10 Things No One Ever Told Me About Having A Daughter

The List


No one ever told me how soon she might pay attention to boys. Like many of us, I pretty much bought into the social anthropology that sees boys as the romantic aggressors and girls as, at best, generously tolerant of their pursuits. This all changed one night at the gym when Mary Grace tugged at my arm and earnestly pronounced, “Daddy, do you see that boy over there? I like that boy”! As we sipped our smoothies in the gym café, she continually turned around to see where he was and watched him intently. At one point, he even came over to the table. His name was Harrison, and to her credit he was polite, cheerful, and well-spoken. He treated her kindly and with great respect. The one drawback to her first crush was that he was a 6’4, 19-year old with surfer good looks and the physique of a linebacker. He was the café worker. And she was three. Seriously.


No one ever told me how much more I could fall in love with my wife. Having a mini-version of Mary in the house cannot help but re-contextualize who she is to me. Many of the idiosyncrasies and dispositions that have tempted me to frustration over the years were suddenly recast in the person of our daughter, allowing me to see with new perspective and compassion some of her ways of being that seemed most alien to mine. To give an example of my meaning: I never could understand the seemingly crushing disappointment that my wife experiences when plans fail. Even the most mundane engagements, extemporaneously altered, can greatly affect her mood. I once saw her have a complete breakdown in a cafeteria line as she watched the last carvings of “her” prime rib sandwich get distributed to the guest in front of her. Frighteningly, Mary Grace is exactly like this. But, since she is innocent I am forced to compute her emotions using a more charitable calculus, and in doing so I find that it is a wild enthusiasm for living that lay at the heart of all these tiny tragedies. And, in turn, I come to see my wife. I used to think of those moments as childish; now I know they are beautifully childlike. There is a profound difference. I wish that I could go back and always love her as well as I do now. She deserves it.


No one ever told me that all of my previous attempts to understand the female anatomy would be completely revolutionized by a single nasty diaper. The resultant force of uncovering a tiny baby vagina that is smeared with poop is staggering. I have literally stood over my daughter with a baby wipe in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other, surgically removing flecks of feces from her hoo-hoo. 


No one ever told me that having a daughter would automatically turn me into a feminist


No one ever told me what waits for you on the flip-side of all that tenderness. It is very common for daddies of daughters to hear the quip, “Oh, you think you know what love is, but get ready! You’ve never felt anything like this”. And, in part, they are right. The “daddy’s girl” with her father wrapped around her little finger is well-documented. What is less discussed is all the immense RAGE that makes up the back side of the coin, that tender bit of tender. There is an indescribable, kinetic ferocity that gets into your bones. I can remember walking white-knuckled through a crowded farmer’s market with baby girl in the stroller, unable to enjoy myself for the visions of violence I was prepared to mete out upon any member of the throng who so much as cut in line. It is a complex thing for the heart of a man to be, at once and by the same catalyst, so moved to both give his life away and take it from another. Perhaps there is a lesson in it.


No one ever told me that the song “Butterfly Kisses” is the greatest song ever written. No matter how sappy, cloying, or contrived that you believed it to be, once you have a daughter it wields a mysterious and violent emotional power over you that is irresistible. Last summer at my friend’s wedding, me and some of the other groomsmen spent the first half of the song laughing and scoffing… and then I spent the second half of the song sobbing as I danced with my daughter. Say it with me: “I am Bob Carlisle’s bitch”.


No one ever told me the extraordinary importance of the color pink. Last Christmas, M.G. asked Santa for a “girl puppy”. When Claus asked her what color she wanted, she unflinchingly said, “pink”! I have seen her moved to tears upon hearing the report that her pink plate was in the dishwasher and unavailable for use at dinner. A radiant, white-robed Jesus could manifest in her room and present her with a blue, winged unicorn and I honestly believe it would go something like this: “Um, ‘hank you Jesus for my flying horse, but you forgot one ‘hing- PINK! Now, about that white robe…”


No one ever told me… well, maybe my wife had told me this, but I never really believed it: Lots of girls really do start thinking about planning their weddings from the time they are toddlers. Personally, I blame Disney. Every piece of white linen in our home is fair game for a pretend wedding rehearsal. She acts it out in detail. At first it was supremely cute because she wanted to marry me, but recently a pre-school compatriot has overtaken my place as groom-to-be. She says it is because he’s “silly and handsome”…


No one ever told me how irrationally crushed I would be the first time my little girl wanted to marry the silly, handsome boy from pre-school instead of me. 


No one ever told me how much I would genuinely enjoy manicures, tea parties, midday wardrobe explorations, impromptu waltzes, pastel tackle boxes, or Fancy Nancy.

The casual reader will likely hear in these only the saccharine. But, those of us with daughters will also hear what is terrifying, vulnerable, disorienting… and sacred.

We want to know- what did no one ever tell you about having a daughter?

We’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

'10 Things No One Ever Told Me About Having A Daughter' have 125 comments

  1. June 26, 2014 @ 12:27 PM Delevan Ogle

    It is comforting that I am not the only dad that has had to clean flecks of poo poo form the hoo hoo. Now Addie Mae is 4 and at bath time I am glad that the rite of passage has already happened: “Clean your own ‘hoo-hoo.'” Oh, and around these parts when we teach our little girls to groom themselves we say, “ting-ting.” Euphemisms can be so precious.


    • June 26, 2014 @ 4:23 PM Bret Spears

      That’s hilarious, buddy! What a strange sort of camaraderie…


  2. June 26, 2014 @ 3:15 PM Melissa Lamke

    Love this!!!!!! Great writing….keep them coming.


    • June 26, 2014 @ 4:21 PM Bret Spears

      Thanks, Melissa! I don’t think I have a choice about writing anymore- Mary is crackin’ the whip pretty hard.


  3. June 26, 2014 @ 4:11 PM Hannah Slusher

    I love this ! Number 3 had me laughing to tears!!


    • June 26, 2014 @ 4:19 PM Bret Spears

      It has also made me cry before, but for entirely different reasons!


  4. June 26, 2014 @ 4:22 PM Ellen

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    Pink looks great on you!


  5. June 26, 2014 @ 5:32 PM Lynn

    Your Daughter will grow up to be a strong woman because of your desire to protect, play & lead her. Keep up the good job!


    • June 26, 2014 @ 11:12 PM Bret Spears

      Thanks, Lynn! I sure hope you’re right…


    • August 25, 2015 @ 2:30 AM NANA DIANE



  6. June 26, 2014 @ 7:27 PM Josiah

    1Abso-freakin’-lutely. You nailed these.

    I’ve had the joy of these since jump street…


    • June 26, 2014 @ 11:11 PM Bret Spears

      Thanks, man. I’m curious: if you had to make a #11, what would it be?


  7. June 26, 2014 @ 8:10 PM Lana

    This is so sweet and so funny. I love #6 and feel that way about so many things now that I’m a mom. What made me roll my eyes before my baby boy was born does literally gut punch me now with sentimentality. Ahhh parenthood. I’m looking forward to seeing Shaun get manicures and participate in tea parties… and thanks for the warning about the hoo hoo cleaning :)


    • June 26, 2014 @ 11:08 PM Bret Spears

      It makes you feel like such a sucker, but it’s real! I think Shaun would do nicely with an Earl Grey and some Red Leather polish…


  8. June 26, 2014 @ 8:36 PM Sheryl

    Great job Brett!


  9. June 26, 2014 @ 9:19 PM marysusan

    I love #10! No one ever told me that having a daughter would be re-living and enjoying childhood for the second time. :)


    • June 26, 2014 @ 10:54 PM Bret Spears

      Excellent point! Thanks for reading, Mary Susan.


  10. June 27, 2014 @ 1:13 PM Andrew D. Doryland

    Well, I haven’t gotten to experience all of these with my daughter yet, as she is only 1.48 years old (I’m not sure why it felt so important to be as exact as possible) and I am currently deployed, but there is still something quite poignant, visceral, and frightening about this list.

    Hope; I think there is a tinge of hope mixed in with all the other emotions. Your posts give me a sense of hope and confidence in my own potential parenting abilities, too.


    • June 27, 2014 @ 1:31 PM Bret Spears

      Ha! That is is very precise age to be! What would you add to the list, Andrew?


    • June 27, 2014 @ 5:55 PM Bret Spears

      Andrew, I had only read the first part of your post when I responded; I hadn’t seen the rest. Man, it is incredible to hear that hope is coming through. That’s what counts about this whole project.


  11. June 27, 2014 @ 1:45 PM Jan Mullen

    Bret, you brought me to tears several times. Number two was so beautiful and truthful it moved my heart. Love this blog!


    • June 27, 2014 @ 5:59 PM Bret Spears

      I’m so glad that it meant something to you. The Marys are the best!


  12. June 27, 2014 @ 2:04 PM Motorcop

    As the dad to three beautiful girls, I humbly add the song, “Dance with Cinderella” by Steven Curtis Chapman.

    Yeah, I’m a cop, but I cry like a, well, little girl when I hear this song. #ForthcomingAgony


    • June 27, 2014 @ 5:09 PM Lisa Raye Morris

      Motorcop, you and my husband could have a good sob together. He hears this song even once and he’s not right for about an hour.


    • June 27, 2014 @ 5:47 PM Bret Spears

      Brother, I am totally with you on the SCC track! Those guys aren’t playing fair when they write that stuff.


      • July 6, 2014 @ 7:37 PM Kent Dickens

        You’ve got that right Bret! I have to change stations when those come on because I can’t stand the thought of my little girl growing up!!!! Thanks for sharing this. I needed this today!!!!


        • July 7, 2014 @ 8:42 AM Bret Spears

          Having been thrown up on more times than I care to admit over the last four years, I can fully support your decision to turn the dial ;). I’m really glad it meant something to you, Kent. We’re a brand new publication, so we need all the support we can get; if you believe in what we’re doing please be sure to share it with others. We truly appreciate it.


    • June 28, 2014 @ 10:16 PM Kayla

      You should hear ‘Barbie Bandaids’ by The Isaac’s. I tear up hearing it!


      • June 29, 2014 @ 3:42 PM Bret Spears

        Well, I’m a glutton for punishment so I’ll give it a whirl. It’s a funny thing to recommend, right? “Hey, listen to this song- it’s totally gonna ruin your afternoon.”


  13. June 27, 2014 @ 5:07 PM Lisa Raye Morris

    Nobody ever told me how I’d involuntarily turn into a human umbrella. I think it could be the female equivalent to your protective rage. I see my girlies as my little flowers and I stand between them and any emotionally dangerous situation, person, entertainment, clothing, or other influence that could knock a petal off. I don’t even let them watch most Disney stuff because of how it distorts their view of romance and attraction, and we steer clear of anything that contains the dreaded “smooching.” The older and prettier they get, the more I polish my shotgun. Overkill? Maybe. But they’ll grow up plenty fast on their own. No need to accelerate it. :)


    • June 27, 2014 @ 6:09 PM Bret Spears

      “Won’t even let a petal be knocked off”- that is beautiful. You bring up a great point, too- protection includes being watchful over their minds as well. You’re a bumbershoot mom!


  14. June 28, 2014 @ 8:45 AM Brent Sharpe

    Love it Bret!! My #11 springboards from
    one of yours. Now that my girls are in their 20’s I am overwhelmed at times by
    the joy I feel when a man treats them
    with love and honor and I see their eyes
    light up and joy fills their soul yet am
    also shocked with the juxtaposed emotion
    of rage that could relieve that same man
    of life and breath the moment he hurts


    • June 28, 2014 @ 12:37 PM Bret Spears

      Wonderfully expressed, Brent. I think volumes of study could be written on a father’s rage.


  15. June 28, 2014 @ 6:29 PM Vickie

    Love your insights into fatherhood! You forgot one important thing: Pray, pray and pray some more for someone to love her just as much as you do! (I did it for my daughter and it worked!)


    • June 29, 2014 @ 3:37 PM Bret Spears

      Awesome! That has got to be a very rich feeling. Back in Kentucky we have a saying: “Pray like it all depends on God; work like it all depends on you”. I’m definitely employing that strategy!


  16. June 29, 2014 @ 10:32 AM Bryan

    No one ever told me that how scary it is to dress a little girl. Change a diaper…no problem, bath time…water-bubbles-rinse-boom done, breakfast…donuts(Saturdays), nothing gets me more anxious than picking out her clothes. First thing you have to do is check your weather app on your phone. Don’t want her going out looking like an Eskimo on sunny day and you do to want her to get hypothermia if a brisk wind kicks up. As I open her closet and panic at all the color, ruffle, and things my brain actually begins to hurt. I start with the shirt. Is it the right color, is it cute enough, is it age appropriate or will I get the evil eye from the moms at dance class. What pants should she wear. Jeans, tights, is it ok to go with shorts in February, it is 75 degrees and it is California. What about shoes? Sandals, sneakers, boots, or Jellies (what the heck,
    I didn’t know these existed until I had a girl). Ok now we are dressed and she doesn’t look like a lady of the night, next up is hair. Hair? How is this supposed to work. Panic is now setting in. Do I do a side swoop, pony tail, pig tails, bow, or ribbon. If I go bow, how big is too big. I have a vacuum down stairs and once saw a YouTube video of a dad doing a ponytail using one. Wonder if the wife will notice? Second thought better not. Simple ponytail it is, but wait, what color should the rubberband be, should I put a bow or ribbon around it. Great now she looks like a cheerleader and I’m setting her on a path to use the word “like” 14 times in one sentence. Like, you know what I mean. Screw it, let’s just stay in our PJs, eat donuts and watch sports!


    • June 29, 2014 @ 4:29 PM Bret Spears

      Dude, that is hysterical! I know what you mean about that California layering- my wife and I lived in LA for a couple of years during grad school. You are to be applauded for the intentionality that you obviously give to her care. Don’t let the peripheral things plague you so much that you forget to take that deep, centering satisfaction that you’ve earned by being one of the good guys.


    • July 6, 2014 @ 4:00 PM Tammy

      I think some of you Dad’s are thinking way to hard… As long as she’s clean..happy and feed…. all the other stuff doesn’t matter…She is just happy to be spending time with her Daddy.. This coming from a big Daddy’s girl.. Just enjoy because they grow up to fast…. Bryan, I also vote for Pj’s and donuts…


      • July 7, 2014 @ 8:27 AM Bret Spears

        I can’t speak for the other dads, but with a background in philosophy I am bound to overthink any number of things. It’s good to be reminded of the power of simply being there. Thanks, Tammy!


      • July 8, 2014 @ 10:18 AM Stephen

        Was doing okay until I hit this reply, then Niagra Falls unthawed and the flood gates opened. Tammy, that was spoken by a well-loved daughter. Even approaching 60 with two daughters in their late 20s, still being “Superman”, “Prince Charming”, and “Bob Vila” gets to be a little bit of a challenge. Forget to keep the main thing the main thing.

        Also throw a couple of my own thoughts in here. Darius Rucker’s “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” still hits me hard. Additionally, one of the greatest gifts a dad can give his children is to love and respect their mother.


        • July 9, 2014 @ 9:02 AM Bret Spears

          I’m sitting here trying to imagine what kind of monstrosity would be rendered if we were actually able to fuse those three guys together?! It is a hilarious proposition. Good words here, Stephen.


  17. June 29, 2014 @ 6:40 PM Justin

    I just found out I am having a daughter (our first child) and I am very excited, but already imagining how difficult it is going to be as a protector yet still having to let go a bit at a time. I loved reading this list, especially numbers 2 and 9. Great list, great insights! Thank you!


    • June 30, 2014 @ 1:28 PM Bret Spears

      Congratulations, Justin! If you’re interested in reading some more conceptual ideas about being a protector, check out our first post entitled “Buckshot and Bigotry”. Thanks for reading!


  18. July 1, 2014 @ 11:24 AM Michael

    these are great. my little girl is 9 months old so it’s nice to have a heads up on some of these.

    i would have been too embarrassed to admit #3, thanks for being brave for the rest of us.

    #4 surprised me. i considered myself an entry level feminist before having a daughter. now i feel like i’m über-aware of gender issues (embodiment, exclusivity, etc).

    good stuff


    • July 1, 2014 @ 11:48 PM Bret Spears

      Thanks, Michael! That is a very fun (though sometimes harrowing) age. Here’s another heads up: for the next nine months consider yourself accompanied by a tiny, suicidal drunk who is just waiting for you to turn your head so she can swan dive off of the ottoman or run headlong into a wall. It’s like “Spy vs. Spy” except she has a death wish and you’re her father. Sound fun?


      • July 8, 2014 @ 10:46 AM Jay

        …and be ultra vigilant by pools. Someone called my name and in the time it took to turn, wave and turn back my two year old was at the bottom of the pool we were passing, holding her breath, looking up at me and waiting… she didn’t wait long.

        Writing this, I experience another parental delicacy I call hindsight-induced terror. This was four years ago and to this day I tremble at the memory. Turns out, she’s a really good swimmer.


        • July 9, 2014 @ 12:41 PM Bret Spears

          We were all once exceptional swimmers very early in life 😉 “Parenting Hindsight Terror” is definitely a thing (possibly relatable to PTSD, in some ways). My daughter took a swan dive off her changing table earlier in life and it definitely affects my mood to think of it. So, thanks for that… :)


  19. July 1, 2014 @ 11:52 PM Jared

    Thank goodness I haven’t had to experience numbers 8 & 9. Though I must say number 10 hits the nail on the head. Its amazing how a little girl in your life can change you. This coming from personal experience. I’m doing things now that I swore up and down I would never do (like let her paint my nails. I even went to work with them painted cause she asked me to leave the polish on.) As for a number 11…. I would add that no one ever told me that she would have my habits.


    • July 2, 2014 @ 12:07 AM Bret Spears

      I hear you on the habits thing. It’s so weird, right? My wife does this thing where she smacks her lips when she’s sleepy and I’ll be damned if my daughter doesn’t do the exact same thing! I understand resemblances and certain personality traits are carried in genetically, but I don’t get some if these other things- I mean, it’s not as if there’s a “drowsy lip-smacking” chromosome, right!


    • July 26, 2014 @ 6:35 PM Erica

      Wow I loved this, but I enjoyed reading your reply Jared my dad is one of the toughest men I know but at the same time he was such a softy when it came to me I painted his toes several times and at the age I was was not completely able to keep it all on the actual nail but he would rock that nail polish like it was a natural thing for him daughters have a huge impact on a man’s life things they swore they would never say or do all change when you have a child looking up at you (boy or girl)


    • September 8, 2016 @ 12:36 PM Charla

      If your aritelcs are always this helpful, “I’ll be back.”


  20. July 2, 2014 @ 12:34 PM Lexi

    Now that I’m 20, this made me miss my dad. I don’t get to experience much of that anymore (except I still plan for my wedding and tell my dad random hunky guys are my boyfriend just to scare him, sometimes ones with big tattoos and piercings), but as I was reading, memories of my childhood were vivid. Love my dad <3


    • July 2, 2014 @ 2:19 PM Bret Spears

      I think your messing with your father that way is hilarious! BUT, I am a little worried that if I laugh too hard I’ll be making a deposit in the karma pig. So, on second thought… cut that out! 😉 Great thoughts- thanks for sharing!


  21. July 2, 2014 @ 6:59 PM Bob

    Excellent insights, Bret. I can relate to #5 quite a bit. The desire to protect my family was a major reason I started training Krav and Muay Thai a few years back.

    Piggybacking on #5… No one ever told me that having a daughter would make me a hypocrite! I am much harder on my son, who is six and three-and-a-half years older than my daughter. Because he’s older I legitimately expect more from him than I do from her, but there are certainly things that I allow her to get away with that I don’t allow him.


    • July 3, 2014 @ 12:11 AM Bret Spears

      Thanks, Bob! I need you to teach me a few moves; unless a step-back jumper is somehow an adequate self-defense technique, we’re all doomed. I have felt that same disparity you mentioned before (with your daughter). I wonder if there is anything to it beyond the apparent? Thanks a bunch for reading!


  22. July 2, 2014 @ 9:16 PM Amy

    Wow this was so sweet, funny, and true! Being the mother of a 19 year old son and the sister of two brothers -no sisters, I had to learn as I went when I had my daughter (who is now 9 years old). Watching her grow from a newborn into a young lady has been the most beautiful and frightening time of my life. I love that we have become more than mother and daughter, we’ve evolved into best friends. I don’t know how long that will last so I cherish every second of it. Just as yourself and every other father I know, us mothers also have those horrible and frightening thoughts and nightmares that something has or could happen to our daughters. I simply pray that the world we live in will be kind to her at all times and that all the boys she will meet will respect her. Am I being unrealistic? Unfortunately, yes… but a mother can always hope.


    • July 3, 2014 @ 12:27 AM Bret Spears

      Thank you for the heartfelt expression, Amy. Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect such things as kindness and respect from “the world” since most of that is beyond control, BUT I don’t believe it is naive to think that your modeling self-respect and teaching empathy can equip that young woman with character to face “the world” with grace and strength. I wish you and yours all the best.


  23. July 2, 2014 @ 10:58 PM John Carmack

    I am a father of 3 boys 14, 12, and 8 from first marriage and now have my first baby girl on the way with my new wife. She is due the end of September. (I must say this also for a little more of a visual I’m 6’2″ 350 with tattoos.) I now find myself drawn towards the baby girl section of every store picking up all of the little girlie outfits and enjoying my self. She already has me wrapped around her little finger and she isn’t even here yet. I’m a bit scared cause after dealing with boys for over 14 years I’m now being thrown into a whole new world. My biggest worry I must admit is doing these darn diaper changes right, I’m used to the outdoor plumbing if you know what I mean….lol


    • July 3, 2014 @ 12:37 AM Bret Spears

      Congratulations, John! The thought of you tatted and towering in the little girls’ section is a scream. Don’t fret too much about the diaper thing- front to back and mind the folds. You’ll be a pro in no time.


  24. July 3, 2014 @ 2:23 PM Felicia

    As a mom to 3 kids, 2 boys and the girl being the youngest, she amazes me with how smart and witty she is at 16. Watching her become a young woman has been hard for me as she was always a mamas girl. The people they become would be my #11. That’s when you start to see the parenting you’ve done become full circle.


    • July 4, 2014 @ 11:42 AM Bret Spears

      I like that #11, Felicia. My daughter is 4, but she certainly thinks she is 16. I just can’t seem to get the clock to slow down. It’s maddening. It’s good to hear that there’s still sweetness at sixteen. Thanks!


  25. July 3, 2014 @ 6:37 PM Dean

    Great read. and great comments. #3 is the best… I have 3 daughters one is a twin (other is a boy) and 16. Older 2 are grown and on their own.

    I am not a writer, but if I could add a couple, here are some ideas to add to the list:

    #11 – you won’t realize how much they change you … sometimes it’s gradual, but other times it’s like a sledge hammer…
    #12 – cutting the grass becomes an escape when all 3 are on the SAME cycle… that is a whole other subject I’m sure you will be able to write about in a few years :-)
    #13 – how much more sensitive (or aware) we become to things we NEVER considered before… like shoes…. for example, DO NOT ask about the shoes she decides to wear with her prom dress – just compliment…. no. matter. what. … apparently a lot of thought went into them – even though you see flip-flops, she sees wardrobe genius…and then all her friends are wearing the same thing. :-/
    #13 – how quiet your house gets when they grow up…. it is never the same and when they do come home, it’s like they are 8 again. And your heart breaks every time they leaves. :-)
    #14 – how proud you are of them when the get out on their own and make their mark on this tough world, using many of the things you’ve struggled to teach them… it’s heartwarming when they call you from Lowes and ask your opinion on a purchase they are debating. Or they just call to ask for your opinion because they want to know what you think.
    #15 – how your world changes again when they give you a granddaughter…. you get to relive their childhood all over again, but this time it seems MUCH easier – and more fun! Just wait… it gets even better!


    • July 4, 2014 @ 12:04 PM Bret Spears

      Excellent additions to the list! My daughter being only four, I haven’t experienced many of the things you mentioned but your preview of the future is lovely. I do have one question: what is this “quiet” thing you mention in #13? It sounds familiar, but I can’t seem to place it 😉


      • July 4, 2014 @ 10:45 PM dean

        The quiet is the absence of general noise in the house. When they get older, they aren’t around as much…and you really notice the quiet more.


    • March 5, 2015 @ 6:15 AM Teri

      OK. I love this whole thing and actually laughed out loud at the poo one. All so touching, and so true for mothers/sons too. Dean’s #13, though, brought on the waterworks. My #11 would be: No one ever told me that once my kids are grown and I get to do all those things I looked forward to doing for 30 years, that my heart would somehow still be back in the old family home, where little voices, feet and hands would still be making noises and messes in a melancholy sort of way. I am learning the “old people” weren’t joking when they said all you get to keep are the memories. I read a long time ago that our “Golden Years” are actually not when we empty nesters are in retirement, but they are the years when we are raising our children, only we don’t know it because we are so busy and consumed with raising them, that we don’t see the forest for the trees. My brain understood that when I read it, but my heart and soul are beginning to really understand it now. I tried my best to enjoy my “Golden Years”, but nothing prepares us for when those “Golden Years” come to an end.

      The saving grace about being an empty nester are Dean’s #14 & #15. To have an adult relationship with your children where you can finally be “peers”, and not just “parent/child”, is priceless. And that moment you become a grandparent – there are no words. Dean is right, you get to almost relive their childhood and this time it IS much easier and much more fun! AND…. you get to pass the granddaughter to the new daddy, “Here, I think she has a poopy diaper.” Haha. The circle of life.

      They say the grass is always greener on the other side. The truth is the grass is greener wherever we put the hard work in to take care of it, and as empty nesters, if we put the hard work in, we get to enjoy all that beautiful green grass after all the work…. I think I’ll call these years the “Green Years”!

      Thanks for a great walk down Memory Lane!


      • March 11, 2015 @ 12:21 AM Bret Spears

        Sorry it took me a but to get back to you, Teri- I just saw your comments. Thank you for your words; I needed to hear this today. All of it.


    • May 19, 2015 @ 6:53 AM Patrick Schofield

      Number 13 is the hardest one of all. But I do have the grandkids to enjoy now.


  26. July 3, 2014 @ 9:00 PM Cristy

    I loved this! I’m 28 not married. No kids. I read this and, I think about my dad. I was a daddies girl. Nothing I have ever been exposed to has been the same type or, wonderful as the addiction of time spent with my dad. If more little girls had dads to love them, go on adventures with them, sing with them :) there would be less girls looking for artificial highs in the world.
    Reading what so many men said about their daughters really touched my heart. My parents divorced not long before I was 4. So, I spent all holidays and, all summers with my dad. As a small child I quickly found out that participating (or starting) in a playground fight at school got me a call from my dad. So, you can bet I was the twig that didn’t break but, caused plenty of destruction! I just wanted my dad. There are 18 years and 8 months between my brother and I. So, my dad pre-divorce spent most all his time with me. People to this day still ask him where his shadow is when I’m not around. Like I said time with dad = addiction. To this day I’d do most anything too be with him. Sadly, he remarried. My step mom has been jealous of our relationship. When I was 25 (and fresh from a hospital stay) she turned to physical violence. She had been verbally abusive all my life. Now, I can’t just go to my dad’s house. I can’t just be with him. Too further complicate things I have one of the most sever cases of Crohn’s Disease on record in TX. My dad doesn’t handle the stress of my illness well. It’s hard for him to be around me when I’m very ill. So, this year the only time I’ve seen him has been around hospital stays. It’s getting to the point it’s become painful. I love my dad. I want to be with him. I want to know him like my brother does. Sorta. My dad spent more personal time with me but, more actual time with my brother. After all my brother had a real family till after 21. I’m at that point where I look back and cherish all I’ve had with my dad but, I still want so much more. Lol, I don’t even know what I’m trying to say. All I know is what you wrote made me laugh and cry. I loved it. I guess I always wonder what my dad thinks of me. He loves me…ok how? Plus, what does that mean for a father to love his daughter? Whatever it is I know he did it but, now at 28, I still need more. It could be cause I’m fighting a battle not just to live but, to have a REAL life. Wanting a love, husband, kids, family of my own. There is more he has to love and, too teach me. How does that happen at my age?
    Note to dad’s out there. Even if you start today. I think it would be nice if you wrote a journal or, something chronicling how, why, when, what you loved about your child. It would probably make one of the best gifts a child could receive. Kinda what God did and, that gives all of us so much hope and, love. We use that hope and love just to live and, to get through the day. Your child might need those words from you. :)
    P.s. butterfly kisses still makes me cry like the biggest baby. As does George Strait’s Baby Blue.
    Thanks just for taking the time to write this. :)


    • July 4, 2014 @ 12:15 PM Bret Spears

      Cristy, I want to first say how grateful I am for your sharing. I can tell that the article really meant something to you, but also maybe stirred up some difficult emotions. I am so sorry for all of the struggles that you’re facing. What you described is a very complex situation and I can understand how it would feel overwhelming at times. I hope that you will find strength in a community of people around you- your doctors, good friends, and wise counsel. Grace and Peace to you.


  27. July 4, 2014 @ 12:30 PM John Paul

    2, 4 , 5 are the best ones.
    I’m not your typical suburban, sandal-wearing, self-aware, blog-reading dad, but someone had shared a link to this article on Facebook. I’m a Texan in my 40’s, rural, Christian, oil field worker. I’m a little rough, I guess, but I raised one girl mostly by myself, and have since remarried and have a toddler girl baby and yet another (gender unknown, at this point) on the way. Here are a few #11’s for you-
    11. Girls will make your big mean self cry
    11a. Girls will make you check your feelings
    11b. Girls may not like to fish, but they’ll sure go with you anyway
    11c. you can take a girl almost anywhere at any age. You don’t need a baby sitter, just a car seat, diaper bag or whatever
    11d. I will do time in the pen if I have to
    11e. My oldest daughter is an unbelievable young woman, and no, I don’t deserve all the credit. Even though her mom and me don’t see eye-to-eye, she is partly responsible for us having such a good kid
    11f. She’s 14 and can back a trailer, run a tractor, shoot a 3, dance, is a cheerleader, volleyball player, track runner, etc… so i’m doing some stuff right
    11g. She’s a Christian. Thank you, Jesus


    • July 4, 2014 @ 8:06 PM Bret Spears

      I don’t know, John Paul, all of that sounds pretty damn self-aware to me. I really appreciate your candor, albeit I am somewhat uncomfortable with how frighteningly accurate your description of “us” was- I think I was literally wearing flip flops when I read it. Here’s the thing: we need guys like you involved in this discussion we’re having about fatherhood. I certainly have no interest in this being an intellectual, yuppie circle jerk. I hope you’ll keep coming back and leaving your thoughts. And, more importantly than any of that, props to you for raising such a unique young woman. And congratulations on the new addition!


  28. July 5, 2014 @ 11:40 PM Nicole Garigen

    Didn’t read through all the comments yet. ….. But I never knew how much I loved my husband ’till I saw how great he was with our daughter. Although I get jealous when she flashes him huge smiles when he gets home from work and I bend over backwards for a mere smirk. I’m sure your wife will feel the same too. I love the side of him she brings out.


    • July 7, 2014 @ 8:00 AM Bret Spears

      This has certainly been my experience with my wife, Nicole. I see vantages of her now- in the process of becoming a mother- that are incredibly striking. Both my admiration and affection for her have grown.


  29. July 6, 2014 @ 12:31 PM Mike

    The “Butterfly Kisses” is so true. But the one thing that I’ll add is that there is nothing like a little girl. You can dress them in frilly clothes or put them in jeans and go fishing. And when they catch that first fish, it’s something special.


    • July 7, 2014 @ 8:16 AM Bret Spears

      Poignantly said, Mike. Mary Grace and I pulled out a pretty good catfish the other day and she just went crazy. It is a sight to see.


  30. July 7, 2014 @ 6:59 AM Michael

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. As a 24-year-old professional with a 7-month pregnant wife carrying my first child (daughter), I find myself terrified and excited at the same time.

    Everything on this list is completely awesome. Looking forward to adding to it at some point.


    • July 7, 2014 @ 9:03 AM Bret Spears

      Congratulations, Michael! That dynamic tension between fear and excitement is very normal for where you’re at. Adrenaline junkies actually seek it out! I hope you’ll keep coming back- we’ll soon be specifically discussing many aspects of being a new dad that you might find helpful. You can sign up for our email newsletter on the site, if you’d like. And help us get the word out- share us and like us and all those necessary evils :).


      • July 8, 2014 @ 11:35 AM Michael

        Already ahead of you — signed up and shared.

        On a side note, I’ve been a journalist for the last couple years and because I’ve moved up the corporate ladder so quickly, I’m not writing anymore. I’ve long though about starting a blog very similar to yours. I’d be willing to write some for you (no charge) if you’d have me.

        Shooting you an email. We can chat more there.


        • July 9, 2014 @ 9:45 AM Bret Spears

          Thanks very much for sharing. It means a lot. I’ll check your message and get back to you as soon as I can.


  31. July 7, 2014 @ 1:28 PM Paul

    I wish someone would have told me the extent to which having a daughter would make me such an emotional pushover.

    I loved every bit of this!


    • July 7, 2014 @ 2:18 PM Bret Spears

      HA!! I definitely echo that sentiment, Paul. Thanks for reading, man.


  32. July 7, 2014 @ 8:21 PM Erik

    I loved this. I have a 2 and a half year old daughter and from about 15 months we were asked who was the enforcer or who made the rules in our house. And I said I’m not going to lie my daughter runs the house and there is nothing we can do about it. She definitely has me wrapped around her finger and I don’t mind it one bit. Thank you for this and I look forward to more of your work.


    • July 9, 2014 @ 8:34 AM Bret Spears

      It sounds to me like our daughters would get along pretty well, Erik! My 4-year old often seems more like our CEO than our baby girl.


  33. July 8, 2014 @ 9:06 AM Shauna

    What I never saw coming, was how those same sweet little girls transform into hormonal monsters when they turn into teenagers. Very frightening!


    • July 9, 2014 @ 8:48 AM Bret Spears

      Sigh… Is it cheating if I just try to completely pretend like this is never going to happen? I hear you, Shauna. I have no idea what that’s like, but it sounds pretty rough. All my best to you and yours.


  34. July 8, 2014 @ 12:46 PM Judy

    No one ever told me that when my daughter gave birth to her daughter 7-4-2014 that I would cry like a baby everytime I seen her holding her own daughter, at the overwhelming emotion that comes from knowing the indescribable feeling and the flooding joy and happiness that she is feeling is feeling at that moment.


    • July 9, 2014 @ 12:31 PM Bret Spears

      Congratulations, Judy! We have this picture of the four generations of women in my wife’s family and looking at it always evokes strong feelings.


  35. July 11, 2014 @ 12:21 PM Bradford Wiles

    Nobody ever told me that I would celebrate the little victories of learning about girls like I do. I was raised in a household with two male siblings. I’m in the middle, and besides that, I quite literally knew nothing about little girls until my little girl came along. I celebrate putting in a hair tie, selecting an outfit in which she looks incredibly cute, and her huge smile at seemingly simple things (like my juggling her toys). Nobody ever told me that I would be overjoyed and terrified in the same breath, as I am thrilled for her development now, but petrified at what is to come when she can, and does, make her own decisions. Nobody ever told me that ALL of the clichés are true, such as, “you’ll never love another person like you love your daughter”, “you will gladly go to the penitentiary for her”, and “your life will never be the same”. I love my little girl and while I trust that my wife makes all of the best decisions, I am always doubting or at least reevaluating my own decision-making when it comes to my daughter’s growth.


    • July 11, 2014 @ 4:13 PM Bret Spears

      This is great! I totally hear you about the small victories: I’ve been working on my hairstyling and I am convinced that you need an engineering degree to do a French braid.


  36. July 13, 2014 @ 12:13 PM Brittany

    Seeing my husband with our daughter definitely made me fall more in love with him. She cracked his shell and he will do anything for her. No one ever told me the live for my children, and especially my daughter, would make me feel like I would just burst. No one can explain that feeling and it is amazing. Also, no one ever told me how mean a two year old could be to her mother! The attitude is like my middle school students!


    • July 14, 2014 @ 9:17 PM Bret Spears

      It strikes me as funny how many people now have voiced this dynamic of loving their spouse more because of what the kids have wrought in their character. We often hear so many of the stressors that children bring to bear on a romance- lack of time together, arguments about parenting decisions, financial considerations, etc. It’s cool to hear the other side of the story. Thanks, Brittany!


  37. July 25, 2014 @ 2:35 PM Danielle

    My husband and I are very much looking forward to our first girl (I’m 7 months along in my pregnancy). We have a 5 year old boy, already. My husband is generally very quiet, (I jokingly refer to him as the “Zen Master” of our relationship) and I look forward to seeing her draw him out of his peaceful little shell, haha. This is an eye opener for me as well, I grew up the tomboy, eldest sibling with four brothers. I have always hated pink, and I’m the tattooed, dirt bike riding, mechanically inclined hooligan of the family… This is going to be interesting for both of us. There are 23 grandchildren in the family, 3 being girls, and all of those girls live half way across the continent. We’re a little out of our depth. Thank you for the article. It was poignant, and sweet, and a real tear jerker :)


    • July 29, 2014 @ 1:57 AM Bret Spears

      Wow, that really is an intriguing set of circumstances. When I wrote the list, I actually thought a lot about certain things- like the infatuation with pink- that might be overly specific to my daughter. You never know how the nature/nurture thing plays out. My wife was a Montana Tom-boy; my daughter, so far, is about as girlie as she can be. Those differences can be one of the coolest features of parenting, I think. You get to “introduce” yourself to your kid and they return the favor. It’s kind of a relief to know they don’t become just like you ;).


  38. July 26, 2014 @ 8:32 AM Paul

    Thanks for the list. I thoroughly enjoyed it. My wife and I had two boys before our daughter was born. She really wanted a girl…I was terrified about having a daughter. Despite my fears I found myself praying harder than I had ever before that God would grant my wife the daughter she so desperately wanted. When we learned that we were having a girl, it was the first time I ever felt like God had truly heard me and answered my prayer.

    My daughter is amazing and even though I still worry about every event in life she is yet to encounter (some rational, some not so much), I can’t imagine our lives without her. I think my greatest fears are the day she leaves the house and the day she finds the man she will fall in love with and marry. Even though she will have to leave the nest one day, I will always want her close so I can pick her up when she falls and protect her from the world. She is just about to turn 3-years old and I selfishly wish I could keep her at this age for as long as I’d like.

    I think what most fascinates me about my daughter is how girly she is. I did not have a sister and having two boys prior, I am continually in awe with how innate her “girliness” seems to be. Every time my wife puts hers in one of her dresses she runs to wherever I am and twirls for me…back and forth in circles with her arms in the air. It touches my heart in ways I can’t begin to describe.

    I think that fathers of little girls should feel especially blessed for they will get a lesson in true love and emotion that cannot be matched by any other life experience. Thanks again for the article.


    • July 29, 2014 @ 2:15 AM Bret Spears

      I totally know what you mean about that “innate girliness”, Paul. It’s like my daughter has some kind of secret handbook that gives her girlie wisdom beyond her years.


  39. August 19, 2014 @ 3:26 PM Selinda

    I just lost my daddy. I am 59 years old. I wanted to marry him when I was little, and when he tucked me into bed I wanted to make sure I was as pretty as can be. And when I told my mom about Gym, he asked WHO’S JIM??? He was my best friend, loved me unconditionally and was really funny. When he walked me down the aisle, he was sad for a few days. And when he became a grandpa to my daughter, they were inseparable, even on the last day of his life. She shaved him, cut his nails, combed him, and sent him off. He taught us to respect ourselves and never settle for someone who would not treat us well. Never underestimate what a Dad can do for a daughter. I love more completely because of him.


    • August 19, 2014 @ 10:12 PM Judy Holder

      I am not a dad, I am a momma, two children and two step children…… I was NOT prepared for the violent side of me that would want to come out and play when one of our children were hurt! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPAdTTbCCd4


      • August 26, 2014 @ 12:34 AM Bret Spears

        I hear that, Judy. I remember the first time someone drove into my blind spot on the baby’s side- I nearly went full-on road rage in an instant!


    • August 26, 2014 @ 12:32 AM Bret Spears

      Selina, your story about your father is inspiring!


  40. September 8, 2014 @ 2:52 PM Ken Druck

    My “Earth” daughter sent me you beautiful article on “10 Things” this morning and I wanted to personally thank you for such a rich sharing. I also wanted to offer my work to the many “unlucky” dads for whom “the death of my daughter” became the unspeakable 11th “thing.” Again, my deepest gratitude for all the great work you are contributing to fathers and families, Ken (www.kendruck.com/category/blog/)


    • September 21, 2014 @ 12:04 PM Bret Spears

      I apologize it has taken a while to get back to you, Ken. I am glad that the article meant so much to you, but I am overwhelmed at your sharing about the passing of your daughter. I cannot imagine. Grace and peace to you.


  41. September 26, 2014 @ 11:55 PM diana

    que lindo pensamiento tiene usted! una hija es lo mejor, son una cajita de sorpresas. siga asi y siga siendo un buen padre y ejemplo! suerte bendiciones


    • September 8, 2016 @ 1:07 PM Dany

      Me and this article, sitting in a tree, L-EA–R-N-I-N-G!


  42. October 19, 2014 @ 9:43 AM Brent

    Here I thought it was all just me!

    When we found out we were having a girl after 3 boys I spent months thinking, “I have the boy thing figured out. I can handle that. But what the heck am I going to do with a girl?? I don’t have a clue what to do with a girl.” It turns out they come pre programmed to know exactly what do do with Daddy!

    Its very true about falling in love with your wife all over again. Our daughter is so much like her mother but 100% helpless and wholey dependant on us. It activates our primal desire to nurture and protect.

    Ou daughter is almost 4 and it has been a wild ride! I can’t wait for whats next!


    • October 22, 2014 @ 1:58 PM Bret Spears

      So cool to hear, Brent! You are definitely not alone. Good luck to you and your crew going forward. My daughter is also four and I’m really loving it. Thanks for reading, man.


      • March 5, 2015 @ 6:47 AM Teri

        Bret, just FYI. I am fluent in Spanish and thought I’d take the opportunity to just translate what Diana wrote just above here. She said: “What sweet thoughts you have! A daughter is the best, they are little boxes of surprises. Continue as you are and continue being a good father and example! Good luck blessings”


  43. November 18, 2014 @ 5:56 AM Dave

    I see a lot of comments about feeling protective on here so, I’ve got to ask… Am I the only one who feels torn on this? With my daughter, sometimes I let her fall or get hurt. Of course, never when it could be serious. I’d sooner be keel hauled then let anything serious happen to her… But when it isn’t, as much as I would love for nothing bad to happen to her, I feel a greater sense of pride in seeing her realize she can dust herself off and get back in the saddle. She is girly, her mom makes sure of that, and we have our tea parties, but she also has a toughness about her… more so than her mother… and I love to see it shine through from time to time because I know that part came from me. It’s the part that makes me certain that she’ll be able to take care of herself one day when I can’t. Now, I don’t have a son so maybe those with boys get their fill there, but there is something about her particular blend of courage and girliness that I find astonishing.


    • November 20, 2014 @ 12:55 AM Bret Spears

      Dave, these are fantastic thoughts and I certainly share many of these sentiments. The dynamic tension between strength and tenderness is ever-present in fatherhood, I think, and may be particularly piqued by the father/daughter relationship- with both parties learning much about themselves. Thanks for reading, man.


  44. December 25, 2014 @ 12:29 AM Susan

    This is the cutest thing. Ever. Happy for kids out there that have dads like you.


  45. January 7, 2015 @ 1:17 PM Jose Fernandez

    I got this on a rebounce from another page (in Spanish). I still had to read the original source of this, and it was beautiful. For some reason, number 2 moved me to my very soul. My wife is 26-weeks pregnant with our first daughter (we have already had a boy 2 years ago) and I never thought that yes, I agree: it will make me fall in love even more with my wife, as I will see her reflected in my daughter and viceversa. I will be more patient and tolerant with things I don’t like as much and I will ADORE the things I already like. Interesting post!


    • February 5, 2015 @ 10:02 PM Bret Spears

      I absolutely love to hear this! Sorry it has taken me awhile to respond. The kind of repose and feeling that you expressed mean a great deal to me. I wish you all the best as your daughter comes into the world.



  46. February 9, 2015 @ 6:04 AM eugene

    Hi bret. Let me tell you that you ve touched my soul with everything you wrote. I m a father of a 4 year old girl who has made me feel what I call “real love”. Nothing and nobody moved my feelings the way she did. Even though I do really love my wife, just like you said on the text. It s very nice to read someone s words who shows the same feelings I feel. Let me congratulate you and thank you for sharing these words. Greetings from buenos aires.


    • February 9, 2015 @ 4:44 PM Bret Spears

      Buenos Aires?! Why am I not there right now?! The 4th year is a good one- my daughter turns five next month and I’ll kinda hate to see it go. Thanks so much for your kind words and for sharing your story. Wherever love grows, it is a beautiful thing.


  47. March 27, 2015 @ 7:34 AM Violet

    My dad easily maneuvered through these challenges, he however says that his biggest challenge accepting my pregnancy because i was his little girl. the moment we spoke of labour he was horrified and said that i nearly died. if he could he would bring my baby into this world so as to protect me. I am proud mother of a four year old and my dad loves him to bits.

    This article was a great read and it shows that you are a great father.

    Thank you.


    • April 12, 2015 @ 11:43 AM Bret Spears

      Sorry for the delay in responding, Violet. Thanks so much for writing. Your father sounds like a great man, one whom I aspire to be like. So glad that the article was a source of joy for you.


  48. December 29, 2015 @ 5:01 PM Sophia

    Well written and entertaining! I am both warmed by tangible emotions and prompted by intrigue into the male psyche. Very refreshing read to have stumbled across during the holidays. Keep it up!


  49. July 3, 2014 @ 8:13 AM Mary Spears

    Thanks for the link :)


  50. July 19, 2014 @ 12:10 AM Bret Spears

    Thanks for the link!


  51. July 19, 2014 @ 12:11 AM Bret Spears

    Thanks for the link!


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