Fathers, Teach Your Daughters – Lessons from the Boundary Waters

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For the first 13 and a half years of my life before my sister was adopted, I was the only daughter sandwiched between two brothers, two years ahead and five years behind in age.  While somewhat of a girly girl who loved dolls and the color pink, many of the diverse childhood experiences which shaped me as I grew up were thanks to these male influences in my life, particularly my dad.  

I could tell you about the responsibility I learned from the never-ending yard work in my dad’s ever-growing and meticulously-tended landscaping surrounding the lake house I grew up in or about how my interest in science was cultivated by earning some extra cash counting bacteria on a Petri dish or centrifuging swine blood at our kitchen table as part of my dad’s veterinary practice.

I could tell you about how my dad taught me I was worthy of being treated with respect by bringing me on daddy- daughter dates, always opening car doors for me, and also about how when he brought home a bouquet of flowers for my mom, he would have a single rose for me, too.

I could tell you about how he simply just brought us places.  Whether it was on a veterinary farm call to see a newborn calf, to fish camp up north along with my older brother, or into a duck blind or cornfield during the crisp early morning hours in the autumn, sipping hot chocolate from a Thermos and snacking on Doritos, we were included in the hobbies and day-to-day life of my dad.

But perhaps one of the places where my dad taught me the most was the Boundary Waters.  

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My dad started taking my brothers on yearly father son trips to the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota before they were in middle school.  He wanted to take me on the same expeditions, but other father daughter teams proved to be a little more difficult to persuade to embark on these trips.  Nevertheless, he persisted and finally, during the summer I turned 12, we ventured up to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with another father daughter duo.

Fathers, teach your daughters that life is an adventure.

My first exposure to the Boundary Waters included sizable rolling waves on the vast expanse of Brule Lake.  I had to crouch in the bottom of the canoe with our packs to keep the center of gravity low and avoid capsizing.  But I don’t remember being scared.  It was an adventure, as was each fighting fish I wrestled into our canoe, each map we deciphered to find our next destination, and each thunderstom that loomed outside of the thin walls of our tent.  Would we see a black bear into whose habitat we ventured?  There were unknowns, but together with my dad, we faced these adventures and came out stronger on the other side.

Fathers, teach your daughters who they are is unique and special.

After many boy only trips, I’m sure the father daughter Boundary Waters trips were quite a different experience for my dad.  There was lots of song composing, singing and whistling from us girls as we paddled leisurely in the canoes.  There was the naming of each fish we caught.  And of course there was the play production of “The Legend of the Missing Lynx” that my friends and I put on in the makeshift campsite amphitheater on Lynx Lake.  Our dads could have rolled their eyes at us girls (and maybe they did), but our creativity was encouraged and celebrated.

Fathers, teach your daughters they are capable and strong.

As a pre-teen and teen girl, I sometimes found the canoe paddling tiring and monotonous (thus the inspiration for many of the aforementioned song compositions), but I learned to dig in and persist.  I discovered I could carry our heavy camping packs and equipment over the lengthy flooded obstacle-filled “Portage from H***” and then turn around and go back for a second haul.  My dad affirmed this strength once again at a much later date when we were doing yard work in preparation for my outdoor wedding (note: meticulous landscaping) as another man tried to step in and help me carry a large load.  My dad interjected, “No, she’s buff.  She can carry that.”  I beamed at his declaration.

Fathers, teach your daughters to find beauty in the world.

And what’s the Boundary Waters, if not ruggedly beautiful? From the rushing water of Rebecca Falls to the rust-colored pictographs displayed on the side of Warrior Hill to the trademark call of the loon echoing under the boundless stretch of the starry night sky, my dad allowed me to appreciate beauty by just being in it.

The summer I got married at the ever-so-young age of 21, we took one more dad and daughter getaway up to the Boundary Waters.  I know I didn’t fully appreciate the the impact of those trips, even then, but I think I had a faint realization that the life lessons I gleaned there in the wilderness were helping to prepare me for the new journey I was about to begin. 

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me.

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One Response to Fathers, Teach Your Daughters – Lessons from the Boundary Waters

  1. Mark LaMaster June 13, 2018 at 6:42 am #

    Sara, I really appreciate the lessons you shared to help fathers teach their daughters. What an insightful perspective that only a daughter can share–and you did it beautifully. I have a 14-year old daughter and want to do my best to teach her the life lessons learned best from a dad. Thank you.

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