God bless you, Kobe. I’m a girl dad, too.
Proudly been one since 1985, when my first of five daughters was born in what to this day remains one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Being there in that room, watching that babe come into the world was … fantastic and fun. Unlike anything I’d ever witnessed. So very cool.
Course, I wasn’t the one doing the work.
When the doctor handed my baby girl over to me, and she looked up, squirming, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. It was just the first of many other moments of uncertainty that would come in the years ahead, times five.
If I had 10 bucks for every time I’ve been asked if I wished I had a boy, a son, I could have paid in full for the four weddings I’ve bought since. It was always a curious question to me. Why would I want a son when I have five daughters? Would it make my family more complete? It already was complete.
My girls were — are — everything I could have hoped for. As they grew up, they did all the things girls do, and a lot of what boys do, too. Which was heartening to me, that they could involve themselves in and achieve whatever they set their minds to.
For them, sports was a big deal. They played darn near all of them.
The opportunities they received were a thousand miles from the ones girls of my own age got. Back then, boys enjoyed all the advantages, getting the sweet gyms at school, the latest equipment and uniforms, the best coaching, while the girls were funneled into the “girls” gyms, the smaller, crappier facilities, wearing old dusty pennies and being instructed by coaches who were well-meaning, but lesser trained.
That’s where girls belonged. Either in the lousy gym or on the sideline or court-side, shaking pompoms, cheering Johnny and the rest of the boys and their teams on.
That changed in a big way over the span of my parenthood.
As one of my athletic daughters once put it, “I’m the cheeree, not the cheerer.”
And she was. Watching my girls compete at the sports of their choice ranks up among my most memorable moments. Whether it was soccer or volleyball or track or basketball or tennis, it was a gas to watch them win — and lose. The highs and lows were emotional and educational.
I remember offering a TV set to any of my girls who could beat me in tennis. That was a rookie dad mistake. They all could — by the time they were 11.
I also remember one of them playing indoor soccer on a team — and against a team — made up mostly of boys. When she intercepted a pass and moved the ball toward the net for a goal, the boy dad sitting behind me screamed from the bleachers down to his young son, “Don’t let a girl take the ball away from you!”
Guys can be idiots sometimes.
When she did it again, I thought that dad’s head was going to spin off.
Through the years, our family traveled from Florida to Hawaii in support of our daughters’ junior tennis tournaments. The wins were spectacular, the losses hurt, at first, but as time rolled by, everything seemed OK, either way. The girls who played team sports mixed in with their teammates well.
It was worth it.
It was fun.
The girls hoisted trophies and sagged when they lost them. They made friends out of foes, doing their best to fulfill their own potential and to appreciate opponents who were doing the same. They learned to respect coaches and parents and girls who wanted nothing more than to beat them. It was all good. Well … mostly good.
Three of the girls went on to play college tennis — one at Utah State, one at Utah, one at BYU. The one who was a Ute was the best of the bunch, but I’m risking a whole lot putting that into print. When I informed a crowd at one of the girls’ weddings that she was the best all-around athlete in the family, one of my other daughters yelled out, “Prove it!”
The other two daughters, athletes themselves, settled into their studies at college.
They all had boyfriends at different times, none of whom I paid much attention to. When my oldest daughter was about to be proposed to, her soon-to-be husband asked if we could go to dinner to talk. I knew what was coming. We talked, all right. I talked.
When he returned home to report what had happened, my daughter asked him how it went. He said, “It was great. He only threatened me once.”
The point of all this isn’t to boast about my daughters and their achievements, most of which my wife gets the credit for, anyway. This isn’t a Christmas card brag sheet. It’s not an Instagram post trying to make everyone feel substandard with their comparative sad-and-sorry existences.
The girls have had their challenges, their nadirs, too. And we’ve plumbed the depths right there with them, attempting to hold our breaths, but crying alongside. Life can be hard sometimes, and we all bump and skid our way through the best we can.
But being a girl dad has been one of the wonderful opportunities of my life. Maybe being a boy dad is just as good. I wouldn’t know. I’ll take the former, inside and outside of sports. There have been times when, just like that moment the doctor handed me my first born, I had no clue as to the best way to handle situations that arose.
My wife and I did the best we could. We still are doing that. The girls are all grown now, the sounds of small feet running around the house coming only when the grandkids are around. Hands that were once tiny carry responsibilities of their own. Our adult daughters look at us now from the other side of a threshold they’ve already crossed. And that’s kind of sad, but cool, too.
Hugs mean more now than they ever have.
As time has blown by, the todays turning into tomorrows, the months turning into years, the years turning into decades gone by, I’ve learned many things as a girl dad.
Foremost among them, that I’m a lucky man.
More than anything else, this is what I do know, and so many of you know it, as well, just like Kobe did: Girls are a blessing. Being their dad is a privilege. They’ve taught me every bit as much as I’ve taught them, and more. They’ve given me every bit as much as I’ve given them, and more.
They are the embodiment, the very definition, the picture, of love.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.