Image: Daughter’s Book of Secrets
by Twins of Media
BSM: You recently authored “A Daughter’s Book of Secrets” which you describe it as things a dad should tell his daughter before she leaves home. Why do feel in this day and time this message is important?
RKJ: I believe the contents of the book are important in many ways and will aid dads in reconnecting with their adult daughters through the situations posed within the book. I believe the book fills “the disconnect” in conversations where a great many fathers cannot find the words to begin discussions with their teens or young adult daughters. Too many young women have to face daily storms with the fear of going to their dads through mistakes they might have made in purchasing an item, choosing the wrong boyfriend, or partner. Many of us do not want to hear, “I told you so,” or “You should have listened from the get-go.” All great conversations begin with one person willing to hear the other person’s thoughts where they listen emotionally and mentally. It took me a few years to get this right. Like most dads, I believed if the challenges came, and I had given instructions on how to muscle through it (dropping the emotions) all of my daughters could overcome almost everything. I was wrong! Many of us make missteps in conversations where we say the wrong words and slowly deconstruct the bridges our daughters should use to call on us, in the middle of their most difficult storms. There is no perfect dad in the world. We have all dropped the ball at some point and caused our daughters to cry and lose hope in something that they have had their heart set on. This is where that “Hole in the Heart” originates. This is where days of non-conversation turns into weeks and months. I really hope this book allows those conversations between dads and daughters that turn into bridge-building and reconciliation. Parenting is one thing. Being a dad is another. Girls, no matter the age are mentally wired different than boys. I had the thought that if I taught and talked to my girls about not being emotional, they would be able to make right choices without struggling. I did not listen to my eldest four during the years of their transitioning from teen to young adult. I tried to give them directions I felt would be a great fit for them and not what they had their hearts and minds on becoming adult women.
BSM: As a father of seven girls how did raising them with your wife influence your writing? What are some of the things you taught your only son to do in treating his sisters well?
RKJ: Wow! I had to walk back over the years and think on all of the short stories I have written. I realized that all of the emotional lessons within each of my stories are based on ideals, I have gleaned from my wife Callie, knocking down and chipping away at the hard shell I once had after serving in the Army and Marines.
Some of the things I taught my son about his sisters, his mother, and the woman he will marry is to look for opportunities to serve and protect them. He was trained to always open the door (car or building) to allow his sisters to enter the building before him. We had conversations about fussing or arguing with the women that he loves. I would tell him that if I don’t use demeaning words to his mother or sisters, he has to follow the same example. Though many may say it is healthy to argue, it does not work well in every relationship. And it leaves a nasty taste in the mouths of the children watching a parent’s every action. The biggest lesson I have given to my son on our repeated ‘father and son’ outings is who my father was and how he treated my mother negatively. I don’t want him to ever repeat that cycle of abuse. So he has the propensity to talk things out with his sisters, even when they have heated conversations.
BSM: Name something you want fathers to pay more attention to when it comes to their daughters, whether they are in or outside of the home.
RKJ: Prepare their daughters to deal with men who are maybe like they were. Also, have ongoing conversations with their daughters about the guys who are opposite of what they may have been. Preparation for tomorrow is key. Teach your daughters not to be openly preyed upon by what men may perceive as vulnerabilities. This I believe will cut down on a lot of heartbreak, money taken, and vehicles destroyed by someone who said that they will love their little girls.
Fathers, remember when your daughters want to talk, remain quiet long enough to listen to their words. Advice: Take a deep breath, count to three and then respond to the conversation. Sometimes we tend to listen only to respond. Taking a deep breath and listening allow us as fathers to learn. Make your daughter fierce in her belief as a woman but stay loving enough to prepare them for the men that will cross their path. Fathers should not shut down their daughters when they speak because they are not in agreement with something that may have been said. This is something I stopped doing a long time ago. I don’t shut them down because I want them to feel good enough to join any conversation with their peers or company for that matter. In all, fathers, prepare your daughters to be in control of their lives.
BSM: You cover topics like hygiene, car maintenance and apartment safety precautions as a prerequisite for when little girls eventually become young adults. Have you always given practical advice to your daughters even when the topics were uncomfortable to discuss?
RKJ: Yes. In the early years with my eldest daughters, I had those conversations. At first, I wouldn’t make them serious ones because they were uncomfortable to talk about, but after a while, I realized I was robbing them of the emotional and cognitive growth needed from those conversations. Now, no matter how uncomfortable, I talk to all of them about any topic. The jokes come later when we are in a public setting.
BSM: Give an example of how you instilled biblical teachings parenting your daughters.
RKJ: The best example I can offer is the example of Deborah from the Old Testament with the scripture, “A man is to LOVE his wife as Christ loves the church……”
We pray for each other. We pray together. I believe this allows us to keep our hearts and minds open for the emotional connections when I call them and they say, “Dad, I was just thinking about calling to talk to you about an issue I am having.” I have had many ‘father and daughter’ dates with my daughters that have allowed me to push the conversation into the areas of personal responsibility. I remind them to never lower their standards of who they accept as friends. I encourage them to finds ways to use their leadership skills to encourage and inspire those around them. My conversations are backed up by my wife who has this innate ability to be tough but deliver the same message with a woman’s objective. Sometimes, I get the statement, “Dad, mom said the same thing to me last week.” Then I am like, “Cool, at least you know what you’ve heard is the truth.”
The biblical teaching of stories is all cognitive and given for regurgitation. My role and job are to teach them a biblical application. I am to teach them to BE and BECOME the great women they each are created to be. I desire their choices to be based on how they believe in themselves and the God who says He will not fail them.
BSM: What is something you learned about yourself writing this book?
RKJ: There are several things I learned about myself after writing this book. I discovered the friends I leaned on for content in the book had a similar journey in discovering how important it is to be ‘that dad’ to their daughters. I see how my approach toward my daughters on a daily basis gave them the catalyst to push forward when they found themselves in the middle of a bad situation. I learned my conversations skills has have gotten a great deal better, and I am more attentive to listening to all of their stories about their day and week.
BSM: Your advice to young men who will one day become fathers? And the dads who did not always do the right thing. How do you encourage them to restore their relationships with their daughters?
RKJ: I like this question. As a person who did not grow up with his father, I understand the “hole” created by that parent not being in the home. My mom did all she could but the balance was not there. When I say balance, I mean I can see how my wife Callie, backs me up when I don’t know certain things or fail to remain open to all options to make the best decisions.
To the dads seeking to find the one thing to rebuild their relationships with the daughter, know it takes time. It takes time and a willingness to drop a tear in those moments when your heart breaks and you have to apologize and explain why you dropped the ball in the relationship. I understand this feeling. I know what it feels like to reach out to a daughter that seems to have lost hope in you. It takes time. It takes a persistent and consistent effort to prove your love for her on a daily basis. Even when she does not want to speak to you, send things like a card, letter, or note. Apologize and explain how much you love her and how you now want to make things right. I encourage those dads to listen to their daughters so there is healing. Make a concentrated effort to remind your daughters you are working to become a better dad then you were. Allow time for your approach and know the issues created cannot be solved overnight.
For the young men who will one day become dads. There are four things to be aware of:
Wife & Mother – The woman you marry is an example your daughter is aspiring to become. Treat her like the queen she is every day. Make sure you work to keep her happy and assure her you have her back. Remember this woman is your friend and confidant. She will know all your shortcomings and will be able to assist you in becoming the dad you desire to be and vice versa.
Believe in yourself – Do not be focused on how you look to the outside but more so to the women in your house.
It takes a village – Connect with other dads when the time comes through conferences or groups. Make connections with like-minded men who will encourage you to be the best dad.
Space and time – Take time for yourself. We all need a moment to regroup, meditate and think. Without distancing yourself from family find some downtime so there will continue to be better days with the family.
BSM: What are some of the things you like to do when you are not writing?
One thing I like to do when I am not writing is recording “Dad” jokes and email or text them to my daughters and their friends. I like to make them laugh and then have them to call me and say how the joke made their day.
But the crocs of my downtime is set in creating scenes and characters for future short stories. After developing these characters, I talk them over with my wife to find out which person I have taken the personality from. It creates a good time for laughing. Outside of this, Callie and I play board games like Scrabble and Play Nine just to remain competitive and talking.
BSM: Any promotional plans for the book? How can readers stay connected?
I plan to participate in several National Book Festivals and continue doing interviews like this one. This was a great time and it has allowed me to rethink how I approach my daughters in conversation. Thank you.
The author shares Robin K. Johnson is the pseudonym used to honor a very close relative
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