It has been thrilling to see your reactions to the gender reveal. It has been especially joyful to watch the videos some of you sent in. There was quite a lot of crying and some ear splitting screams (Riley Kemp, I think that’s the loudest scream I’ve ever heard. I hope your parents recover swiftly). The reactions all proved the title of the last blog post: Everyone’s Baby. In one video it was a literal interpretation with two girls jumping up and down yelling, “We’re having a girl!!” It warmed our hearts so much to see how happy you all were. I know you would have been happy if it was a boy...but I think way more of you were hoping for a girl. I don’t know why you personally might have been wanting us to have a girl, but Angela and I feel like this baby girl is what was supposed to happen. For me personally, it is something I have wanted for a long time.
Lauren Johnson, FMT alumni and all around wonderful person, was the first to put the thought in my head. I don’t remember what conversation we were having years ago, but she told me, “You would be a great girl dad.” The thought stuck around and would keep coming back.
I have never in my life been a stereotypically manly type. If I’d been born earlier, I’m sure I would have been slapped with generalizations of femininity and stuff like that. Thankfully, I was raised knowing that sensitivity and emotion doesn’t mean weak. To be fair, sensitivity has caused me a lot of problems, but it does wonders when working with people. Most other guys have not been raised that way, so aside from video games and sports I don’t have much to talk about. By an organic process, I’ve ended up having more friends that are girls through the years. For that reason, I thought being a “girl dad” would be a more natural fit not just because of my experience, but also because my little girl will have access to lots of “aunts”.
I’ve been a romantic as long as I can remember, so the iconography of heroes rescuing princesses captivated me from an early age. I saw Star Wars: A New Hope when I was six years old. Not only was Princess Leia my first crush, but Luke picking her up and swinging across that chasm was one of the coolest things ever. I wanted to do that, and I was drawn to movies that showed that. Robin Hood fought to save Maid Marian. Peter Pan saved Wendy. Spiderman saved Mary Jane. When I was around 12 I really got into knights and chivalry. I got an illustrated book and highlighted bits about protecting a lady’s honor and stuff like that. I wanted to be a hero. I was under no conviction that I would actually fight anyone, but I wanted to prepare myself to swoop in and be ready to help. I was obsessed with the idea even into college. I would walk to class listening to the Gladiator soundtrack while I imagined leading an attack on a castle to save someone I loved. I always wanted to be “on call” if someone needed something so I’d be ready to ride to the rescue.
One day, when I was walking back to my apartment I had an epiphany: The knight in shining armor is stupid! What if the dragon attacks the princess when he isn’t there? What if he can’t ride to the rescue? More so, what if he dies and can never protect her again? Him solving all of her problems was keeping her weak, and it followed that she wouldn’t be able to defend herself. The most glaringly obvious solution to me was that he should teach her to fight! It might not be likely she would have the prowess of a man who has trained his whole life to fight, but it would certainly be better than nothing! Then, if he is present when the dragon attacks they can fight together and drive it off more quickly. If he can’t be there when the dragon attacks next, he can trust that the princess will be able to put up a good fight and fend for herself. This was one of the most important formative moments of my life. From then on, I have become obsessed with training and equipping for the battle of life. This newfound focus lends itself very naturally to my teacher heart.
The second epiphany in this chain was a response I heard during a discussion on overpopulation. Some of the panelists were discussing inter-planetary colonization, changes to food production, and redesigning cities. Bill Nye the Science Guy was on the panel, and when he was asked the same question his response was unexpected and profound…
“Educate women and girls.”
The sentence went off like a bomb in my head. Basically, as educational opportunities are more available to women in developing countries, the birth rate slows down. (I just erased a three paragraph explanation adapted from a geography lesson I gave on the topic, so you’re welcome.)
Bill Nye’s answer turned my desire to train and equip into a personal and professional mission. My greatest desire is for all women within my influence to feel empowered and competent. Thankfully I have grown up surrounded by empowered women with vast and diverse skill sets and personalities. My daughter’s mother, Angela, is a prime example of this. She is strong, bold, and wildly talented.
The day after I got to see my daughter on the ultrasound I realized that she is the confluence of so many parts of my life: the female friends I’ve had all through my life, the epiphany about teaching the princess to fight, and the importance of educating and empowering girls.
I’m sure there are many of you that are excited because girls are cute and adorable and she’ll be spoiled and stuff like that. That’s fine and I’m glad you’re excited. I’ll even learn to put up with bows and girly things. I wanted to write this blog to give you an idea of what I have in mind for my daughter, because I need you to support it.
I want to raise a warrior. She can wear a bow, but she will be strong. I won’t protect her by hiding her away from the world. I want to protect her by teaching her how to fight. How to handle herself. When she comes to workdays at FMT I’d love her to be competent whether she’s sewing costumes or constructing part of the set. I don’t want her forced into a box, I want her to be her, the woman that God made her to be.
That’s why I’m so excited that she’s “everyone’s baby” and so many of you feel so invested. Don’t just spoil her with material things. Spoil her with your life lessons, with tricks you’ve learned, with skills you’ve developed, with your conversations, with your time. I know a lot about music and teaching because I was born to parents that are musicians and teachers. My skill set has grown beyond that because I have been in an environment that brings together diverse groups of people that I have learned from. I want our daughter to benefit from that so she will be able to handle herself well. Since we found out about the gender I have thanked God several times for the numerous examples of feminine strength she will grow up around. I don’t know what her personality will be like or the things she will do, but I have full belief she will be strong.
Angela is a perfect model of this. We joke a lot about how many of the stereotypical gender traits (aggression, sensitivity, who wants to talk about feelings, who doesn’t want to talk about feelings) are flipped in our marriage. If you can sum up Angela in only one sentence, you don’t really know her. Some facets of her personality are (literally) louder than others, but I am still finding new facets and complexities because she is still growing. She thinks and processes things her own way and doesn’t take something I say as fact without thinking about it on her own. Angela has a boldness and aggressively proactive approach to life that I lack, so I very much pray that will be passed on to our daughter. When Angela comes in to your life, you’re not quite sure what just hit you. I have no idea exactly what our daughter will be like, but I’m sure she will be powerful like her momma.
All of this has meant coming up with a name was a difficult process. We’ve been trying to figure out names for the past couple of years. The only sure things were how we would incorporate family names. A boy would bear my full name and Angela would pass on her middle name to a girl. Beyond that...whew. As recently as a couple of weeks ago I went on a baby name website and looked at 1,600 girl names. Yes, that much. It produced a list of 15 names. Our daughter’s name was on that list, but didn’t make the cut when I narrowed it down to 6 names. When I went over the names with Angela, she asked about one name in particular, and I told her I wasn’t exactly sure why I’d written it down because it didn’t really have a meaning. We tabled those names and switched over to something else that allowed us to match names we liked. Our daughter’s name came up again. The more we said it, the more it began to stick. We eventually agreed on the name, and once we found out our baby was a girl…. I knew her name was right. It wasn’t right because we picked it, it was because God picked it. God picked the perfect name for his daughter.
Not only do we love the name, but every time I say it I can feel my love for her come out of my heart and into the air. Love is wrapped up in her name.