Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Curtis Silver.
We all get caught in the conversations that start with “My kid can…” or “My kid did…” and end with some sort of typical childlike behavior that the parent finds exceptionally cute. Normally, these are first time parents that are simply amazed that the little creature they have spawned is in fact, a human. I was like that with my first child, everything was new and it was energizing to live life through the eyes and actions of a growing child. However, by the third child the glow usually wears off. When they walk, you think “it’s about time” instead of how stupendous it is that their legs are working as they should. There is a scenario, my scenario, that changes your view when it comes to that third child and reverts you right back to that proud parent proclaiming that your kid just learned how to take a serious dump in the toilet instead of squatting in a corner and lighting up their pants. That scenario? Two boys – then a girl.
Raising Her Right. The thing about that scenario is that the girl ends up doing not only cute little baby girl things, but cute little baby boy things. Which can be awkward at first but when you realize the powerful potential of these influences, can be pretty freaking awesome. She’s four now, so not only is there physical behavior but the verbal behavior is starting to show. It also helps that she has me as an influence. Not to blow too much smoke up my ass, but my parenting style is less sissy and more manly. I rule with an ironed and calloused hand, which can be very hard with a daughter. The same punishments that I handed down on the boys don’t always fly when you have a little girl nearing tears because you’ve raised your voice. It’s something as a parent you have to work through. Or you can give in and bribe her constantly with chocolate and other assorted candies.
A Tough Girl. That parenting style however, ends up raising less of a girly girl and more of a manly girl, and not in the mullet and flannel wearing way. More in the first girl to play baseball and captain in the Marines kind of way. A tough girl, who has dealt with men enough in her life growing up to know how to deal with them when she gets older. So when I’m caught in those conversations that I mentioned above with some preening co-worker and they are going on and on about how cute their kid is when she puts her arms just so or does a curtsy, I just break out with, “My daughter does push-ups.” Because she does. Proper man push-ups, too. Legs out, arms extended and chin out. Mind you, she can only do a couple but dammit – she does them with a smile and true gusto for the job. She lifts heavy things, too heavy for her but tries anyways. She fights with her older brothers, and routinely sends them out crying. How can you punish a four year-old for beating up an 11 year-old? You can’t. It’s not possible. There may even be a law against it. Conversely, how can you not applaud her for it?
She’ll Handle Her Business. Sure, rewarding her ass kicking might be teaching her that fighting is alright, but isn’t that a useful world skill? Is there a father out there that doesn’t hope that their daughter can kick some ass and take care of herself? Especially when it comes to the high school years. Aside from her physicality, she’s super smart for her age (also a genetic trait she got from me) so tag that with the ability to handle herself in a scuffle and she’ll be all set. At four, she’s already begging to play baseball. She asks to watch football almost every night, even during the off-season. One of her favorite things to do is go to baseball games with me and her grandfather. This is my daughter? Sure, she does cute girly things too. She wears dresses, and takes dance class (which will make her more agile and capable in fights) and likes sparkle glitter in her hair. Hell, she’s a girl. I don’t mind. As long as she drops down and gives me five before she gets a piece of candy after I’ve already told her no.
The Glass Ceiling. Strangely, the reaction I get when I tell some wide-eyed newbie parent that I’ve taught my petite daughter to do push-ups and that she enjoys doing them is one of shock and awe. It’s like I just told them that I’m cool with teen pregnancy as long as the abortion can be deducted on my taxes. They are appalled. They chide me for being too harsh on her, that she’s just a little girl. That’s when I ask them how many push-ups their kid can do. Yeah, I get defensive and competitive, because that’s how I roll. I tell co-workers that their kids don’t play flag football, they play tag. My son plays smash mouth tackle football, and my daughter doesn’t want to be a cheerleader – she wants to play. She won’t, because she’s just way too cute to risk any damage, but she wants to. If we go back in time to the seventies and earlier, the women’s’ liberation movement inspired women to cast aside the stereotypes of barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. Yet, the children of those women act like I’m doing something wrong by trying to raise a strong willed, strong minded and powerful little girl. Shouldn’t those same women who fought to be themselves be proud to know that here is a little girl who will grow up independent and tough? They damn well should be.
For the moment, to whatever end, whether she grows up to be a princess or a kick boxer – she does push-ups and I’m damn proud.
Curtis Silver is a core contributor to Wired.com’s GeekDad blog along with many other sites.