Back in the ‘60s when girls’ sport were taboo, my dad taught me how to throw a perfect spiral, pitch a baseball and shoot a basket. Each time he tossed the ball to my brother, he also threw once to me. He made sure to hit each of us an equal number of pop ups to field. He showed me how to hold a baseball glove, pump up a basketball and take a fish off the hook.
Like the Pied Piper, as soon as kids saw my dad arrive home from his teaching job, they lined up for a turn at bat. Soon he was pitching whiffle balls to the entire neighborhood. Instead of grass in our backyard, we had permanent dirt-patch bases, a diamond in the rough, the Field of Dreams for an entire generation.
Even though I never saw any other fathers in the yard shooting hoops with their daughters, I never thought it odd. Chasing grounders, running passing patterns and learning the baseline drive with my dad seemed as natural as breathing. After all, he was a coach and I was an athlete. So what if it took the rest of the society a few decades to catch up.
Today with the acceptance of girls’ sports and working moms the norm, dads’ coaching daughters is no longer an anomaly. The Women’s Rights Movement also liberated men to assume a greater hands-on role in fatherhood.
Today’s dads are free to coach Little League AND girls’ soccer, to build camp fires, make tree forts, piece together Legos, to change diapers, give baths, bandage cuts. They can also bake birthday cakes, read Good Night Moon, cook bœuf bourguignon and grill burgers.
Throughout our children’s youth, my husband worked the score table, drove the van for our daughter and son’s teams and prepared gourmet meals for all of us. Gérald never batted an eye about running a printing business during the day, and then wearing the apron at night. Though it may have been a typical behavior for a Frenchman, he paid the bills, balanced the budget and brought home the bacon, proud to be a family man.
Just as I witnessed my dad in multiple roles – caring teacher, inspiring coach, loyal husband -my children saw their father as tough and tender, demanding and nuturing, competitive and compassionate.
Kids raised in families with ball-playing moms and story-reading dads make for a balanced, healthy, wholesome childhood. Whether organizing car pools, building sand castles or playing catch, adults investing time in youth yields the greatest dividends. Worth all the gold in the world !