“You are going to die.”
The words being said to me do not come from physicians and medical experts. The words come from acquaintances who have just heard me say, “I have four daughters.”
Were you standing beside me, you would see these friends burst forth in a deep, almost maniacal, sort of laugh, then emit a lung-emptying “Oh!” But I quickly learned that such a single-syllable utterance loosely translates, “You are going to die. And it will be your daughters who are the death of you.”
I try to assure these naysayers I’m proud to have fathered four girls. They will not listen.
“Travis, why would you do that? Were you trying for a boy? Do you have any idea what you’re in for? Wait until junior high. No, wait until high school. Worse, wait until college! Do you know how expensive weddings are?”
Why do others’ minds transform my beautiful children into an unstoppable rebel force, one bent on banishing peace and robbing me of fatherhood’s joys? It’s clear to me the listeners expect my four to display daily drama, wield womanly wiles, and wreak relentless ruin.
Despite the prevalence of that thinking, I don’t believe it. Never have. Never will.
My wife, Carol, and I are confident about our daughters’ futures despite the power of a culture that would teach them empty values: image over character, hedonism over relationship, and entertainment over knowledge. No, there aren’t magic pills that I force my daughters take to eliminate the potential of any future error or damaging decision that they could make. The enticement and ease of such and existence is in stark contrast to a challenge-filled life of a girl who knows who she is and what she’s about.
There are, however, four primary pillars my wife Carol and I have built into our child-rearing process. These pillars provide a faith-filled hope that our girls will become something other than the simple-minded product of an overwhelming cultural presence. The enticement and ease of such an existence is in stark contrast to the life of a girl understanding who she is and what she’s about.
The four pillars comprise we call our Family Legacy. That legacy is a set of stories, traditions, or beliefs associated with a particular group; or the history of an event, one which arises naturally or is deliberately fostered.
We do not create “lies to live by” in order to produce the results we want. Our daughters soon would discover the lies, which would shatter our integrity as parents and ultimately produce the very rebellion we sought to avoid.
Truth, instead, creates the foundation of our family legacy.
We believe our daughters are created in the image of God. Inherent in that image are (among other virtues and characteristics) true beauty, strength of character, the ability to reason, an understanding of eternal significance, and hope for the future. This is the understood end result of who we expect our daughters to become.
We highlight stories of our family’s history that illustrate our identity as a family and demonstrate the substance of which our children are made. Children are told from birth, “You look like your mother.” Or, “You act like your father.” Science lessons about DNA further reinforce that children are “a chip off the ol’ block.” Our daughters need to believe that who they are, and what they’re made of, can produce the desired results. Such beliefs may be as simple and self-affirming as, “I can be courageous because my father is courageous. I can be beautiful because my mother is beautiful. I can be brilliant because my grandfather is brilliant. It is in me. It’s part of my history. It’s the basis of who I am.”
We create family traditions to help our children acknowledge and confirm they are made of the same substance as the family members before them and are an extension of that history. Brianna, our oldest daughter at 8, fired a rifle this year under careful tutelage. She, Abigail at 6 and McKenzie at 4 slept in the forest without a tent… in December. My two oldest daughters ride 50cc motocross bikes. Don’t tell them they aren’t strong. They won’t believe it. The strength of their history is put to the test in them so they may confirm, “Yes. This is who I am.”
We ultimately expect our children to succeed and they expect to succeed because of it. Along the way they may fail, but failure will not be the end result. It simply will be an obstacle to be overcome in order to succeed.
Even as I write this, I sense there will be parents who read this and say, “Yea, right! Wait until the girls get older. Let’s see what happens when they discover boys. I’ll bet things will go wrong when…”
Such folks will list the potential challenges that my daughters could face, then dismiss our system. What they don’t realize is that they’ve created a legacy of their own… a legacy of failure that states, “This is who you are until you’re challenged.” Their children will reflect and confirm that grievous mythology.
Am I being unreal? I understand it’s unlikely our daughters will make the right decision every time. I do not expect every outcome will be favorable. Yet, I’m willing to bet on who they will, in the end, become. Why?
Because this is precisely who God created them to be. As they understand what they came from (familywise), and Who crested them, they will confirm that in themselves and never let it go.