Not many people know this, but my husband, Dan, is actually a better writer than I am. I know, I know, my witty bon mots that regularly appear in national magazines, such as my recent proclamation in SELF magazine that “Sex during pregnancy won’t poke your baby’s eye out,” or my advice in a Women’s Health story to encourage an overweight partner to shape up by “dangling a sex carrot” suggest otherwise. But the fact is, Dan is a seasoned writer. In college, he was Editor in Chief of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus paper, the Badger Herald (where I rose to fame covering hot button topics like sex toy stores and vegetarianism) as well as Sports Editor – he has a knack for making me, someone who doesn’t even know if hockey players participate in games or matches, care about athletics.
During our Babymoon, I was working on a story for espnW (irony, I know), and I suggested when Dan write one too, to run in my column. Between bites of guac and sips of virgin pina coladas, we wrote poolside, just like we did back in college (OK, fine, back then it was bites of Snackwells fat free vanilla sandwich creme cookies and sips of Diet Mountain Dew). Sadly, my column has been on a bye week for, ummm, the past few months, but considering his first Father’s Day is this weekend, I wanted to honor him by running it here. I love you, babe.
Dear Little One,*
Please don’t be mad at me.
It was just a throwaway comment, one of dozens in the dizzying weeks and months leading up to the birth of a first child. Your mom and I were discussing decorations for the nursery –as you’ll soon come to find, a topic a bit out of my wheelhouse – and I said it as much to tweak her a little as anything else.
“If it’s a boy,” I offered, a thin smile spreading across my lips, “I think we should put a sports mobile in the crib”.
Admittedly, this was not my finest contribution to our seemingly endless planning, and your mom was unimpressed. The ensuing carnage was a wide-ranging conversation that drifted between infant fashion and gender stereotyping, and it left me sufficiently humbled.
A few weeks later, we discovered that you were going to be a girl – also known in our house as “Sweet Gentle Moses, we’re having a baby girl!” – and I found my mind wandering back to MobileGate. You were slated to be introduced to the world within a few months of the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Was my thought process, which I had always held as being so progressive, actually stuck in 1972? I was envisioning a baby boy as the next LeBron or Peyton … why should it be any more difficult to picture you as a young Serena or Mia?
And I do have practice with this sort of thing. When we were growing up, I frequently shepherded your Aunt Jessica – three years younger and scarcely big enough to wield an aluminum bat – into our backyard for “softball practice.” I was intent on drilling her in the basics and schooling her on the finer points of the game. Well, at least the finer points as imagined by my 10-year-old self. I like to think this tutelage helped turn her into the accomplished high school athlete she became … and your Mom doesn’t need to hear the part where Aunt Jessica’s pitching career culminated in a batted ball to the teeth. We’ll keep that between you and me.
Not too long after the discussion about the mobile, I overheard a work acquaintance opine to a cadre of nodding young fathers that what he wanted for his daughter was to teach her “not to throw like a girl.”
But that’s not what I want for you.
I want you to run and jump with abandon.
I want you to swim like you’re on a pile of clouds.
I want you to scream with glee and high-five your teammates.
I want you to dream big, impossible dreams.
I want you to walk to Wrigley Field with me, so I can introduce you to one of the most magical places on earth.
I want you to throw and swing and dribble and shoot until daylight runs out.
I want you to work out so hard that you’re positively engulfed with sweat — just like your mom.
I want you to flip and dive and cartwheel without fear. OK … maybe just a little fear.
I want you to come home with dirt under your fingernails and tell us all about that winning catch.
I want you to skin your knee every now and then, but only so I can kiss it and make it better.
I want all of this for you, Little One, and so much more.
But most of all … I want you to play.
*Name still subject to negotiation.