I'm a lucky person. Reflecting on my childhood, I was a happy, care-free kid. I enjoyed financial security, two loving parents, a home in the country, a permanent playmate (my younger sister), and have many fond memories to revisit. I want to acknowledge my luck and own it, because not everyone is dealt the same hand.
A common mantra I often hear when parenting methods are discussed is "I'll do it differently." We all bear some criticisms of our upbringing, and with conscious effort we can alter our own parenting style. But here's what I wouldn't change for the world—my parents as role models of gender equality in our home.
As a strong feminist, my mother wanted to raise strong feminist daughters—and my father was all in. When we first moved to Texas for my mother's career, my dad became Mr. Mom to both me and my newborn sister. I have great memories from that time—Dad and I catapulting Barbie's supposed beau Ken from the second story—parachute in tow, us fishing early in the morning, making paper mache masks and learning how to shoot cans with our BB gun (no harm befell any woodland creatures, I promise).
As we grew older, all play was good—nothing was gendered. The tomboys we were, my sister and I would pick up toads or turtles and make them play with our dolls. We had dinner parties in mud, complete with a witches' brew of berries, dirt, sticks and leaves. And when it came to sports, we did everything from karate to tee-ball to soccer.
At home, we saw both our parents sharing the duties of household chores, meal prep, homework help and shuttle service to various after-school activities. Dad was the weekday cook, Mom made more complex dinners on the weekends. Mom helped with day-to-day homework and Dad was the project guru (my Stonehenge replica was totally to scale).
My father, the firefighter, would take us to his work at the international fire school where we'd try on bunker gear and airpacks and go through a simulated house fire scenario. He'd tell us how to put out a ship engine fire, or extinguish a complicated industrial fire. I never once considered that line of work only for men. And neither did my sister—she'll be graduating soon as a paramedic, following in my father's footsteps to become a firefighter.
My parents showed us a unique balance of gender norms—my mother the compassionate professional and my father the nurturing firefighter. As daughters, we have a strong mother as our role model, but my sister and I also have the luxury of having a kind, supportive and nurturing dad, who I call today my best friend.
Happy Father's Day, Papa—and to all those great dads and father figures who help their daughters blossom into strong, confident women, ready to take on the world.