In the wake of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death #girldad began trending online. Among his many accomplishments, the basketball legend’s proudest role was being a dad. He was vocal about his love of having all daughters, so much so that when teammates teased him last year when his wife Vanessa gave birth to the couple’s fourth girl, Bryant responded that he’d “have five more daughters” if he could.
Fathers everywhere have been paying tribute to Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, 13, by posting their own pictures with their daughters.
I also come from a family of four girls and so feel a special connection to this “girl dad” pride, but from the view of a daughter. Like Bryant, my dad may have felt outnumbered at times, particularly when we’d dominate the dinner table conversations, but I know he felt like a king. My dad’s younger brother and surviving sibling — their older sister died from polio when she was four years old — had only daughters as well. It warms my heart to think of my stoic, Marine Corps veteran grandfather dote on all six of his granddaughters.
My sisters and I felt a sense of pride growing up with a dad who never vocalized that he’d want anything different than us. I had no idea it could be seen as anything but great to have all daughters until I was a little bit older and people, upon learning he had four daughters, would say things right in front of us like, “Your poor dad!” My sisters and I just looked at them and shrugged. We had no idea what they were talking about.
As teenagers we might ask him from time to time, “Do you ever wish you had a son?” My dad always had the same answer: “No, and it wouldn’t have made a difference.” He made a point of teaching us to do the same things he would teach a boy and was right there for our dance recitals and daddy/ daughter nights too. Some of our favorite family memories are how our dad taught us to water ski, snow ski, camp and fish. He taught us all how to drive and just before we turned 16 he made sure we knew basic things like how to check a car’s oil and tire pressure.
I guess it’s payback for all the showers and various girl events my dad wasn’t invited to, but now that my sisters and I have families of our own he hosts an annual “football party” for his sons-in-law and grandsons each January during the NFL playoffs. “No girls allowed,” he smiles, and we smile too.
After having two sons and I was pregnant with my third child many people asked me if I wanted the baby to be a girl. It was so peculiar to me that people would assume that, especially when I thought about my own birth order as a third born. I could remember the special all-girls club I was in and thought it would be just as cool if I were to have all boys. Sure, it’s nice for parents to get to experience what it’s like to have a boy and a girl, but when I see a single-gender family with either all brothers or with all sisters I can’t help but feel a kinship towards them. It’s like I’m looking at a special club, a tribe of familiarity.
Bryant’s sudden passing serves as another shocking reminder that life is indeed short, that even the strongest among us are mortal. I hope that parents everywhere continue to hold their kids a little tighter and to stay in the present with their kids and that fathers remember how very important they are in the lives of their children, be they daughters or sons.