Saturday, February 2, 2019

Book Review: "The Manly Art of Raising a Daughter"

When I received Sophia Institute's email blast about this book on my daughter's 14th birthday, it seemed like more than coincidence. Over the past six months, I had been sensing a distance developing between the two of us. I understand that it is natural and good for children to begin expressing more independence; but I worry about the distorted vision our culture works so hard to perpetuate and whether I am doing enough - or even the right things - to prepare my daughter to face the world with the mind of Christ. 

Like all good reality checks, I found Alan Migliorato's The Manly Art of Raising a Daughter comforting in many respects and challenging in others. Migliorato is a straight shooter. I wasn't shocked by any of his advice; it is common-sense. (But that's in woefully short supply these days; and I found over 120 straight pages of it refreshing.) His tone is blunt, but offset with plenty of humor.

Chapters can be read in less than ten minutes, and each stands alone quite well. Migliorato's choice of topics is spot-on, too: 

1) Introducing your daughter to God via the sacramental life and prayer
2) Getting to know your daughter's friends and guiding her to be a good judge of character

3) Teaching her when and how to fight: physically, for justice, and spiritually

4) Dressing modestly

5) A father's need to practice active listening

6) Boyfriends

7) The importance of distraction-free family meals

8) Overcoming smartphone addiction and navigating social media
 As a father of three dauthers, Migliorato shares a great deal of wisdom, born of his successes as well as mistakes. I'll give you an example, which I thought was brilliant, from his chapter on modesty: While clothes shopping with his daughter, a high school freshman, she asked to buy a pair of short shorts. When he asked what type of reaction someone waring those shorts might receive, she explained how the shorts were "stylish" and that "if people looked at someone wearing clothes like this and treated her any differently, it was not the problem of the person wearing the clothes; it was the problem of the person looking at the girl wearing the clothes....[I]t should not matter what someone is wearing, only who they are inside." Migliorato's response is one every dad should commit to memory:
     I asked her how she would feel if I went into the dressing room and tried on a pair of those shorts. She stared at me for a second, not able to tell whether I was being serious. Fearing I was serious, she said, "Dad, please don't." I said, "Why not?" She said that people would stare at me and think I was a sicko or a pervert or something like that.     I said, "I'm confused. I thought you said it was not the problem of the person wearing the clothes, I thought you said it was the problem of the person wearing certain clothes who had the problem?" I added, "I know who I am on the inside, and that is all that should matter, right?"     She said, "Okay, let's go to another store. I get the point." Then she laughed at the image in her head of me wearing those tiny shorts.     We sat on the bench, in the middle of the mall, just outside of the store we were just in, and talked. I knew what she was trying to say; I just wanted her to know what she was actually saying. I have found that allowing my daughters to come to their own conclusion through self-realization is better than trying to tell them something. It's a sweet science that takes time to get right. (p.50-1)
And that's only one example from the chapter on modesty. Each chapter is filled with such real life examples, and each ends with bullet-point summaries and a specific challenge calling dads to begin work on that aspect of their parenting. (His chapter on the importance of eating meals together as a family, really called me out.) There are also overarching points that we need to constantly remind ourselves of: "Remember, building a relationship with your daughter is not a sprint; it's a marathon" (121); "Reach out to your daughter but don't expect her to be where you are mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. It will happen in time, so be patient. And of course, lead by example!" (122). God is a good Father, and He wants to make us good fathers. We must ask for the grace, and then get to work.  The Manly Art of Raising a Daughter is solid advice, from one God-fearing workman to another.

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