I'm The Father Of A Newborn Baby Girl But I Won't Be A 'GirlDad.' Here's Why.
The author and Molly, his daughter, in April. (Photo: Courtesy of Arran Skinner)
When you meet your child for the first time, you feel love for her, but she is mostly a screaming, helpless pudge puddle. You love her, but you don't know her either. It has not yet been fully developed or developed. How do you love something you don't know?
After a few months, this little pudgeball starts to smile - really smile - starts to chuckle when you look in a funny voice, starts to turn and look and sparkle when you call out her name. It is the strangest and most beautiful feeling when your heart swells with love as this happens and this little person begins his journey of becoming.
When my daughter Molly was born, you could say that I had become a "GirlDad".
This term was created in recognition of the Los Angeles Lakers star and father Kobe Bryant, who once proudly declared: “I would have five more girls if I could. I am a father of girls. "(He and his wife Vanessa had four daughters, including Gianna, who died with him in a helicopter crash in January.)
After Bryant's death, prominent fathers like The Rock, Levar Burton and Aaron Paul used the term as a hashtag to demonstrate the pride of fathering daughters.
The hashtag started quickly, with countless posts from men expressing their love for their daughters. It has become ubiquitous with the hashtag for Father's Day on t-shirts and coffee cups. For some, pride in being a “GirlDad” is part of a setback to the belief that men need a son instead of a daughter, with many of the tweets including the hashtag #Blessed when in doubt.
How you react to the hashtag #GirlDad probably depends primarily on your view of men. At a time when the treatment of women by men was rightly questioned, I find it difficult not to view this pride with a certain amount of suspicion. Of course Bryant had an admirable relationship with his daughters, but even Kobe had his own #metoo moment.
What does it mean to be the father of a daughter - especially as someone who has probably unconsciously or otherwise contributed to the harm done to women and who is now trying to create a better world? I ask myself these questions before my first Father's Day after Molly's birth.
I remember when my wife Melissa told me she was pregnant with our first child, Oscar. She waited for me to run, did the pregnancy test, and then excitedly gave me the news when I got back. We both said we were happy regardless of gender, but both admitted that we wanted a boy. For me it was because I felt I could better identify with a son, at least that's what I said to myself. I could teach him to be a better man, right? A man who treats women and everyone else with fairness and compassion. A deliberate, conscious, thinking person.
I am happy to be done with the previous ideas of what it means to be a man. I never really fit into this "boys club" anyway.
Not exactly white, not exactly straight, I struggled with the role models presented to me. I threw a ball like I was hitting the ground, I was shy and I spent a lot of time worrying about my fat knees. When a teacher in kindergarten asked if one of the boys wanted to be a girl and vice versa, I was the only one who raised my hand. I knew I didn't fit the traditional idea of being a man, whatever that was. Still, I'm still trained to handle grief, embarrassment, and love as a man who lacks emotional vulnerability. And whether I like it or not, this processing is likely to condition my children in a similar way if I don't do everything to prevent it.
Two years after Oscar's birth, my wife and I were expecting our second child, but this time it was different. We both wanted a girl to complete the symmetry of our family. Another boy would be fine too, we agreed, but we both wanted the chance to raise a daughter.
Molly and the author's older child, Oscar, in June. (Photo: Courtesy of Arran Skinner)
And now Molly is here. In many ways, it's like Oscar. We are already developing a strong sense of humor, love of food and fascination for the many screens in our house. In other respects it is of course different. Unlike her brother, she hates being messy and I have to remember how to wipe her butt. Before we really know who she is, she is her own person.
I think parenting a daughter is about making room for her so that she can grow who she wants to be, to help her become aware of the history of the harm that men have done to her, as well as that Potential to overcome the obstacles that we threw on your way.
And yet, just as Molly does not exist fully and is in the process of becoming, this world in which she is supposed to live does not yet exist - and we are partly to blame. Even those of us who mean well are still enforcing our old realities. We reaffirm old beliefs and rules that we hope our children will break somehow. Despite my best intentions, I catch myself thoughtlessly imprinting behaviors on my children.
When Oscar opens a box, he growls like a bear imitating me. Why did i do that? Why did I try to impress my “male” strength on him? Our best attempts to keep their clothes sexless fail. We get a hand-me-down, a flowery dress and Molly looks really cute in it. Oscar loves his trucks and dinosaurs ... but also his pink headphones, and I'm the first to encourage him to wear the pink tutu that a relative sent to Molly. He really wants him to have freedom with clothes that I never had. Although it is difficult for me to determine, I know that this unconscious gender-specific tendency affects the treatment of my two children. I call Molly "my little baby mommy" and hand her over to a role that I don't label on my son.
I raise my daughter differently because I was conditioned to treat women differently. This is not an excuse, but an acknowledgment of the problem.
Does that mean better for parents not to treat the children differently, to fight the impulse consciously, to consider them only as girls or boys ...?
If we do not mindlessly reinforce these - not only useless, but - harmful ideas of gender, we must carefully and deliberately teach both Molly and Oscar ideas of love and respect for one another and for everyone else they encounter, regardless of gender or race.
In addition, the world has changed - changed - and our ideas of what gender is or can be have also changed. Molly is a girl because we assigned her this gender at birth based on the appearance of her body, but of course we don't know which gender Molly will feel or will feel in the future. Whoever she is, her mother and I will love and support her. And when you think about it, the fact that the way we understand and think about gender is evolving, just another reason that Molly - or Oscar - turns out at all times, regardless of gender Has. It is all the more important to teach both that they can do and do whatever they want, regardless of (or because of!) Their gender.
The author and Molly in May. (Photo: Courtesy of Arran Skinner)
I remember when we first introduced Molly to Oscar the day after she was born. My wife and I had planned it well in advance. Following online advice, we made sure that Oscar had time to first unite with his mother, that he had a gift for his new sister, and that she had something for him. It was an intentional meeting because we thought it through carefully. And it worked. Oscar carefully made room on the bed for his new little sister and gently cooed, "It's Baby Molly!" when he peeked over her crib.
I refuse to say that I'm changing my behavior for Molly. I don't want to be one of those thoughtless fathers who see their child as a catalyst for change, the kind of man who would say "as the father of a daughter" - as if you had to imagine a woman as your child to show respect. I want to say that I started this process of examining and revoking my male privilege long before I became a father, but I also know that it is symbiotic.
If I looked down at Molly while her eyes were glinting at me, still becoming halfway between nothing and something, I would be lying if I said that my behavior doesn't change because of her.
Still, I'm not a “GirlDad” because, as I remember, she doesn't become a girl or a woman. It becomes what it will be. In whatever this new world will be. A world that I will not introduce to her, but that she will introduce to me.
Arran Skinner is a multimedia specialist and the father of two children who live in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @arranskinner.
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