I’m not exactly a bejeweled kind of guy. Yet I wear this woven thing around my wrist. My eldest daughter made it about a year ago, and when she gave it to me, I thought, Oh, that’s sweet, but nothing too unusual—Tori’s a thoughtful girl, and we have that kind of relationship.

But as it turns out, this wasn’t any ole object d’art she created. I guess you could say it was a form of show-and-tell for high school that’s still telling. It was part of an oral report assignment, which was to write an essay about the meaning of a best friend, and she said I was the only one in her life who fit all of the criteria. When she told me what it represented, I was moved to tears.

Really?” Wow.

Yep, this true blue Southern boy wears a bracelet. Whenever I wonder if I’m on the right dad-track, it’s right there for inspiration and encouragement. That bracelet will have to rot off of me.

The details are hazy about that conversation, but I clearly remember saying to my daughter at the time, “Gee, you have a million friends. Why did you pick me?” Tori looked at me like I was just plain silly. “Daddy, of course you’re my best friend. I can talk to you about anything.”

That just blew me away, and I now realize that this is a core concept for me as a father. Knowing a daughter—really knowing her—won’t happen just by going to her soccer practice, no matter how many high-fives and “good jobs” you give her. Pursuing a relationship with your daughter is a conscious choice, and it takes energy and imagination, and (there’s no way around this) the willingness to deal with messy emotions and questionable logic.

It doesn’t mean you’ll always want to do it or that it will be easy. But it is achievable, and you can learn how to observe the ups and downs in the relationship without getting seasick. And more than that, it’s totally worth it.

Intentional pursuit

Pursuing a daughter with the goal of getting to know what’s in her heart and mind is how you will bond with her, build her confidence, and find happiness … for both of you.

My payoff is that I have the kind of relationship with my teenage daughters that other dads envy. I have a blast with my girls, and we’re super close, but trust me, I’m no pushover. (Well, not always.) Do they mess up? Sure. Do I mess up? All the time. But I have their love and respect, and our teens are eager participants in family life. They’re not perfect (and neither am I), but we’re connected. Like superglue.

Now, by “pursuit” I’m not talking about chasing your little princess, spoiling her, or giving in to endless wishes and whims. I’m talking about making the effort to understand your kid, because that way, as she evolves and navigates the teen years, you will be able to follow where she’s going mentally and keep her grounded so she’ll be self-confident and less susceptible to losers, scammers, and avoidable disasters when she’s out on her own.

She’ll turn to you when she needs a strong shoulder until she gets married, and she’ll actually want to be around the old man later on.

That’s what we all want for our girls, right?

Let’s get something straight, though. When you intentionally pursue how a girl thinks about things, it usually means how she feels. That’s where it’s a little different from being with a son, where you can sit there with a hot dog, watch a ballgame, yell at strangers, say little to each other, and still have a bonding experience. Girls? Nope. If Dad wants to get close and know how his daughter feels about a movie, a sport, a teacher, a trip, the big cosmic question “to diet or not to diet,” or—heaven forbid—a boy, then there’s only one way to accomplish that. You have to talk. And listen.

That one insight—that I wanted to pursue knowing my daughters—was the lightning bolt ah-ha moment. And then I came up with a strategy: Dust off the old dating skills and put them back into action, but this time for a different purpose.

Pursue daughter-knowing by dating them. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Adapted excerpt from Daddy Dates by Greg Wright. Copyright © 2011 by Greg Wright and Another Door Opens, L.L.C. f/s/o Diane Dee Covey and Karin Maake Tochilovsky. Used with permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc.