2 little girls not afraid to dream big

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Aug. 1, 2013

2 little girls not afraid to dream big

I am 20 feet tall and can outrun a gazelle. I can step over houses and fly when necessary. I can remove a set of training wheels from a bicycle and a splinter from the thumb, inflate soccer balls, squash bugs, vanquish bad dreams, find lost socks and cook toast. I cannot braid hair; it is my white whale.

I am the father of two little girls.

While I do what I can for my daughters, I know they are growing and learning, and will eventually surpass me one day in all the things I can do. And those that I only pretend I can do.

Last week, this house wrapped up its annual daily viewings of the Tour de France, and each of my daughters, at some point during the three-week race, asked me if there are girls in it. There are not. I told them that perhaps they could help change that in the future, that there is a movement already under way to do so. Even better, I said, maybe one day you’ll be part of a women-only Tour, one that is longer and more grueling than the current race.

They might well do so because women are stronger than men. I’ve witnessed four births; you guys who have seen what I’ve seen know what I’m talking about. I would rather ride my bike 2,115 miles over the French Alps four times than have to go through labor once.

I was in the room with my youngest when her heartbeat was gone for a few seconds, and it was the nurse who remained calm and told me what to do. I helped unhook the bed from the wall so she could maneuver it better, and then I stood back, as ordered, while she applied an oxygen mask and monitors, and did what she needed to do with a remarkable swiftness. My wife continued the heavy lifting of labor, and I could only stand to the side and look on. My daughter, newly born, newly blue, eventually let out a defiant shriek that began somewhere around the knob of umbilical cord and has filled our ears ever since.

Not long after our Tour de France talk, we learned that Helen Thomas had died. The longtime journalist set a bar in the White House press room, not only for women, but for all reporters. My daughter asked me who that was, and I told her that she was a successful reporter, and that if it had been a race, Helen Thomas surely would have won. I told her that she could very well be on the front row asking questions of the president one day if she chooses. Or she could be the president.

My daughters will be able to do anything they want because they come from a line of strong women. If they don’t one day win awards on the field of physical competition, then perhaps they will win in the battle for understanding, equality and professionalism.

My girls are 20 feet tall. They can swim far, jump high and argue their points. I’ll give them what I have, and mend what I’m able, but one day, on their own, they will soar higher than I could ever imagine.

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