My song today is ‘My Little Girl’. This song was co-written and performed by American country music singer, Tim McGraw. It reached the top three on the Billboard ‘Hot Country Songs’ chart when it was released in August 2006 as the second single from his compilation album ‘Tim McGraw Reflected: Greatest Hits Vol. 2’. The song was also featured in the 2006 movie, ‘Flicka’ and it was nominated for ‘Best Song’ in 2006 by the ‘Broadcast Film Critics’ Association’. McGraw co-wrote the song with Tom Douglas, making it the first single of McGraw's career that he had a hand in writing.
The narrator of the song addresses his daughter, telling her that even though she is growing up, she will always be ‘his little girl’.
All parents love their children in different ways and no more is this difference apparent than in a mother-son and a daughter-father relationship, especially where the son is the mother’s firstborn and the girl is the father’s only daughter. In such relationships, the bond between parent and child becomes as strong a bond that is possible to exist, and that is why the relationship can bring both intense pleasure and pain to the different parties. I was my mother’s firstborn and as a father, although I had four sons, I only had one daughter, so I have experienced both relationship sides.
There are few women who do not dream of being a mother. A child is always a blessing for a woman. Life always changes with the appearance of a desirable child, especially if it is a son! To hear the doctor or mid-wife pronounce ‘It`s a boy!’ can become the greatest present. A mother’s love for her son is something transcendent for other people. Only those women, who have a son, can understand how important a man can be in their lives.
As a rule, mothers play an important role in the life of their sons. Sometimes they are even more important than fathers! Some say that fathers are closer to their sons, especially in their teenage years. Maybe that is true, but a mother is the only person who remains important to her son in all his years. She is the one who can understand all his problems because her bond with him started the first moment he began to grow inside her! While fathers are male models for their sons, mothers often act as the blueprint of a model wife in later years. A mother is the parent who is most likely to know if her son is lying. She is his confidante, his apologist, his emotional comforter, and his patroness. He is her hope and protection in her later years, her courageous support, and her future! It is little wonder that husbands are relegated to ‘second place’ in the attention and affections of a wife when their firstborn to their marriage is a son.
The relationship between a father and an only daughter is first founded on the love he feels for his wife; especially for having produced a beautiful infant replica of herself. With his wife being the woman he has loved most in his life, after his mother, it is only natural for a doting father to cherish and treasure the most perfect clone he could ever have of both former female loves in his life.
However, the presence of a daughter in the household rarely signals a good omen for a home of peace and contentment between two parents. I do not know what it is, but girls, apart from automatically becoming the ‘apple of their father’s eye’ can so easily upset the applecart in the parental household. Somewhere in their genetic makeup, they possess a gene that no male child was ever endowed with. It is as though they were born with the power to create the widest of divisions between a husband and wife by simply appealing to their individual differences in parental expectations. This effective strategy of the daughter to play one parent off against the other enables her to sow seeds of dissent between any loving husband and wife who may hold different individual views about being a responsible parent. As their daughter spreads dissension between mum and dad, most parents fail to recognise the dirty tricks at play. All gullible parents (which unfortunately include most parents) do not observe the divisive seeds being skilfully scattered by their scheming offspring beneath their very noses. By playing to the strong views of the one parent who is most likely to give way to her, this effectively produces a large crack in the pact of parental partnership, as mum and dad protest that they are the adult in the marital relationship who knows best what is good or bad for their child.
In the parental ‘War of the Roses’ that follow between mum and dad as to who is the better-placed parent who should set the boundaries for their daughter, the similarities between the war of the past and a war of the present hold striking parallels of learning which I will explain in my conclusion to today’s post.
Let us say that the married couple and parents of the girl child live in Bosworth Fields (a modern crescent in a middle-class neighbourhood). Their daughter is called Elizabeth and one day she will grow up into a fine woman and will marry a man called Henry. But until she matures into a sensible woman and that happy day arrives, she will remain a constant thorn in her mother’s side; someone, who as ‘daddy’s little girl’, will continue to sow division in the once blissful marital relationship that existed with her husband before their daughter was born.
Elizabeth, like all daughters, soon learns the many benefits of becoming ‘a daddy’s girl’, especially when her mother is advising something which goes against her daughter’s wishes and shows no sign of changing her mind however much her daughter protests. ‘Daddy’s girl’ soon learns that turning on the waterworks cuts no ice with her mother, whereas she can persuade her doting dad (and in her adult years, all other males in her life) around to her way of thinking and desire. Within Elizabeth’s armoury, there is no need for any heavy weaponry that force a compliant response. No! Just being a ‘daddy’s girl’ can make her father do whatever she wants him to do. While being armed with no more than a ‘Shirley Temple butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth hang-dog smile’ and a charm offensive that would extract a £5note from the hardest-hearted most-miserly Scrooge alive, Elizabeth gets her way again. Elizabeth, though still a child, is in the process of learning what all adult females know; how to make males hold doors open for them with nothing more than the coyest of smiles.
By the time Elizabeth starts First School, she has acquired three shelves crammed with dolls, and a playroom filled with colouring books and other toys which she persuaded daddy to buy her, despite her mother’s protests to the contrary, citing that she was being overindulged by her father and would end up a spoiled as a consequence. Indeed, the number of Elizabeth’s toys, dolls and pleasure acquisitions are only exceeded by the wardrobe of fashionable clothes she never manages to grow out before dad comes home from work with another new dress or outfit for his ‘little girl’. Such is Elizabeth’s acquisitions that she has collected from battlefields of parental wars. Elizabeth is now able to persuade her father to buy her anything her heart desires. Simply by the use of a childish pout, a sugary smile, a heartfelt plea, or by turning on the waterworks and crying bucket loads of crocodile tears on demand, she is able to soften any stiff resolve of a hesitant father.
While the father/daughter relationship can be so beautiful and rewarding, it is nevertheless fraught with a Freudian nightmare that is sadly inescapable. Such a change in circumstances always comes along when his daughter is no longer his ‘little girl’ and starts to adopt the mantle of young womanhood. When a father’s daughter takes off her Bobby Socks and replaces them with nylon stockings, it is at this moment when her father is obliged to realise that she is no longer his ‘little girl’. When it dawns on him that she is now old enough to give her heart away, he is overcome with what can only be described as a ‘Freudian jealousy’ about what else she might give away! Dad becomes fearful that another man, or perhaps a string of men is waiting in line like a row of sniffer dogs who have been attracted by a scent which they cannot any longer ignore.
It is at this stage of Elizabeth’s life that her father fears he is being supplanted in his daughter’s affections by a scruffy band of long-haired suitors who are only out for one thing if they can get it’. He knows from his own teenage years, that if the young men in Elizabeth’s life are ever allowed to get passed her father’s guard and persuade his daughter to lower her only remaining protection, that the game is over! How does dad know what his daughter’s group of male suitors want, I hear you ask? Easy; he simply casts his mind back to his earlier teenage years; to the time when he started courting his sixteen-year-old girlfriend (who later became his wife and Elizabeth’s mother) and starts to remember things that he would now sooner forget! Realising the imminent danger of romantic entrapment that his daughter faces, he becomes ever more determined that none of them will ever walk off with the ultimate prize before he has walked his ‘little girl’ down the aisle on her wedding day in the whitest of wedding dresses. This new awareness of the dangers ahead over the next few years between his daughter and the opposite sex leads him to gradually change his relationship with her.
No more can her charming smiles or crocodile tears move him from his role as her ‘Knight in shining armour’ who is sworn to protect Elizabeth’s honour. He starts to build a moat of defence around his fortress of protection which was once called home. Even Elizabeth’s genuine tears are no longer capable of making her father weaken his resolve. Once he has made up his mind on a certain course of action, he does not change it. Gradually, dad lays down his new expectations of his daughter’s behaviour. Under the new house rules laid down by her father, Elizabeth can only go out with boys who will call to collect her at her home and safely bring her back there at the appointed hour, and not a minute later! This allows dad to judge the type of opposition he is up against as he is presented with an opportunity to size up his daughter’s current follower. Dad increasingly finds himself becoming more of a fashion critic and starts to dictate what kind of dresses and clothes is fitting for a young woman like Elizabeth to wear. He starts to suspect that he is fighting a losing battle as he realises that there is absolutely no point in him warning off his daughter’s boyfriends as regarding what not to do and where not to go if his daughter insists on wearing skimpy clothes and skirts so short that they merely invite her boyfriends to taste the forbidden fruit in sight!
It is at this stage of Elizabeth’s life, that having realised her dad means to have his way whatever she says or does that she switches parental alliances and draws closer to mum once more. She starts talking to her mother more and more about all manner of things, and essentially, she begins relating to her mother like she would a big sister she can comfortably confide in. Mum becomes so enamoured by this new adult relationship with her grown-up daughter, and before Elizabeth’s father realises the process of change that has taken place in household dynamics, his wife starts to increasingly take their daughter’s side in father/daughter disputes.
I am not saying that such a relationship does not come to really exist between all daughters and their mothers in their mid-teenage years as they enter the window of womanhood. I am merely pointing out the strategic advantage which has come about by Elizabeth now enjoying a mother/daughter relationship which can morph into a sister/sister relationship whenever she desires it, especially whenever it is in the daughter’s individual interest to confide in her mother!
So, all fathers of daughters, beware of what is to come farther down the line as your ‘little girl’ grows older and matures into young womanhood. Remember the year when the relationship between daddy and his ‘little girl’ started to change. When you notice your Elizabeth discarding her Bobby Socks and donning nylon stockings, you may as well hand the reins of parental responsibility back to your daughter’s mother. You may be able to walk your daughter, Elizabeth, down the church aisle on the day of her marriage in the whitest of wedding dresses, but in your heart of hearts, you will not have the right to know if she was worthy of wearing such a white gown of maidenhood. The last official rights you will have in your daughter, Elizabeth’s life is to pay for the expensive white wedding dress: and four matching bridesmaid’s dresses and a miniature suit of top hat and tails for the two young page boys: and all the flowers and wedding bouquets: and four dozen hotel guest rooms for the bride and grooms’ immediate family on the eve of the wedding: and the wedding breakfast on the big day for close family members: and a sit-down meal reception for 200 wedding guests: and a marquee in the hotel grounds for the drinkers who still like to smoke: and an open bar tab for the first half-hour of the wedding reception: and 50 bottles of the best champagne to toast the bride and groom: and not forgetting payment for all the wedding cars hired, along with the honeymoon present from the bride’s parents (which invariably means the bride’s dad) of two weeks honeymoon in sunny Barbados! When poor dad gets the courage to open his next bank statement to check the total cost of his ‘little girl’s wedding’, and has a double-take as he stares at his bank balance ‘marked in red ink’ (courtesy of the friendly bank manager), he secretly tells himself that it is he and his wife who deserves two weeks in sunny Barbados!
Paradoxically, the real ‘War of the Roses’ which represented a series of civil wars for control of the throne of England is symbolically representative to the lengthy marital dispute that most mums and dads engage in as they battle for the control of their daughter, Elizabeth’s, behaviour. Whereas the two warring factions in England fought between 1455-1487 before one side eventually triumphed over the other, the mother/father parental battle may not actually be as lengthy as 32 years before it concludes, but to the warring parents, it will seem like 32 years!
Neither do the symbolic parallels stop there? Similarities continue to be shown as both situations conclude in identical fashion. In the ‘War of the Roses’ Henry Tudor (later Henry V11) defeated and killed Richard 111 at Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485, bringing the English civil ‘Wars of the Roses’ to a close. But it was only by his marriage to Edward IV's daughter, ‘Elizabeth’ of York in 1486, that ‘Henry’ united the Yorkist and Lancastrian houses in peace once more.
Love and peace Bill xxx