Fatherhood: Having the Heart of a Hero

(originally posted 6/10/2010)

I was watching the movie Taken recently, a great father / daughter movie (or not) about a dad (Liam Neeson) who used to be a secret operative of some kind and who revisits his “glory days” saving his daughter when she is kidnapped by Albanian sex traders and sold to some sheik.

Oh sure, it’s fun to watch a righteous Liam Neeson cracking skulls and electrocuting the bad guys all out of fatherly love, but it occurred to me, how unnerving must it be to most fathers to watch that? After all, just how many dads have all the fighting, spying, interrogating, bridge-jumping, okay let’s just say it ASS-KICKING mojo displayed in this movie? You can love your daughter (or your son) more than any other dad on the planet, and that love might even give you super human skills, luck, etc, but, even so, it’d be hard to live up to the model presented by the movie Taken. Watching that movie has got to leave most dads feeling a bit inadequate. And I bet there are many dads who can remember feeling that, to some extent, when they reflect on the memorable scenes of that movie.

But a lot of those dads shouldn’t feel that way. A lot of those dads were sitting next to their daughter in that movie theater. A lot of those dads put in loving hours with their children every day. A lot of those dads, while they know they haven’t been perfect, could not be labeled abusive or neglectful by any means. In a less memorable scene of that movie, some of Neeson’s character’s friends bring up the fact that he’s given up his career in order to try to “make up for lost time” with his daughter. So there were months or years in this character’s history when he put his career ahead of the relationship with his child. This character is far from a perfect dad.

Fathers of the world, I say to you, you don’t have to be like the father portrayed in Taken to save your children, especially your daughters! You don’t have to have bad-ass hand-to-hand combat skills. You don’t have to be smart enough to outwit the French government or a good enough driver to evade Albanian pursuers through a maze-like construction site. You really don’t and for the great majority of you, none of that crap will ever matter! All you have to do to save your daughters is show up. Save your daughter’s heart and her soul and her spirit with loving words. Praise her. Encourage her. Compliment her efforts and guide her lovingly and you will have saved her a thousand a million times over and in ways infinitely more important.

For I’ve seen the daughters who have been truly failed by their fathers, and it’s shown me, in stark contrast, what a WONDERFUL father I had myself. I didn’t know when he made me laugh that he was armoring me against men who would make me cry. I didn’t know when he refused to raise his voice that he was guiding me away from men who would not only raise their voices, but their hands against me. I didn’t know when he treated my mother with the utmost respect that he was clothing me in pride and self-respect of my own. I didn’t realize that my father so strong in peace could be the greatest fiercest knight to my heart and soul. I didn’t know then, but boy, do I ever know it now.

Dads, if you want to save your daughters from Albanian sex trade workers, from abusive boyfriends and husbands, from their own self-loathing, you don’t need any particular job or unrelated skill-set. You just need to show up. You just need to build her up, and if these things don’t come naturally to you, you need to admit that and work on developing those skills, the skills of loving her, encouraging her, guiding her with compassion. That is ALL you need. And if you can’t develop those skills on your own, swallow your pride and find someone to help you. These are the skills that will save your daughter from herself, from others, from a dangerous world. Save her heart and you will have saved every bit of your little girl.

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