By Shelley Grieshop
If girls are the apple of their daddy's eye, then Jerry Watercutter has a bushel full of 'em.
The 64-year-old St. Henry man has helped raise 10 girls and has his own recipe for parenting them.
"My wife and I always treated our boys and girls the same. Of course, I probably had more of a hand with the boys, which was easier on me," laughed the farmer/construction worker about his 14 children -- 10 girls and four boys.
Jerry and Patricia Watercutter have been married for 40 years, and their children now range in age from 21 to 39. The couple also has 29 grandchildren -- more than half of them are girls, too.
Fathers and daughters have a unique relationship even though the gender mix-match doesn't fit the Norman Rockwell stereotype of dad pitching a ball to his son or mom teaching her daughter to cook. Experts say fathers can teach their daughters self-esteem, how to regard themselves, what kind of relationships are healthy -- even what to look for in a partner. "I've never tried to tell my daughters who to date or marry, but I hope I've taught them their mates should be honest, willing to work and trustworthy," Watercutter said.
Studies have proven that both boys and girls lead much more successful lives with fathers present. According to a study by the Colorado State University, fathers influence academic achievement and healthy sex role development in both their sons and daughters.
Children who have close warm relationships with their fathers are better adjusted psychologically, perform better at school and are less likely to get into trouble, experts say.
Girls who spend time with a loving father grow up knowing they deserve to be treated with respect by boys.
Matt May of Coldwater routinely spends a lot of quality time with both his son and daughter. He gives equal affection to both Alex, 4, and Macy, 2, but there's something about his little girl that melts his heart, he said.
"Macy just has that special sweetness," May, 31, said of his snow-white blonde toddler.
Like many fathers, he believes it's important for girls to have a good male role model. As a seventh-grade Celina teacher and area swim coach, May sees a lot of young girls without fathers in their lives.
"Girls seem to relate to me well," he said. "I think many of them are looking for guys to look up to."
Macy is still young, but as she grows her father plans to stay as involved in her life as he can.
"I think it's all about finding out what her interests are and following her, supporting her," he added.
When little Camryn Ahlers made her debut into the world last week, her daddy, Scott, was waiting anxiously for her arrival. So were her big sisters, Alyana, 1, and Taylor, 8.
"I'd say Alyana is probably daddy's little girl in this family," said Ahlers, a St. Henry area farmer. "She likes to be outside on the swings and hang out with me when I feed the pigs."
The father of three girls, Ahlers said he spends a lot of time "doing girl stuff" and doesn't mind a bit. He'll be there for his girls, he said, when "hanging out" no longer means tending to the pigs, and boys start hanging around the house, he said.
"I think it's important to interact, keep the lines of communication open," he said.
His wife of 11 years, Crystal, loves the relationship her husband has built with their children.
"He does so much with the girls," she added.
As she packed up to leave the maternity floor at the hospital last week, she bravely stated she wouldn't mind having another child, possibly a little baby boy next time.
"But it really doesn't matter," she said, as she glanced at her newest bundle of joy and the big sisters waiting to take her home. "These girls will always be daddy's girls."