Back when my daughters were very little, a mom in our playgroup explained to me how her father had insisted on teaching her to play poker and shoot a gun before she left home. This story inspired me to start my own list of the things I thought my daughters should know before heading into the world.
I’m not talking about things such as balancing a checkbook, making a bed, or other important skills that anyone can teach them.
I was looking for those things that, in our family, my daughters were only going to learn from me. Playing poker was one, so when they were old enough I pulled out my grandfathers’ sets of chips and cards and my girls learned to play five-card draw and blackjack. What started out as making fun designs with red, white, and blue chips evolved into a basic understanding of gambling, culminating with my kids watching Texas hold’em championships on TV.
Sports were also on my checklist, both understanding the big four — baseball, basketball, football, and hockey —but also being comfortable going to live games and navigating the often beer- and testosterone-laden atmosphere.
Now, as my oldest is getting ready to head off to college, it is time to finish crossing off the items, the last two of which are driving a stick-shift and playing pool.
I certainly know women who have each of these skills, but I know so many more who weren’t taken to ball games as a kid because dads did things like that with their sons. One of my sisters had to discover hockey on her own and find ways to scavenge tickets and make do with public transportation to see the Blackhawks play.
Today, when I take my daughters to CitiField to watch the hapless Mets, there are more men toting their little girls around, stuffing them with popcorn and soda while yelling at the disappointing plays on the field. It is a great sight to see more dads sharing their interests with daughters than in years past, but it is still not universal.
Among my wife’s generation, there are still social roadblocks to advancement. I know women who took up golf so they wouldn’t be excluded from those informal but oh-so-important business interactions when the guys head out to the links. There are still companies that offer a choice of events on team building retreats, such as ropes courses or a softball game, which most of the guys do, and spa treatments or a museum tour, presumably for the gals.
In the end, I don’t really care if my daughters chose a mani-pedi instead of taking their turn swinging a bat, so long as they feel they have the choice. If my girls can sit in a group with a hot dog and a beer, or even a veggie wrap and a Diet Coke, comfortably watching Eli Manning throw another touchdown, I’ve done my job, because what I have to offer, as a dad, are the tools to enter that world of men.
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