I opened my paper yesterday to find this lovely photo at the top of Mormontimes (a weekly section of the Deseret News) and the teaser headline FATHERS PROTECT THEIR DAUGHTERS AND GIVE THEM UNCONDITIONAL LOVE pg C9. And there, a lovely article (with photos!) spread across two pages.
It’s been a long time since I’ve submitted a newspaper feature, in fact last piece I wrote for DesNews was published the day before my mother’s death. The idea for this article came to me as a spiritual nudge a few weeks ago and I was surprised when the editor accepted my proposal.
I had no trouble finding three sets of exceptional fathers and daughters to interview– all three live within a paper airplane flight from my home. In truth, I can walk up and down my street or simply look at my four surrounding neighbors and my incredible husband to find outstanding examples of fatherhood. But the families I chose had unique stories I wanted to share: Libbie VanLeeuwen as the much younger baby girl in a family of boys, Rich Allen as the father of six daughters (I’ve informed my boys that someone has to marry an Allen girl. With the similar ages and interests I’m sure it will work out for at least one pairing– is that too much to ask?) and Dean Menlove as the father of seven grown children.
Speaking with these fathers and daughters and witnessing the love that flowed between them was incredibly healing for me. Interestingly, the first concept each father spoke of was his desire to protect his daughters.
Because of my place in life, the most profound conversation in this project was with Dean Menlove and his daughter Margee. Even as he introduced his daughter he teared up with pride, “Isn’t she beautiful? Isn’t she wonderful?” And Margee found time in a busy day to talk to me because:
“I’ll take any opportunity to talk about my dad.”
My first question: “How do you parent your adult daughters differently than your sons?”
Leaning forward, Dean spoke with great emotion, “My girls have tender hearts and feel things deeply. Their emotions are much more intense than my boys, and it’s my responsibility to care for my daughters and protect them from harm.”
“If anything, I need my father more as an adult than I did as a little girl or teenager,” Margee added, “There were teachers and leaders and coaches cheering me on back then, but now I rely on my dad for encouragement and unconditional love. I can show up to a family dinner 20 minutes late, unshowered and feeling impatient with my four rowdy kids. My dad will greet me with joy, telling me how beautiful I am, that he loves my chocolate brown eyes, that I must be getting younger rather than older. Dad always compliments my mothering; he thinks everything I do is fantastic, even if it isn’t.
“I have a wonderful, loving husband,” Connolly continued, “but I still need my dad. Even when I was a little girl, he could look at my face, know what I was feeling and ease my heart with kind words.”
How I wish I’d caught them on video! They spoke so clearly, so beautifully; every interaction infused with respect and kindness.
And I know this is the way it was meant to be, this is the divine pattern for fatherhood.
As we continued to talk, they became so excited about showing me the playhouse Dean built for his daughters that they insisted I come out and see it the next day.
Father’s Day can be difficult. Society doesn’t place the same expectations on fathers as they do on mothers and sadly, fathers are much more likely to be absent, apathetic or even abusive. But I believe we must keep speaking and writing about the ideal. I intend to raise five excellent loving fathers. For further inspiration, I recommend A Father’s Blessing from my friend Catherine and Dads and their Daughters from my friend Tracy. Neither are Father’s Day posts– they simply relate the way their father helped them at a time they needed it the most.
Dean’s wife Colleen teased me, “Good luck finding any copies of the newspaper; I think Dean cleared out every store within five miles.” And then she became emotional, “You’ve given us something to be joyous about during a very difficult time.” I responded that they had done the same and more for me.
I’ve been having a hard time; this week was one of the most difficult of my life. I’ve been aching, praying to feel the presence of God, to know Him, to feel His love for me. And now I understand the prompting to write this piece– God was telling me, “Look at these men, look at their nature, their love, the way they love their children. They are a reflection of Me; this is the love I have for you.”
Here’s the link:
(honestly, it’s a little stiff; I think I’m much more comfortable writing in first person these days)