I am the father of four daughters. Yes, four. Daughters. What can I say? Girls run in my family. My mom comes from a family of three girls, my aunt and uncle have four daughters. I was the only boy in a family of three kids.
Four girls. Eva is nine, Beatrice is six, Matilda is four and little Olive just turned 18 months two weeks ago.
Yes, things are busy at our house. Sometimes it gets loud. Really loud. Because I’m a neat freak, the messes never get too bad. I am so thankful to be married to the most patient woman in the world. I kid you not. She’s amazing.
Often times, when we’re out and about in public, people look at me, count the heads, note the ponytails, dresses or splashes of pastel and proceed to give me what I’ve coined the Dreaded Daughter Look.
It starts with the empathetic, all-knowing smile. You know the one - the corner of the mouth kinda curls down, there's a hint of an eye wink, a slight nod of the head and it’s usually capped off with one of two inevitable statements:
A."Wow, four girls, huh? I feel sorry for you in five years."
B. "So, you and the wife gonna keep trying until you get that boy?”
The “I feel sorry for YOU” is never directed toward my wife. Always me, the dad.
Now, as a new father, I never really thought much of it. Just kind of laughed it off. But as our family continued to grow and the estrogen by far outweighed the testosterone under our roof, these comments really started to get under my skin.
I won't share with you what I really am thinking in my head (wouldn't be all that appropriate in this forum) when I hear these comments. Instead, I smile politely, say nothing and move on. The joke is on them. What they don't know is just how lucky I am to be daddy to these four wonderful girls. Each of them unique.
It’s almost as if these complete strangers are, in not so many words saying to me, “Boy, you really struck out. You have four girls.” Or, “What’s the matter with you? Not man enough to make a boy?”
Now, anyone who knows me will agree that I am not the kind of guy who enjoys participating in or watching sports (I know a touchdown is worth six points and that’s about it), I have limited knowledge of the use of tools (I can readily identify a hammer, wrench and screwdriver) and I’m not exactly aware of the function of a carburetor (something with gas and air mixing, I think). I’m just not that guy. You know what? I’m okay with that. I certainly have nothing but respect for the men who do enjoy and have knowledge of all the aforementioned things. Just not my thing.
So, when we welcomed our girls into the world one by one (by the way, three of the four were a surprise - we didn’t find out the gender), I’ll admit, there was a little part of me that was saddened by the fact that my family name would end with them - I’m the last chance to carry that torch forward. In a way though, I guess it’s kind of valiant - the name dies with me (maybe).
But all that just seemed so petty in the grand scheme of things - we have been blessed with four healthy daughters who are full of curiosity, giggles and love.
So take that, stranger in the grocery store aisle! Feel as sorry for me as you want! In five years, I’ll still be standing strong with my daughters by my side. In the meantime, my wife and I are going to parent the heck out of these kids as best as we can so that you have no reason to “feel sorry for me”.
By the way, just what kind of armageddon is going to occur five years down the road?
Sure, we’re going to make parenting mistakes. Every parent does. At the end of the day though, I feel pretty darn confident that we are going to put our best foot forward and raise responsible, well-mannered, hard-working young women who (we hope) will contribute great things to society.
Don’t get me wrong. My wife and I are not naive. We expect full blown battles of bathrooms, boyfriends and blush. Just like any parent who is raising boys would expect things associated with the male gender.
What I’m getting at is this…don’t have preconceived notions of my parenting skills or worse, the manner in which my daughters will conduct themselves five years down the road just because there are four of them and they are all girls.
Another thing I hear a lot as a father of only daughters? “You must have a lot pink at your house.”
My wife stumbled upon this article this week and wondered if I was now ghost writing for this website. It perfectly sums up so many conversations we've had countless times in our house or on long car rides. I urge you to read the article.
Our Beatrice loves Blue. Eva can't wait to get in line to see the new Spiderman movie next week - we've seen all the films together. Matilda REALLY likes pirates. Olive...well, we're still waiting.
I'm certainly not condoning pink, arts and crafts and all things that sparkle. I'd be lying through my teeth if I told you our house wasn't full of those things (I do work at a toy company). It is. I'm not ashamed to admit that. Chances are, there are some of you who will read this who have or know of a boy in your life who embraces those things! So what? Who cares?
Just this past week, it was time for Matilda to choose a new bike. She immediately gravitated toward the traditional “boy bike”. It was blue, featured that bar girl bikes don’t have, it was covered in her favorite pirate character, and had black tires. Have you noticed most “girl bikes” these days have white tires?
So, there I was in the middle of the big box store, plopping my four-year-old daughter up on her first big bike with training wheels when a fellow adult walked by with eyebrows raised and looked at me as if I was completely crazy for letting her choose that bike. The same bike, which for that moment in time was responsible for making my little girl most happy.
“What’s it to you, lady?”, I thought. “I’ll buy my daughter any bike she wants!” Ultimately, Matilda chose a blue and purple bike (on her own accord, I assure you), but if she had chosen that pirate bike, or if a little boy had chosen a pink bike with princesses, what does it matter?
I was reminded of this just this morning as I slipped on a purple polo shirt only to have Matilda (of all people) tell me I was wearing a “girl shirt”. I quickly reminded her that she really liked the pirate bike at the store and most people would say that’s a “boy bike”, but it was okay if a girl wanted it. So, a daddy can wear a purple shirt if he chooses.
We’re only kids once. We’re ALWAYS parents and it’s ALWAYS going to be a tough job. Choose your battles wisely. I’m here to tell you that pink, blue, pirates and princesses don’t matter. Your child’s happiness is what counts.
We only get to live in the “judgement free zone” as children for a such a short time. Soon, the walls of society begin closing in and we find ourselves being told what is boy and what is girl. I’m optimistic that with each passing generation these colors will become more and more blended. But in the meantime, get out your parental paintbrush and lead by example...blend away!
Fat Brain Toys
Erik serves as Director of Product Development at Fat Brain Toy Co. and serves on the board of directors for The American Specialty Toy Retailers Association.