STAGE 5:  Age 5-12 – School

Defining factor:  She learns how she fits into school, sports, band and organized activities (social status). She also learns discipline and institutional rules (sitting quietly in school and not speaking until allowed).

Observations From 101 Dads of Daughters

  • Now that my kids are older I interact more with them.
  • I love my daughter’s ability to express her feelings.
  • Girls just wanna have fun!
  • We made sure our house was fun and safe for kids 
  • Because we didn’t have a TV my kids got more creative.
  • My job allowed me more time to spend with my daughter.
  • Her kindergarten class was fun to visit.


  • As she was growing it was becoming harder to do things with her.
  • Once we found things to do together—it was really memorable.
  • Her mood swings were sometimes hard on me.
  • There are moments I wish I had more patience.
  • As a guy—there are some things I’ll never understand.


  • Her first ride on a school bus was a big deal.
  • Her first day at school was traumatic for me.
  • I have fun memories of her school projects.
  • She has lots of friends at school.
  • Her dealing with mean kids at school—that was tough.


  • At school she got used to families getting divorced.
  • My daughter is coming into her sexuality—that’s terrifying.
  • As she develops physically—our interaction is changing.
  • There are times she doesn’t want her dad around.


  • To raise a powerful woman I needed to set boundaries.
  • A girl doesn’t follow the same rules as everyone else.
  • Her mom and I sometimes disagree over rules for my daughter.
  • I bury myself in my work—it’s hard to talk about my feelings.
  • As a guy I need to learn to listen better.



“I got voted ‘best dad ever’ when [my daughter’s friends] saw that I allowed her to let my toenails get painted.  That was the deciding factor of ‘best dad ever.’  So a great dad is somebody that lets his toenails get painted.”

Lucas , fifty year old kindergarten teacher, father of a twenty-five year old daughter (divorced when his daughter was four but stayed involved throughout her entire life)



“I don’t think my daughter has a non-ticklish bone in her body {he laughs} and that brings a great joy. All my kids have their spots, but this child—everything is ticklish for her still, and I love that about her.”

Ron, forty-seven year old school counselor and father of an eleven-year-old daughter and a twin eight-year-old daughter and son



“The biggest challenge I think [was] particularly during those the middle years, when [my daughter] got to be about eleven or twelve up until she got into college.  I think that’s a more challenging time to find activities that you can do together.”

David, sixty-three year old real estate appraiser and Vietnam vet, father of a thirty-seven year old son and a twenty-nine year old daughter (divorced when his daughter was eight but stayed very engaged with his children growing up)



 “One summer I drove out with Nadja.  She was five or six or something like that.  We had the greatest time.  She just enjoyed that so much. 

We sang songs.  I worked at a blues song about, ‘There’s a crow sitting by the side of the road,’ and we would just add lyrics to it.  I would add a lyric and she would add a lyric and we’d sing the chorus and we’d keep going.  Both of us just loved that trip.

There was one point, I guess it was Nevada, and there was a huge storm we could see brewing maybe fifty miles off. We just watched that storm come towards us, and the sky get darker, and lightening. It was a fantastic experience just driving into that storm.  That was a delightful trip that we took together.”

Charlie, father of a twenty-seven year old son and twenty-five year old daughter (his wife died in a car accident when the kids were young. He’s always been close to his kids)



“She’s at that age where sometimes it’s like, ‘I don’t want to be touched by my parents or whatever.’  [Then] we hold hands, we cuddle, we just kind of sit on a couch and watch a movie together. 

It’s almost like hot and cold running water at times.  I try to allow for things like that and not take it too personally, but that’s sometimes very rough.  I mean, it’s like, I’m on my way up to bed and I want to give her a hug and a kiss goodnight and she walks away from me.  That’s gut wrenching at times.”

Rob, forty-eight year old truck driver going to night school for massage therapy so he can spend more time with his family, father of a ten year old daughter and a twenty-three year old son (from a previous marriage who he also remains involved with)



“There were times where my daughter was mad at me for reasons I couldn’t even figure out.  It’s something I will not really understand nor should I press her for an answer to it. You just leave it alone.”

Bill, forty-six year old human resources manager, father of a twenty-six year old stepdaughter and a twenty-one year old son (he came into her life when she was two)



“I explain to her, ‘I see some of the swimsuits that you wear in our backyard. You will never, EVER wear those any place else but in our backyard.  Do we understand each other?’ 

[I explain], ‘It’s because boys are stupid.  I am a boy so I understand that.  As we get older, we become more mature, but when we’re fourteen, fifteen, we’re really stupid. We can’t handle all that bikini stuff.  We just can’t handle it, okay, because we are stupid. So those swimsuits will never leave our backyard.  They just will never leave.’ 

We also talk about the fact that, ‘When a boy wants to interact with you, this is how you should be treated. They should open the door for you, they should do these other things.  That’s what a real young man does.’ 

We also talk about examples of young men that she should never think about bringing to my house because it’s just not going to fly with me. Pants sagging down, you know, all this stuff.  We’re just not going to tolerate that, so don’t even bring him into my house.  Just not going to happen.”

Darryl, forty-seven year old business executive, father of seventeen year old son and fourteen year old daughter



One of her favorite games was, I’d put a big bedspread over me and play monster. I’d rummage around the room and, you know, just sort of envelop her in the bedspread like a big amoeba or something. 

That stuff changed when she started to develop [physically]. My sense is that she was less [comfortable with the physicality]. She didn’t give me the same kind of full body hugs that she used to.  I would say that’s still true even now.

I mean, every once in a while if there’s something emotionally dramatic that happens, I’ll get one of those hugs. But [generally] it’s more of, you know, the A-frame hug?”

Carl, fifty-nine year old M.D., director of an international non-profit organization, father of a twenty-one year old daughter (divorced when she was four but stayed involved)