Years ago, when our girls were small, a friend said, “All great men have two girls.” Incidentally he told me he heard it from one of our mutual friends. Naturally all three of us have two girls.
I never asked what prompted the remark. Maybe a latent disappointment that he had no boys stirred the comment. Could be flipping the script lay at the root. Think off it as real men wear pink. It might be the comment extended the notion behind the axiom, “Behind every great man is a woman.”
Whatever was meant by others over time came to mean something different to me.
Not every man needs daughters to help them see from another perspective. I would guess most do.
The long narrative of male dominance gets internalized and supported socially in certain settings. Let’s not ignore, on this International Women’s Day, that women could not always vote in this Country. Many of us need a rupture of what becomes ingrained in our experience.
April 25, 1985 and December 31, 1988 began the long rupture for me. I grew up with two brothers. Rough housing, tackle football in the front yard, basketball in the driveway and baseball dominated. What do you do with two girls when in your extended family of origin, cousins for instance, girls were in the small minority?
When the Kimberly and Tommie entered junior high and high school it dawned on me that while our role as parents was to invest in them, the experience of now being in the minority was an investment in me. I know, how chauvinistic to make International Women’s Day about me. Stay with me.
Absent a house full of girls, I suspect I would have have honed my skills as the south bound end of a north bound donkey. That is not to say I am free from such episodes. But, I learned that viewing the world through my lens did little to help me see the whole world. The closest other experience that extended the horizon of my view came with international travel. Living in land locked Oklahoma in mostly middle class settings did not prepare me for travel to places where people survive on less than $2 a day, if not a week, have no running water and their mode of transportation is walking.
One may resist the perspective of the other/Other. We may encode our language and structure our institutions on traditional grounds to where we exert we are standing on solid ground. But, that does little to take account of the way we interpret our own world anachronistically, without the benefit of the genealogy of human history. More simply, we continue to live out of the way we internalized our social and religious experiences that keep us from seeing the radical vision of the all and everyone in the Scriptures.
We explain the exceptions without recognition of the cultural setting. In that, the way women continue to be treated in many respects follows the way Black Americans understand colorblind and color coded forms of racism to this day.
Rarely, though maybe we find pockets where it is more common, do we stop to listen with a view to empathy and compassion rather than for the purpose of refutation and putting the other/Other in his or her place. We may hope that days like today will continue to unsettle those settled places where all and everyone does not describe human experience as we live it.
It All Begins Somewhere
Living with three girls, three women, enhanced my appreciation for my own mother. For those who do not know us, my mother and I are quite alike. Over time, I am becoming more aware of the ways I am my parents. What every parent hopes is that their children become the best parts of each of them. Time will tell in my case. I still have some formation to undergo.
When Mom talks about her own growth as a person, she tells that when she first married Dad she was not as prone to speak out. You could say she played a particular role. Then she will say, “Your Dad created a monster!” Somehow through the maturity of their relationship, Mom found her voice. When I type that it reminds me of reading Carol Giligan’s, In a Different Voice. Mom did and does not mean that as negative. Instead, it, I think, is a way of saying that her own self-awareness came that who she was wired to be included not just as Tom’s wife, but also as Mary.
We may tease Mom at points along the way. But not one of the three of us boys would accept nor expect Mom to be any different than Mary.
I learned much about Patty by listening to Mom.
The story is long and would make this one longer. Let’s just say that Patty and my Mom share a special relationship. In fact I may be able to make an argument who she would choose if she had to!
Today our girls continue to find their voices. One of the difficulties that extends into adulthood for them is to emerge from behind the role as Pastor’s Kids. They do love their Dad. They do love what their Dad does. But, there are times where they long for their own voice rather than it mediated through the identity of their Dad.
Kimberly and Tommie manage that well. It helps that their mother has forged her own identity that is much more than as, The Pastor’s Wife. In fact, I am known by some where she works as simply, Patty’s husband.
I am good with that.
On this International Women’s Day, I am grateful for the way these four women make me a better person.