know that a young lady is studying you (from a different perspective) it heightens the necessity to perform. This is true for guys in the gym as well.
For most of our babies, I’m irrelevant from about day one to month six, besides the occasional diaper change. My biggest contribution comes by taking care of Johnna and everyone else while she cares for our infants. My physical help allows Johnna that much needed 1v1 baby time, while I have daddy time with the rest of the crew. By month five or six our babies our very engaged, usually smiling, not yet tickle appropriated, but likely rolling over. However, Johnna craves attention that is not a baby pulling on her or strictly sexual from her husband. I very much hope that is something the kids will remember me for, especially our girl.
Asking Help From Other Men
Speaking of chumps and kisses… As you can imagine a lot of my twenty year flash centered around the aspect of boys. I do not look forward to the middle school years, much less the high school extravaganza. However, the fact that there is a lot of testosterone in the house and our girl is surrounded by two brothers on either side allows me to relax a little… thank you God. If I do my job right, any person of the male persuasion who has the courage enough to knock on a former Marines door (with a shotgun in hand), after passing her requirements, and then meets her four brothers’ standards will have earned a courtship. Nonetheless, these young adult years will be the years that having built trust early on will pay off. I am not in these years yet, but I am always asking dads about navigating them. I have at least four dads on standby that I can call when necessary. I hope you have such men in your life. I cannot offer you much on the trust years; however, I can stress the importance of mentorship and fellowship with other godly men. Having a girl has improved my relationships with godly men!
Transition of Power
My twenty year flashback sort of ends there; however, the last level of protection and responsibility is something I ponder frequently. The last level of protection is where I hand my responsibility over to another young man and step away, giving them enough room to create their own family dynamics. I am not even close to being ready at this time and I don’t need to be because our girl is only two. I honestly want to stop writing about it because there are too many emotions coming to bear right now. The two shall leave mother and father and cleave to each other… (pour some liquor out and have a moment of silence with me)… My role will change dramatically at this point. Having a girl has helped me focus on the ministry at hand. It is in my nature to constantly think about whats next, so much so that I don’t live in the now. With my boys, I am in constant anticipation of their young adult and manhood years. I’m already planning rites of passage rituals. Our girl helps me engage in the now.
God has certainly given me a girl in the right stage in my life such that I can be combat effective. He has used my entire family to sanctify me in many ways. Our girl has been critical in the sanctification process of my spiritual walk. It was having her that made me realize that if I don’t do anything else but minister to my kids in life, then I have done God’s will and accomplished much.
Having a girl has made me better.