When Ellie was fifteen years old, she came to me for a checkup. She was excited, and after a few minutes of chatting she told me why.
“My dad and I just got back from Peru,” she blurted. “It was so cool. You can’t believe how beautiful the mountains were and how amazing the people were we met.”
“How nice, Ellie Who all went on your trip?”
“Just my dad and me.”
“What about your mother, brother and sister? Didn’t they want to go on vacation with you?”
“Oh no, we weren’t on vacation,” she said “We went to bring medical supplies to people in the Andes who don’t have any. My dad and I planned our trip a year ago and this was something he wanted to do with me, I guess.”
“That must have been fun.”
“Well, I really wouldn’t call it fun. It was incredibly hard. We hiked up the mountain every day starting at about ten thousand feet and set up clinics in empty rooms and sometimes outside. I took blood pressures and gave fluoride treatments to kids and grown-ups and my dad treated their sicknesses.”
I stopped my exam, picturing this elfish young girl hiking up mountains, shoving trays of fluoride paste into stranger’s mouths, and sleeping outside.
“What in the world prompted your dad to take you on the trip?”
“Oh, I don’t know. He had always been the kind of guy who looks out for people who are poor and sick. Even here at home since I was really little he would take me with him to the soup kitchen in town. One time I remember my mom got real mad at him because we went to pick up Chinese food for dinner. On the way home, he saw a guy rummaging through a trash can at a park. He stopped the car, jumped out with all our Chinese food, and asked the man what he would like to eat. The guy chose the egg rolls–my mom’s favorite. That’s why she got mad. He never told her about the guy at the park, she just thought he forgot them. So I guess going to Peru was just what’s natural for him. He loves taking care of others.”
“What about you?” I asked. “Did you like what you were doing in Peru?”
“Oh yeah, I loved it. It was amazing. I really wanted to go. You know, watching my dad, who’s this big-shot, really smart doctor, go off to help people who don’t have enough food, who die of gross stuff like worms and junk, makes me want to do it, too. I know a lot of my friends’ dads don’t do stuff like this. But my dad’s amazing. He’s always thinking about what others need more than what he wants. I think that’s cool and I want to be like him. That’s why I went.”
By living his beliefs, Ellie’s father led her to the same spot.
Do a gut check on your own beliefs, and think of what sort of woman you want your daughter to be. She’ll learn not only from what you say, but from what you do.
One of the best things fathers can do is raise their daughters’ expectations of life. That will directly affect how your daughter talks, how she dresses, how well she does in school, even what sports or musical instruments she chooses to play. You can help her set goals, help her define a higher purpose for her life, and as a result, her self-confidence will skyrocket. And it will bring you closer, because she’ll recognize you as a leader and an ally, helping her to chart a better course.