Any day now, I will be the father of a baby girl and I’ll be honest, I’m terrified.
As a stay-at-home dad, it has become soberingly clear that the responsibility of raising this little girl is resting on my overweight shoulders. I’m a boy. I have a boy. I’ve been raising my boy to be like a boy. But a girl is not a boy!
Raising a boy is easy. My boy thinks that atomic elbow drops are hysterical. When either of us makes a fart noise, we’re the funniest two boys on the planet. Is this all going to change when a little girl comes into our daily routine? Can I give a girl an atomic elbow drop? Is it alright to teach her how to make fart sounds? Or actual farting. Can I fart around a baby girl?!
These are legitimate parenting concerns for a boy that has been raising a boy and any day will be raising a girl. It’s going to happen so soon, it will be like diving into a pool of freezing water and I want to be prepared. One night, I asked my wife how I was supposed to raise our girl to be like a girl. She looked at me like the idiot I am and asked, “What the hell does ‘like a girl’ even mean?” The smartest move I ever made was marrying my wife.
My wife is the first person in my life that was able to break down the emotional walls I had up for 30-plus years. She forced me to communicate by asking every hard question she could. She asked about my previous marriage, my childhood, how I was hurt, and how I hurt people. She helped me see that holding in my emotions would only keep me from seeing what was right in front of me.
I was reminded that night what an amazing woman I’ve married. She is ambitious, willing to speak her mind, confident, and funny. She is passionate about her career, proud of where she is in life, and can spike a volleyball harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. She is a woman that I am proud to spend the rest of my life with, even though she doesn’t get my 1980s references or like The Godfather.
My wife is everything I want my little girl to be. She is everything I want both of my children to be. All I have to do is mix in a dash of the man that I have become, add a pinch of elbow drops and a sprinkle of hysterical fart noises, and we have a recipe to be just fine. Raising a child to be intelligent, secure, confident and emotionally stable has nothing to do with gender. I do not need to raise my daughter any differently than I have been raising her brother. I will not raise her with a softer touch, a more sensitive demeanor or a heightened sense of caution.
I will raise her in the only way that I know how. As my child.
Editor’s Note: Pat’s wife Stephanie gave birth to their daughter on Oct. 21, 2014. A version of this first appeared on Just A Dad 24/7.