My daughter, my firstborn, is the light of my life. Any man who has a daughter knows that, no matter how much he may want a son for whatever reason, their daughter(s) is something special. When we found out she was going to be a girl at that fateful ultrasound, my wife asked me if I was disappointed. I said not at all, because I wanted girls: I grew up in a family of four boys and wanted a daughter. Sure, a boy would be nice, but a little girl, so pretty and sweet, seemed great to me. I forgot that they do eventually grow up, and didn’t think of the adventure I was in for.

When she arrived, we became instant friends. She went everywhere with me. People looked at us, bemused, wherever we went, and I loved it. She has always been my “minion”, as I affectionately dubbed her (she became Minion One after her brothers were born and were also accepted as minions), ready to bring me things and help play practical jokes on her mother. I overlooked how tall she was getting as the years went by; I didn’t notice that her babyish beauty was changing to something altogether different, a girlish beauty that turns heads everywhere she goes.

The other day, we were at a neighborhood party and I saw a young woman from behind, laughing in a group of other girls. She was tall and had a mane of golden-brown hair and a figure that hinted of bombshell-in-waiting, and I thought, “Wow, she’s gonna be a hottie when she grows up.”

Then, she turned around, and I realized who it was: my daughter.

My daughter is growing breasts and has recently developed a curvy figure that makes me want to throw a burlap sack over her when we go out. She now wears deodorant and a bra and gripes about wanting to shave her legs (she’s twelve, my wife decreed she needs to be at least thirteen and trustworthy with sharp objects first). I noticed all these things but pretend not to pay attention; it’s disturbing that my baby is venturing into adult territory.

Then, she got her first period.

Oh. My. God.

I am now the father of, for all intents and purposes, a fully-functioning woman.

I have tried to be supportive. I’ve bought “feminine products.” I’ve griped out her brothers when they tease her, and I’ve kept my cool when her hormones have flared up and made her a raging she-demon at times. I’ve also made elaborate plans for castrating potential boyfriends, and I’ve discussed the topic of conversion to Islam with my wife, if it means we can stick our daughter in a burqa so the boys will stop ogling her. Not seriously, but it’s tempting at times.

If you’re like me and have a blossoming young woman in your home, here is some advice in dealing with things. Maybe it’ll help ease the process.

  1. Don’t make a big deal of things. The more drama you create, the more drama you have to deal with, simply said. So she’s growing up? It happens to everyone. So she needs pads or tampons? So what—buy them. It’s a natural thing. You become a hero by bucking the guy stereotype and coming to her rescue, and you set a pattern for the guys in her life: they’d better measure up to Super Dad. As if.
  2. Be sensitive. During puberty, girls become…well, difficult is a good way to put it. At turns they’re snappy, moody, happy, sad, etc., etc. Blame it on their changing bodies, which are awash with hormones, and on the angst caused by such changes in their lives. Think how you felt in puberty and magnify it. Sure, guys go through big changes, too, but the female metamorphosis is something completely different. If you notice she’s being a little twit, give her a little leeway and be a bit more creative in your approach to dealing with it: rather than yelling at her to drop the ‘tude, offer to do something with her. Asking “what’s wrong?” is often a bad approach; instead, say something like, “I noticed you’re a little grumpy today. Anything you want to talk about or anything I can do?” Yeah, sometimes she’ll snap back to leave her alone and stomp off to her room…but other times, she’ll let you give her a hug and ask for a trip for ice cream…where you can talk.
  3. Give lots of love and support. Your daughter is going through things that are very disconcerting: her body, mind, and role in society is changing, and she often feels out of control. Puberty often brings on a little weight gain, acne, body hair, body odor…all things that are anathema to the human female, and which she finds both horrifying and crippling self-esteem wise. So let her know she’s beautiful and special. The chubbiness will metabolize away as she shoots up height-wise, and everything else is maintainable with proper (mom-taught) hygiene. She’ll always be the most gorgeous, smartest, and most talented girl ever, right? Be supportive of what she likes to do, whether it’s excelling in school, creative things like the arts, sports, whatever. Tell her she looks nice, but also tell her how you appreciate her mind and her personality. Give hugs and kisses judiciously—sometimes girls this age can feel smothered by parental affection, but they do crave it.

Being a good dad to a girl isn’t impossible. It’s an art form, one that I know you’ll excel at with some practice. But remember that temporary setbacks aren’t permanent failures. And no matter how tall she grows, she’ll never stop being your little girl.