Daughters, dads, and destiny
Dear Dad Next Door,
I'm a huge sports fan. All my life, I've lived and died with my teams. The Celts, The Bruins, The Pats, The Sox – when I was growing up, those were my heroes. Wanting to be like them made me who I am today.
I just found out my first baby is going to be a girl. I know this sounds awful, but I'm disappointed. I guess I always hoped I'd be able to share the things I love with a son. I don't want my daughter or her mom to know I feel this way. I don't want to be the guy who can't appreciate the best thing that ever happened to him.
How do I get my head straight before the big day comes?
–"Bummed-Out in Boston"
I grew up ninety miles west of Boston – the second of four boys. Honestly, I'm not sure how my mom survived. Our house had about as much female energy as the Bruins' locker room.
At night, I used to hide under the covers, glued to a transistor radio, listening to the games until my parents yelled at me to go to sleep. I imagined every play in my head: bigger and better than HDTV. Bill Russell rose up like a god and slapped the ball into the cheap seats. Yaz drove one into the gap and legged out a triple. Bobby Orr wheeled around behind the net and left some Ranger chump sprawled out on the ice.
The only childhood I knew was boyhood. So wouldn't you know it? God laughed, and gave me two daughters.
It'd be easy to say I have no regrets – because I don't. I love my girls more than life itself, and I wouldn't trade them for a dozen sons and two first-round draft picks. But you've got some big fears rattling around in your head, and you need answers now. Let's take them one at a time:
1. "I won't know what I'm doing."
Hey, join the club. Parenting is on-the-job training, and admitting that is half the battle. With a daughter, you'll have a head start. You won't try to relive your own childhood crap through her. Yeah, you'll have to learn a new playbook, but braiding hair and interrogating boyfriends isn't the West Coast Offense. Relax. You'll figure it out.
2. "I won't understand her."
When we were kids, girls were like an alien species. And once we reached adolescence, their thoughts were a secret code we would have given anything to crack.
Having daughters changes all that. For the first time in your life, you'll see up close how girls really think. It's like a crash course in the female mind.
Don't get me wrong – it won't be easy. She'll have hormone storms and emotional tsunamis that make your own ups and downs seem like ripples in the kiddy pool. But if you hang in there, you'll be glad you did. For the first time, you'll have a girl in your life who shows you exactly who she is – warts and all. But here's the catch: to keep it going, you have to do the same thing for her. It ain't easy, but it's worth it.
3. "We won't have anything in common."
Don't be so sure. Boys and girls are different, but not all of it is etched into their DNA. My brothers and I spent a lot of time playing football, torturing insects, and setting stuff on fire. But my mom also taught us how to bake, and garden, and mend our own clothes.
With my daughters, I tried to do the same thing in reverse. My oldest ended up a Little League All-Star, and batted cleanup on a team full of boys. My youngest plays soccer and Ultimate Frisbee, and begs me to go fishing every chance she gets.
The stuff of your boyhood is stuff your daughter needs, too. When everything's on the line, you want her to be Tom Brady on a fourth quarter drive. When times get tough, you want her to be Ray Bourque facing down a power play. You can teach her things that many girls never get a chance to learn. Those are gifts that only you can give.
4. "How will I learn to love her?"
You don't know it yet, but this one's in the bag. If you were Red Auerbach, I'd tell you to light a cigar. I wish I could hand you a perfect game plan that guarantees victory, but I can't. So even though you're going to fall for that little girl like you've never fallen before, you won't believe it until it happens. You have to go out and play the game.
It's like this: there's 28 seconds on the clock, and you're down by four. They've flushed you out of the pocket, and you're scrambling for your life. But sometimes it's not about the clock, or the score, or the odds. Sometimes it's all about destiny.
This is your Doug Flutie moment. Let it fly.