Last week when I was at the local Lowes, looking for the small hand saw I still needed for the toolbox my daughter was getting for Christmas, I ended up in a conversation with an older gentleman on the subject of the raising of girls. He was a tall man ( at least in comparison to my 5’2), wiry and thin with silver hair neatly coifed. He smelled nice, like something earthy and clean; he was gregarious and expressive, in the easy way of natural extroverts. While there are times I avoid such friendly individuals, age creates a notable exception to this behavior. I like friendly old people. 30+ my senior and in possession of a quick mind filled with interesting viewpoints, automatically gets my attention. There are many reasons for this but chief among them is that I respect and aspire to continued curiosity and stalwart engagement with the world.
Now that we’ve touched upon my Elder Rule, we can move on to the care and raising of little girls.
I could not find the saw I needed for her, the smallest one that would allow proper handling for a smaller, lower to ground type of person. He told me it wouldn’t be in until at least Tuesday and advised checking out an orange colored competitor if I wanted to get it today. He asked if it was for me and I explained it was not, it was in fact for my daughter. This piece of information spurred a string of questions.
How old was my little girl? Was that Second grade? Was she already into building or was this her introduction? Was there something I was working on with her?
She was 7, yes that was Second grade. Yes she was already into tools and building and had become the household tool thief, which was why she was getting her own box. Yes, she wanted a dollhouse and I thought that would be a good first, big project ,idea to keep her busy through the winter.
He agreed and told me that many years ago, his wife had gone through 22 hours of labor, after which she asked if he saw the baby in the basket. He said, why yes he did. She informed him, good, because despite appearances to the contrary, that was to be his wished for son. She informed him she was not going through the full production process again and that he would be happy with the results of her first and final efforts.
So, he was. He took that little girl and did all of the things he would have done with a son. He played baseball and football, roughhoused and taught her the skills of his trade. He gave her a workbench and tools and she learned to build beside her father. He told me proudly that she could do anything on her own, by the time she “sprouted” around 13years of age. At that time he relinquished control of her upbringing and gave her back to her mother. He seemed quite happy with the results and encouraged the path I was taking with my girl child. He had stumbled onto this path when he was presented with a baby girl instead of the boy he might have imagined and he saw something another man might not have seen, an opportunity instead of an impediment. He was tickled pink that another little girl was being properly educated.
This isn’t some self-righteous, sanctimonious statement on gender. It’s much simpler than that.
His joy reminded me that it is not the hand you are dealt and or even what you do with it but how you choose to see it in the first place. That’s it.