Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Review: Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

Over my vacation, I decided to read a book on parenting and being a dad. I took a risk and did something I rarely if ever do--I choose to read a book without any prior recommendation, blog article, link or book review. With the exception of a few helpful Amazon.com recommendations while searching for a book, when I bought and read Meg Meeker's Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know I was surprisingly not disappointed by my all-but blind choice. 

I am a father of four girls, all ages seven and under. Truth be told, I have at times secretly longed for at least one boy. Somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind, I am sure that somehow I have surely envisioned that raising at least one son to manhood would be a shining vindication of my own manhood. I know daughters are precious and I wouldn't trade them for the world--but oh to have a boy to chase frogs, play guns and teach all those "boy" things that make boys men. Alas, perhaps it is not to be.

But here Meg Meeker both slaps you in the face and taps into the manliness of men as she talks plainly and directly to fathers on behalf of the daughters they will raise--indeed must raise. She provides a slap in the face, not as an insult but like splashing cold water on the face--calling fathers to be fathers and men for the sake of their daughters. She also properly motivates. You walk away from this book not just with a mind filled with facts, figures, statistics and ideas of what to do but also with clear motivation to do it. This book does more than inform and warn--although that is a vital role. It also properly inspires. For example:
  • "[W]e have a popular culture that's not healthy for girls and young women, and there is only one thing that stands between it and your daughter. You. Fathers inevitably change the corse of their daughters' lives--and can save them." (p.28).
  • "[S]omeone has to tell fathers to uncage their masculinity...True masculinity is the moral exercise of authority." (p.46-7).
  • "Every man who enters her life will be compared to you; every relationship she has with a man will be filtered through her relationship with you. If you have a good relationship, she will choose boyfriends who will treat her well. If she sees you as open and warm, she'll be confident with other men." (p.49)
  • "The most aggressive campaign against your daughter's emotional and physical health is directed at her sexuality. She relies on your defense against that campaign. And fathers should know that the sexual messages your daughters see and hear today in popular culture are more pervasive, powerful, and graphic than they were thirty years ago." (p.94)
  • "You have to be your daughter's protector and fight a culture that lies to her about sex and denies her right to modesty." (p.98).
  • "I am convinced that if fathers recruited even 20 percent of the intellectual, physical, mental and even emotional energy they spend at work and applied it to their relationships at home, we would live in an entirely different country...I'm talking about truly engaging with your family as a husband and father." (p.136).
  • "Courageous men take stock and do what is right. Integrity is not complete without humility. True humility comes from finding that balance between who you are and what the world is. And the great reward is that humble fathers are wonderful to be around. Daughters love humble dads and distance themselves from haughty ones." (p.167).
  • "To be a father is to be a leader, to make decisions, to intervene on your daughter's behalf, and to instruct and form her character so that she knows right from wrong, so that she knows when to say no, and so that she's strong enough to fight temptation. And all that requires that you have moral clarity." (p.209).

This book addresses a whole host of problems: fathers who won't be men and exercise the authority that parent have and must use, fathers who are overly authoritarian and have no relationship, sexual and moral problems of our culture and how they effect girls. At times on this latter point the statistics are overwhelming and scary.

Meg Meeker backs up her points with serious scientific study which bolsters her case. She gives helpful tips, stories and antidotes so that this work is hardly a stuffy academic treatise. While she does talk about belief & faith in a generic sense, this book is not specifically a Biblical exegesis as an evangelical reader might want. It's audience is a bit broader. Those who are accustomed to launching into the practical from an exegetical point might wish for a little more. If one is looking specifically for a Bible case, this book is lacking. Yet those who are sufficiently developed in their 'Biblical theology' of parent, this book is very helpful.

Overall the book is well researched, honest and painstakingly frank. It creates a vision of what father can and should be. As a final thought, one image that stuck with me is the comparison Meeker makes between raising girls to be "princesses" vs. raising them to be "pioneer women." Her point is that princesses are often selfish, stuck-up, prideful and entitlement driven. Instead of raising a 'daddy's angel' who is really a self-absorbed brat under all that 'princess' veneer, Meeker argues are image should be to raise "pioneer women." These are the type of women who when they wanted something had to work for it. They were strong, confident and self-sufficient. The result was healthier relationship and a stronger work ethic. This type of women is noble rather than being sucked into her own 'nobility'. It creates a strong mental image

I must confess my own "princesses" didn't like it when I jokingly said they could no longer be a princess but had become pioneer women. "AH, no dad, we want to be princesses." So for now, we still play princess and have afternoon tea--which is fine because I am their knight and hero. But behind the games the deadly serious goal is to raise godly women who are strong and fit to live before God in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christianity--a true 'pioneer woman' who are on the road to Zion but strangers and exiles in this world.

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