An Open Letter to all Fathers (and Mothers reading along who wish to share this with their children’s dads):

Dear Dads,

Your daughters are tomorrow’s women and your sons are tomorrow’s men.  This is a fact, not speculation, nor is it conjecture of any form.  Your daughters will grow up to be tomorrow’s women—sisters, aunts, wives, mothers, and grandmothers—and your sons will grow up to be tomorrow’s men—brothers, uncles, husbands, fathers, and grandfathers.

We don’t like to think about that, or at least, I don’t like to think about it much.  See, I have two daughters: one is 16 and the other is only 9 (and a half).  I also have two sons: one is 18 and about to enter Navy life, while the other is about to turn six.  When my first son was born, I was only 19.  When my first daughter was born, I was only 21.  Read this as me being young and dumb.  I knew absolutely NOTHING about raising children, and so I fell back on all that I knew from what society had taught me, in addition to what my parents had shown me.

That was one of the several mistakes I made as a young and clueless parent, which would later spawn the inspiration for much of my research.  I mindlessly tried to “train” my oldest daughter to be one of the many among society, rather than one of the few unique ones who would make a difference.  I unconsciously pushed princess culture on her, I pushed Barbies, and I pushed all that was bathed in a wash of pink hue, unwittingly thinking that was what she would have wanted.  I pushed my son to “be a man,” regardless of the consequences, and I mindlessly followed in lock-step with what was expected of me as a dad.

Little did I know, I was oh-so-wrong…

With my second daughter and son, I paid closer attention, partly because I was older and partly because they were born after I started pursuing my education.  With my first children, I was the typically absent-minded father, always preoccupied with computer games, extracurricular activities, and many, many other distractions, but with my second pair of children (and the benefit of age and experience), I began putting those things away in favor of being intentionally present with them and for them, knowing all the while that my presence was making a difference.

Knowing the impact my presence had upon my son & daughter, as well as making up for lost time, was all the motivation I needed to continue.

As this knowledge grew, I began taking intentional steps to ensure that my daughters knew what they should expect from a partner.  I took my youngest out on what we called “Daddy-Bella Dates” to show her how she should be treated as a member of the female species…

 Isabella, right before our “Big Date”
 Isabella and I, right after I “picked her up”
To kick this off, my wonderful and brilliant wife suggested that I take my youngest daughter, Bella, out on a “date.”  If I recall correctly, we happened to pick up some movie tix at Costco cheap enough to make it worthwhile (though ideally, cost is not an option, but hey – I’m on a budget).  
The funny thing about this “big date” night of ours is that—I don’t even recall what movie it was!  What I do remember was the look on Bella’s face when I rang the doorbell and picked her up with a rose-in-hand.  What I do recall was how warm and secure her hand felt in mine as we walked from the car to the line at the ticket outlet.  What I really remember was her saying, “I love you” with a kiss as we watched this movie and held hands as though I was her prince and she was my princess.
Princess culture references aside, I cannot stress enough the importance of setting aside one-on-one time with your children, particularly if they are your opposite-sex children.  All Freudian references aside, this is important if only for one thing—through your interaction, you are setting the stage for your child’s future interaction with others of the attracted sex.  My son also saw what I was doing for his sister, which caused him to start treating his mother better!
The relationship your children have with their romantic partners will be shaped by how you interact with them.  If you constantly ignore them in favor of checking the score of the playoff game, then you can expect them to meet up with someone you consider a “loser” because, for some reason, that person cannot be bothered with your child’s emotional issues because it’s the finals, and subsequently, you end up dealing with it because they cannot be ignored.  If you constantly tell your children, “Just a second,” as you put off playing with them outside because you have to catch up on your work, then don’t feel so shocked when they divorce their first spouse because they never seemed to have time for them due to ambition and drive for career advancement.
How we, as parents, present ourselves to our children, will ultimately become what they look for in a potential partner.  If you truly want your children to be happy for life, give them an example to strive for.  Show them by example what “normal” should look like.  Be the partner to your child you want them to seek out.