My instinct was to call out to her to chill and "play nice," but then I found myself thinking about how I would address the same behavior from the boys. And I realized that I would most likely praise their behavior and willingness to play hard. In fact, I've taught them explicitly how to use their hips in soccer and football to keep other players off the ball. I think my instinct to change Lauren's style is because she's a girl.
I'm glad I didn't say anything about it. I did mention later something like "Hey La, I noticed a few elbows being thrown at the game today, did you?"
She smiled and said "Yeah, and it was fun."
As a kid and a young man, I thought embarrassingly little about what it's like to be a girl or a woman. Having a daughter has really challenged me to try to recognize double-standards or assumptions that I and other people have because of a person's gender.
Twitter isn't good for much most of the time, but a couple of years ago, as a result of broader discussions of sexism, the hashtag discussion #YesAllWomen trended. I spent a morning reading it, and I was struck by how little I knew. For instance, after reading about it, I asked some of my women friends if they too always called or texted friends when they got home after an evening out. To a person, they answered "yes," because of the constant threat of violence against women. Realistically, if I called or texted a male friend to say I made it home safely after a concert or something, I would expect to be made fun of. That was only one anecdote among many that revealed to me how unaware I was of women's normal experiences.
I find that I'm especially fretful about Lauren and the world she is boldly navigating. I cringe when people call her dramatic or emotional. I'll bristle if someone calls her "bossy" when she asserts herself. I try not to make the focus of my compliments to her about how "cute" or "pretty" she is, and I try to praise how smart and tough and funny she is. And man is she smart. And tough. And funny.
I'm thankful to have been given a daughter like Lauren, who encourages me to broaden my own ideas about the world. I'm thankful we attend a church with a female head pastor, whom Lauren loves to give flying hugs. I'm thankful that Lauren is growing up in a world where Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice and Serena Williams are the norm. And I'm especially thankful that her most important role model is her mom, who exemplifies the strength and love and principles that I hope and pray Lauren realizes for herself as she grows up.