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Fathers provide lifelong protection for their daughters

By Michelle Lehnardt

For Mormon Times

Published: Sunday, June 19 2011 6:00 a.m. MDT

Each time a boy arrived to take out one of his daughters, Greg Anderson ushered the young man into his well-appointed office, offered him a seat in a plush leather chair and chatted for a few minutes. At the end of the conversation, he handed the boy a large shotgun shell and a permanent marker. “Will you sign your name on that?”

Flattered by Anderson's attention, the boy usually admired the shell and signed his name with a flourish. “Great,” Anderson said, gesturing to a large shotgun hanging over his desk, “you’ve got my daughter for the evening, and I’ve got a bullet with your name on it.”

Protecting daughters is an almost universal desire among fathers. “Hey, I’ve raised teenage boys,” mused Craig VanLeeuwen, “I know what they are thinking. I know they are silly, often reckless, and I hope to protect my Libbie.”

That sense of safeguarding reaches beyond the worries of dating and teenage years. Dean Menlove said of his grown daughters, “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,” Menlove’s daughter, Margee Connolly, said. “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.”

As the father of six daughters ages 4 to 17, Rich Allen has cultivated deep emotional reserves. “It's important to recognize each child's gifts and talents and abilities. I realized from day one that each of my daughters has a unique and wonderful personality. Our little family has a wide range of abilities and talents, and it’s important for me to celebrate them as individuals rather than using a one-size-fits-all philosophy for my family of girls.”

Rather than eschewing traditional boy activities in his all-girl family, Allen pursues them with his red-headed daughters. Warm weather finds them hiking, camping and, as Allen says, “even fishing, though my Olivia enjoys it much more than I do.”

Allen isn’t the only father who participates in non-favorite activities just to be closer to his daughters. “Libbie knows that coaching soccer isn’t my passion,” said VanLeeuwen, “I don’t like to yell, and I don’t enjoy being in charge. But I love coaching because I can be an active part of something that is important to my girl.”

Not only does VanLeeuwen contribute to his daughter's recreation, he also teaches her to work. Every Friday, he closes his optometry office a bit early to drive Libbie to their job as janitors at a printing office. "My dad has taught me how to work efficiently, to find little touches that will impress my employer and to put forth my best effort. At home, my mom teaches me to clean the house, cook meals and how to notice people who need help. They've both taught me how to work in different ways," she said.

Allen agrees. "We teach our daughters to do well in school, develop a love for music, to be learners in every part of their life. We try to balance the fact that we want to ready them for the world, to go to college — but our goal for them is to be good mothers like their mom. Hopefully we are preparing them for both."

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