“For from the start the functions are divided, and those of the man and the woman are different.”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

When my daughter first asked me if she could hunt I hesitated. I am firmly convinced that due to the natural difference between men and women, some activities are fitting for girls and some are not.

My first two children are daughters, and neither of them ever asked to hunt–that is, actually to do the shooting–though they both came hunting with me. My third child is a son, and not only had he come hunting with me, but he started hunting deer himself at the age of twelve, having hunted smaller game for a couple years before that.

In this case I was faced with a new point of discernment. Should I hold my daughter back from this thing that she wants to do and that in itself is wholesome… because she is a girl? There are very few times in my wife’s and my raising of our children that we have done this.

But I think that fathers and mothers should be prepared to make distinctions between boys and girls in the activities that we allow or encourage them to participate in. Certain sports, for instance, I would argue are not fitting for girls–such as football and rugby. And any sport for girls should be understood and practiced with a different spirit and goal than sports for men. Why? Because the unique genius and vocation of woman–as mother, and all that this reality implies–calls for a special cultivation and protection.

Perhaps too often girls and young ladies, especially in the past, have experienced from some quarters a spirit that simply excludes and restricts, rather than a spirit that builds up and calls out their unique and precious gifts. A proper correction to this, however, is not the misleading even if well intentioned approach that “there are no significant differences between man and woman and therefore you can and should do anything you want.”

Boys and girls need our assistance and encouragement in discovering their true selves, including what pertains to their unique and complementary roles as men and women. We all face obvious challenges today in articulating, cultivating, and living these differences in the face of a militant and unreflective denial of the natural gift of the difference of the sexes.

My wife and I judged that we would support our daughters’ desire–our next daughter has expressed it too–to go hunting. As a father, I have thus far found it to be an excellent opportunity to spend quality Daddy-daughter time. It feels rather different, and I have taken a different approach than when I did it with my son. This, I think, is appropriate. I have herein yet another opportunity to try to enter into the mystery of woman, and to discern how to respect and to love it.

Last Saturday was youth hunting day in Virginia: a day in which a young hunter gets an early-season opportunity to go hunting under the tutelage of a mentor. I got to observe, from very close quarters, a couple of years of preparation pay off in the form of my daughter bagging a very nice buck. But as often is the case in hunting, the payoff had actually already come, well before the trigger was squeezed.

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