Over the summer I’m aiming to publish one guest article a week. In the second of the series, I’m delighted to present his post from Nigel Higgins, the man behind the DIYDaddy blog. Nigel sits at No.2 on Vuelio’s Top 10 UK Daddy Blogger list and has a fantastic, warm writing style. A dad of five, four of them girls, Nigel outlines what I can expect to deal with as my daughters grow up. It would appear that fun times lie ahead!
John is a father of two young daughters and he asked me to write about what he has in store for his daughters as they grow up.
I definitely have the experience to answer this question that’s for sure. I’m a father of five children aged 21, 19, 18 and five-year-old twins.
Four of my children are girls. Whether my experiences and advice are any good, well, that’s another matter altogether!
It’s been any interesting journey being a parent to five children and one overwhelming feeling that has always been there even to this day is worry. The moment your children are born you begin to worry, but the worry changes constantly over the years.
When your children are babies and up to a certain age, which I think is around 9 or 10 years old, the worry you have is one of protecting your children. In truth you have complete control so, of course you can keep them in a bubble away from bad things in life. I mean at this age they’re never really out of your sight unless they are in school which is fine because it’s a safe place, but OMG! Then they start year 6 in school, and it’s really not cool to be seen with your parents! You thought you worried before, well just wait for the next 10 years!
What always amazed me, though, was that every time I felt that things had levelled out, I would turn around and be faced with another hill to climb. It really is never-ending.
My initial shock came when when my eldest daughter decided she didn’t want me to give her a lift to school because she wanted to meet her friends and walk to school with them. I asked her if she was sure, as I said that I really didn’t mind giving her a lift, to which I was faced with a very stern face and a very loud, “It’s okay!”.
There was a little sadness in me at this huge moment because I realised that she was no longer my little girl. She was on the the road to independence. Nothing would be quite the same again, but that’s the nature of growing up.
Looking back at my older children and what they all got up to at different times, I’m not surprised I have grey hairs! You have to deal with a lack of communication and you have to learn the ability of when to say something, ask a question or just keep your mouth shut. It’s a fine balancing act I can assure you and I think I have got it wrong more than I ever got it right.
You may think you understand and have a totally open relationship with your children, and to a point you do, but they can so easily not tell you what is going on in their lives. You have to become a mind reader!
For me though, I seemed to always know if something was wrong, however, I learnt very quickly that timing your moment to ask them what was up is the key to get them to open up. I also found out that rather than commenting too much, sometimes it was wise just to listen until they ask for your advice.
Our children look up to us and believe that we have the answer to everything, which of course we don’t. I found the best solution was to be honest and say I honestly don’t know, but maybe we can work it out.
My older daughters, in particular my (now) nineteen-year-old was always curious about my childhood. This is fine, but most people will know that my own childhood was a total mess and incredibly dysfunctional.
I had to decide if I should tell it as it was or give a toned-down version. I decided to say it exactly as it was. It wasn’t pretty at times, but at least I would never have to tell it all again with the bits I missed out. Your children will be very curious about your childhood and upbringing.
Once your children enter their teenage years they start to discover all manner of things. I decided as soon as my eldest daughter became a teenager that I was not going to shy away from any subject and when the subject of sex or periods came up I said it as it is.
When talking about sex there is no point in giving them a filtered version. They need to know that they should practise safe sex because if they don’t, a baby or an STI will be the result, and don’t let anybody pressure you into sex until you are ready. When both my older daughters asked about menstruatation, and they will believe me, it’s important to talk in a sensible, straightforward way to ensure that they understand and to stave off any fears they may have.
At some point in their lives they will also come across drinking and drugs. It’s the society we live in today and it’s vital that they understand the dangers because when they are going to house parties from about the age of 14 and you are not there, they need to look after themselves.
I lost count about how many times I have said look after your drink, make sure nobody spikes it. You won’t stop them drinking or taking drugs, but hopefully you can educate them about the dangers and then hopefully they will be sensible, not do drugs and if they drink you pray it’s just trying it out.
It’s interesting because I thought sleep deprivation was only associated with babies! Not a chance when they have discovered the joys of nightclubs. You will lie awake until 4am waiting for the key to go in the front door, then breathe a sigh of relief and sleep!
Romance; well, this is a minefield and OMG, it can blow up in your face big time! It’s without question the most difficult part I have found being a parent to girls. You sometimes simply cannot say right thing.
I remember one boyfriend my eldest daughter had, actually it was two and if I’m honest I was not keen on either, but of course saying that to your daughter would be disastrous.
Well they are 15 and totally loved up, but when it all goes wrong which invariably it does, you have to pick up the pieces and pray they don’t get back together. The worst thing you can say is don’t get back together because they will instantly go running back to them, even when you know they are not suited. Tread carefully!
Just when you thought it was safe to step back in the water, they turn 20 years old, fall in love, move in together, and I get a text saying: “We are thinking of emigrating to Australia!”
Having experienced bringing up girls to adulthood, nothing surprises me anymore.
No subject is ever off limits and that includes sex, romance, alcohol and drugs, to name a few. Honesty is the secret. Don’t tell your children a version that is seen through rose tinted glasses. Prepare them fully and educate them to the maximum because our schooling system doesn’t.
Most importantly, even though they may do something wrong, which they will because it’s what you do as a teenager, remember will all did. Make sure they have the confidence to come to you for help to solve the problem, which sometimes is very simple, a hug and kiss, and telling them that you love them.
That’s sometimes all your children need. No matter what their age my daughters will always be my little girls, and my son my little lad.
I recommend you pay a visit to Nigel’s blog at DIYDaddyblog.com. Nigel also co-hosts the weekly #ThatFridayLinky blogging linky along with his wife Emily at her blog Twin Mummy Daddy. You may also want to see the guest post I published last week that was written by Darren Coleshill of the Photalife blog. Darren’s post provided hints and tips for improving your family photography.