Dormant Fields

March 5, 2018

my young daughter laughs

as we race through dormant fields

spring is drawing near

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Girl Power!

May 1, 2016

  
I believe one of the most important responsibilities I have as the father of a daughter is to instill a sense of confidence and belonging in her. Sadly, we live in a world where women are still often treated as second-class citizens. Even in the good ol’ USA, women make less money than men, still can’t join certain clubs and organizations, and continue to be the butt of inappropriate (yet widely accepted) jokes. I hope things change by the time my six-year-old is an adult, but I want her to be prepared to stand up for herself and expect nothing less than equal treatment in the future.

My son is twelve. He’s a great kid, but he’s also at an age where he tends to occasionally be a jerk. As a matter of fact, he’s usually a jerk and is exceptionally good at it. As older brothers (and sisters) tend to do, he picks on his much younger sister quite often. I picked on my little sister at that age (and maybe still do a little now), so sometimes I don’t do as good of job of getting on him about it as I probably should. I do, however, try to consistently remind my daughter that she should stand up for herself at all times, regardless of the circumstances. That being said, she typically gets upset and simply tells on her brother when he is mistreating her in some way.

Today was different. My youngest hadn’t even had a chance to take a bite of the banana with peanut butter (a rare healthy snack that she actually loves) that I had just made for her, when the jerk grabbed it and took a bite. My daughter stood up from the table, narrowed her eyes on her big brother, and sternly said, “Listen, if you want some of this there are bananas and peanut butter right here in the kitchen. Make yourself one, but stay away from mine!” My son and I were both totally taken off-guard. “Um, okay, I’m really sorry,” he genuinely muttered. I was just speechless. Slowly, my daughter turned her fierce gaze towards me. “This is girl power, dad. Get used to it.” Luckily I was able to keep from laughing — as it was very funny — but I couldn’t hide my pride. This kid’s gonna be just fine. 

There’s a quote By William James that I like to keep in mind when it comes to parenting:

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

I truly hope my fellow fathers of daughters are doing all they can to empower their young girls. Our generation has an opportunity to make great strides towards equality for our children. Let’s work together to make it happen.

“I hope the fathers and mothers of little girls will look at them and say, ‘Yes, women can.'” – Dilma Rousseff

Hillary Clinton is running for president, and I couldn’t be happier.  Wait, don’t stop reading!  This isn’t a political endorsement, per se.  I’m glad she’s running because I have a wife, sister, mother, step-mother, mother and sister-in-laws, aunts, female cousins, nieces, and many female friends; all of whom I respect and want the best for.  More importantly, I have a five year old daughter, and I believe a female presidential candidate can help her, and all women, have a better future.  I’m hopeful that the more our society is exposed to women doing things traditionally seen as “men’s work,” the more likely we are to embrace gender equality.

Although it is still not frequent enough, I am noticing more and more discussion about gender inequality in the workplace.  This is much-needed conversation.  Depending on the source, women earn about $0.77 for every $1.00 earned by men.  Last year, the United States (a country that we Americans like to think of as the best at everything) was ranked 20th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.  If you’re wondering, no, this ranking is not good.  We are lagging behind some real powerhouse countries, including Rwanda, Nicaragua, Latvia, and yes, even Canada…  This is a national disgrace, and I personally don’t understand why it continues.  Is it male insecurity, ignorance, fear?  I’m not trying to belittle men at all (I’m usually on your side), I just sincerely want to know what a man can do better than a woman, other than fertilizing eggs and peeing standing up (not necessarily in that order)?  Sure, some guys will make an argument about men being physically stronger, but this is rarely relevant, and not even always true.  I’m not ashamed to admit that my wife can occasionally open jars that I can’t (although I do suffer from some minor arthritis…).

Pardon me, this really isn’t something to joke about.  I spent 19 years working with men and women in the construction industry — both in the field and in management positions — and see no reason why a capable man should make more money or have more opportunities than a capable woman working in the same role.  Heck, maybe women should earn more?  I’ve experienced firsthand some of the positive traits that women bring to the workplace, which men typically don’t — or won’t.  For example, a can-do attitude, a more competitive drive (perhaps both of these can be attributed to a chip being on many women’s shoulders, and who can blame them?), and, thankfully, more compassion — something many guys seem to have been taught to hide for some reason (but all secretly want).  Plus, it is proven that women have a higher pain threshold than men, which could result in fewer sick days.  What is a debilitating hemorrhoid to us fellas, may just be little more than an annoying pain in the ass to our female counterparts. 

We have many societal problems in the U.S. that need to be addressed.  However, I am a stay at home dad with a young daughter, so gender equality is very high on my list.  My wife’s earning potential is very important to our family now, and my daughter’s right to unlimited future potential — both monetarily and opportunity-wise — will never cease to be important to me.  I look at this girl and see all the promise in the world; just as much as I see in her older brother.  I want them both to be equally successful (however “success” ends ups up being defined by them), and expect that any other dad with both a son and daughter would agree.

Win or lose, I hope that Clinton’s presidential bid is at least a catalyst for narrowing the gender gap.  Unfortunately, we may be years away from ending inequality, but putting women in powerful positions under the media spotlight could go a long way towards helping make equality the norm.  In the meantime, I implore all parents, but particularly fathers, to let your daughters know they can do anything they set their minds to; certainly anything their male counterparts are capable of.  Let’s empower our young girls as early as possible so they learn to believe in themselves.  Let’s help give them the confidence to stand up to inequality — for their sake, and for the sake of our nation.

Say it with me men:  “Yes, women can.”

My daughter can do anything she sets her mind to.

As I begin my second week at home with my daughter, Ainsley, I feel more certain than ever that I have made the right decision by becoming a full-time stay at home dad.  Spending the entire day, each day, with your four year old child takes quality time to a whole different level.  There are so many little things to be grateful for – like my daughter reaching up and holding my hand while we walk.  Since this arrangement is so new, Ainsley is still very excited to be home with me.  Because of this, I can’t help but wonder if the first few weeks will be the best.  At some point I expect her to get bored, as kids do.  Until then (and after) I will make the most of our time, and do everything I can to make each day significant in some small way.

Our first week was great.  We went hiking, visited four different parks (one of which is a landmark park that I loved as a child, but unfortunately now appears to be a destination for smokers who are looking for a place to let their kids play while they enjoy cigarettes and talk on their phones), had two picnics, met Ainsley’s grandparents for lunch, went to an outdoor “living history” museum, read books and did chores (I’m trying to make sure we do both of these daily), and more.

The best part for me has been simply hanging out and talking.  This kid of mine has a lot to say – sometimes funny, sometimes sweet, sometimes just plain weird (like her dad).  Here are some highlights for me.

  • While walking through grass in a park:  “Dad, you have to be careful when you’re walking in grass because sometimes there is dog poop, which you can step in and not even know it.  Poop is really gross, unless it’s when you are just pooping in the toilet.”
  • When we drove passed a group of cyclists, one of whom was lagging far behind:  “Wow, I guess that guy in the back must be the slowest (long pause), but that wouldn’t be very nice to say to him.”
  • While driving and “All About That Bass” came on the radio:  “Do not change the station, this is literally the best song, except they twerk in the video.”
  • After I told Ainsley that it was too cold for a tank-top, and that she needed a jacket:  “Dad, it’s fine.  I can live a hardcore lifestyle.”
  • When I was folding laundry, specifically my wife’s underwear:  “Gross – mom’s butt touches that!”
  • While driving home after a picnic (leaning back in her booster seat with hands clasped behind her head):  “This is the life, man.”
  • One morning while eating breakfast:  “Dad, you know I will always be there for you, right?”

I love this kid, and I’m loving this opportunity.  Despite the financial sacrifices my family is making, I feel quite rich.  I’m trying to remember to be in the moment and to appreciate everything.  Even the seemingly “little things,” like holding my daughter’s hand.  I know some day it will be for the last time.

Today is my daughter Ainsley’s last day of preschool.  If you’ve been following along, you know that she will be staying home with her ol’ daddy until kindergarten begins in August.  Ainsley leaving preschool is bittersweet for me.  I’m very excited for our upcoming time together, but I acknowledge that she may miss out on some experiences she could get with other children present in a more structured environment.  Our family has been incredibly fortunate to have three of the best childcare providers any parents (and child, whether they realize it or not) could ask for.  This is something I have not taken for granted, but as the end of an era is upon me, I can’t help but wonder if these women understand how much they are truly loved and appreciated?  My daughter is my most precious and fragile cargo, and for my wife or I to be able to drop her off each day knowing that she will be safe, happy and genuinely loved, is beyond comforting.  It has been a gift.

Ainsley’s first preschool (some might say “daycare,” but it was so much more than that) experience – from three months to three years old – was with Ruth Ann, who also taught my son, two of my nieces, and several friends’ children.  It is my belief that she is one of the greatest people on Earth.  Ruth Ann’s role in the mental, physical and emotional development of my kids was equal to or more important than the role my wife and I had.  Among so many other important things, she taught them what it means to be kind (who could possibly be better at teaching this?).  I see this in my children everyday, and it is what I am most grateful for.  Ruth Ann will always be thought of as family, and will never be forgotten.

Ainsley has been with her current teachers, Erica and Mary, for almost two years.  It is a classroom setting, but the individual attention to all the children has been so impressive.  Ainsley is reading and writing, has a love of art, and has become very outgoing.  I attribute much of this to the care she has received from her teachers.  There is a large window in the classroom that allows you to see the playground, which is where the kids are usually playing in the afternoon when parents are arriving to pick them up.  Sometimes I sneak in and watch Ainsley.  Many days she is playing with friends, but it is just as common to see her sitting on a bench talking to Erica or Mary – and they always seem engaged and glad to be part of the conversation.  It’s little things like this that I have noticed, but have not done a good job of expressing my gratitude for.

Over the next four and half months, I will be stealing ideas I have picked up on from Ainsley’s teachers over the last four and half years.  My number one goal is to keep her happy and learning.  We will read and tell stories, we will sing and make loud noises, we will create art of all types, we will go on adventures, we will find ways to help in the community…we will have fun!  But I have a feeling there will be days when we both will wish we had a “real” teacher around to help out.

Bob Talbert said “Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.”  Thank you to Ruth Ann, Erica and Mary for teaching my daughter to count, and doing so much more.  Over time her memory of you may fade, but the values you have instilled in her will be ever-present.

Sincerely,

Brad