I grew up an only child in a dysfunctional family with an emotionally distant father. My parents converted every emotion into anger. At twenty, I fell in love and got married. I became a father of a beautiful baby girl at twenty-four years old.
I didn’t have a clue how to be a parent. No one gives you a parenting instruction manual when you take that baby home. I desired to be the best daddy ever, but had no knowledge of how to do so. My wife and I read every “how to” book and article we could find on parenting. Oh, how we didn’t want to screw that kid up!
Four years later we had another daughter. We decided to stop there. I talked to a man who had five daughters. He told me they kept trying for a son. He thought that the more kids you had, the greater your odds of having the opposite sex. He was wrong. I told him that I had two girls. His advice to me was to quit while I was ahead. I took his advice.
My wife delighted in raising girls. It was so much fun for her. Having sons would have been a lot easier for me to handle. I mostly hung out with boys growing up and on the jobs where I worked. Raising two daughters was much more challenging for me. It was a balancing act of what was acceptable and what was over the line.
I would “rough house” and wrestle with my girls, but I had to know when to stop and how much was too much. I had to ask myself questions like, “Should I watch My Little Pony with them or show them some real culture like Hulk Hogan wrestling Andre the Giant on WWE Wrestlemania?”
It was often a struggle to find common ground.
We went fishing a few times but none of us were excited about it. I enjoy sports, but I’m not a sports nut kind of guy, so we never developed a bond in the sports world.
I did enjoy watching my youngest daughter Jory play softball one season. She was more physically active than her older sister. She could do cart-wheels, backflips, and hand-stands with ease. Jory would hang upside down on the monkey bars and swim like a fish at the pool all day long. I was proud that none of the little boys could hold a candle to her acrobatic skills.
I taught both of my girls how to ride a bicycle, so we did that activity together every chance we got. I also taught them how to play pool. They delighted in beating their high school boyfriends, who would scratch their heads in bewilderment after repeatedly being defeated.
One of the hardest things for me in raising daughters was discipline. My wife’s father let her get away with everything and almost never disciplined his darling little girl. Not me. I was almost the opposite. I was often too harsh verbally and physically. My wife helped reign me in from being a complete tyrant. I look back and regret the times I was too rough and ungentle. I wish I was more balanced in my approach.
I believe that marriage and parenting has more to do with Christian transformation than it does with our personal happiness. In other words, God uses our spouse and children to conform us into Christ’s image. “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him” (Col. 3:10 NLT).
One area in my life that was challenged by raising daughters was my gruffness. I grew up rough and tough in speech, as well as actions. I found out, as a rule, I couldn’t talk that way to my wife and daughters. When I hung out and worked with men, insults, cutting remarks, loud voices, and crude talk was not only accepted, but encouraged. That’s what I was used to.
God’s method of dealing with that weakness in my life was to surround me with women! They won’t let you get away with that kind of communication.
My household consisted of my wife and two daughters. We unofficially adopted another teenage girl as our third daughter. We owned a retail store and café. Almost all our thirty employees were women. I was surrounded and overwhelmingly outnumbered by females.
My rude, crude, rough, insulting, loud, savage, barbarous, and tyrannical communication was unacceptable in their company. Occasionally, I would escape this “oppressive” environment and go to my friend’s auto body shop filled with “real men” who ate “real beef!”
Those guys were rude and crude, and I loved it. No, I needed it. They insulted me as soon as I walked in the door and it was wonderful. They were spitting on the floor, allowing food particles to remain in their beards, had crusties hanging from their nose, and passing gas with no apologies. After my male soul was restored, I would return to my world filled with women.
I had the privilege of performing the ceremony and singing at all three of my daughters’ weddings. I helped my wife place the flowers and helped make sure each wedding went smoothly. At the end of it all, I got to write a check to help cover some of the costs. I often thought we should have attached a video camera to my head; we could have saved a few bucks!
I enjoyed doing various things with each of my daughters. I was in a few musical theatrical productions with my daughter Shiloh. She was only 15 when we performed Lil’ Abner together at our community’s summer production. Shiloh played the part of Daisy Mae and I played the character, Marryin’ Sam, who was a preacher that traveled by mule and performed $2 weddings.
We performed a delightful duet called “Past My Prime.” I loved the dialog before the song. Daisy said to Sam, “Who’d wanna marry me now? I’ve waited around so long; I’m plum wasted away (at age 18).” Sam replied, “That may be, honey, but what you got left over is more than most folks starts out with!” I loved that line. I still use it every chance I get.
Jory and I worked in youth ministry together when she was a teenager. She would round up dozens of other teens from her high school and bring them to youth group. I would lead the song service and she would often preach. It was wonderful working together for the kingdom of God.
My adopted daughter, Christal, worked at my coffee café. She was an awesome employee. She was wonderful with customers and I could trust that everything would be fine if she was on duty. Amazingly, she hated coffee, but she could make lattes better than anyone else. It was such a delight working with her.
Raising girls was, and is, a blessing. Not just because they made me laugh a lot, like the time they confused the lyrics of the old song Hang on Sloopy with “Hang on Stupid” and “Hang on Snoopy.” Not just because people constantly tell me how beautiful they are. Not just because I’m so proud of the women they have become. They are a blessing because God utilized them in the process of conforming me into the image of Christ.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2 NKJV).
God utilized my girls to draw me closer to Him by driving me to my knees to cry out for God’s protection, provision, and healing for my daughters. God utilized my daughters to expose my behaviors that were not Christlike. God utilized my daughters to reveal hypocrisy within me when I tried to get away with the whole “Do as I say, and not as I do” notion.
God utilized my daughters to develop the Christlike qualities of gentleness and tenderness in me (I still have a way to go), and He’s still utilizing them to develop patience and mercy in me.
Raising girls wasn’t easy for me. I could go on and on about the continuous roller coaster of emotions in our house. My mother and father may have turned every emotion into anger, but at least it was consistent. I could go on about the steady out-flow of money for clothes, special activities, and even more clothes for those special activities. But let me be clear about one thing; I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I count myself supremely blessed for having the privilege of raising three daughters.
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Kevin Ryan is an ordained minister serving various churches for over 40 years as Pastor, Associate Pastor, Men’s Ministry Pastor, Worship Pastor, Traveling Evangelist; and now, he is a sought after Guest Speaker and Worship Leader. Kevin possesses a deep love and passion for sharing Jesus Christ with people and is acknowledged for delivering a fresh Word from God to inspire and encourage others in their faith walk. He is a personable and comedic communicator who relates well with people from all ages and from all backgrounds. Follow Kevin’s blog here. To acquire more about Kevin speaking and/or leading worship at your church or conference, email him directly firstname.lastname@example.org.