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Adult “oldest daughter,” whose child?


As the oldest daughter and first-born child in my family, I’m sure my father was stunned when I began — or rather, resumed — calling him “Daddy” during my freshman year in high school.  I hadn’t used that little-girl term since I had been 8 or 9 years old.  But that’s what my good friend, the one with cornflower-blue eyes and a football-playing big brother, called her father.  Whenever I was at her house,  I observed that whatever she asked her father for, she got. She was “Daddy’s little girl.”

Meanwhile back at my house,  my father pretty much treated me as someone he could explain things to logically and then count on to do as he asked — not the other way around.  And so I decided that maybe I’d get more of what I wanted  if I changed my approach, beginning with what I called him.

I don’t remember how long it took me to recognize reality:  that in my life, my father was “Dad.”  I do know that the events and ideas that he brought up at our dinner table each night have had longer lasting effects on my life as an adult than I would have thought possible. (Or that my younger sisters and brother say they’ve experienced.)

So even though for years my siblings have told me “You’re just like Mom” in the way I parent, it has been my father’s ideas and opinions on non-family issues that have been determinants  in my adult life.  He was intensely interested in national and local news, in political and social-justice issues.  So am I. He believed in the importance of speaking out on issues he cared about.            So do I.

In researching and writing a book about oldest daughters, I sometimes asked the first-born females I interviewed ,  “When you were growing up, did you think of yourself as “mommy’s little helper” or as “daddy’s girl”? And now that you’re an adult — do you find yourself identifying more with your father or your mother?”

What’s your experience?

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