Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Cup of Hope

For my 16th birthday, my dad gave me two tickets to a World Cup soccer game.
We drove 6 hours to Boston, parked our car, and walked in the searing summer heat to Foxborough Stadium.

As we entered the stadium and passed through the turnstiles, we mixed with thousands of fans in bright clothing, hopped up on adrenaline and the belief that their team would win.
Italians chanting, BAGGIO, BAGGIO and Nigerian drumming made it impossible to hear your own voice, or have a conversation.  We were swept along by the movement and sound, the excitement of nations coming together in competition.

We followed the sound of drumming and sat on open benches filled with more drummers and fans of Nigeria.   We stood most of the 90+ minutes of the match, dancing and shouting and cheering wildly. 

The game, one of the most exciting of that tournament, went into double overtime and then a shoot-out.   

When I look back at a photo taken that day, I barely look 16.  I am wearing half of an actual soccer ball on my head, a home-made hat I created specially for the occasion.  Jams had given way to baggy Umbros, and a world cup t-shirt.  It is strange to compare recollection to photographic evidence.  How I felt that day was high, giddy, and thrilled to be part of something so big.  I felt connected to the world through my love of soccer.  And that night, finally back in my own bed, exhausted, I dreamt of playing in the World Cup, the sound of drums pulsing in the background. 

A few months ago, Dave and I had some neighbors over for dinner.  They also have a 3 year old daughter, and the father, Greg, relayed a story:
"I have a friend, and he also has a son and a daughter, like us.  We were talking about general parent things one day, and he said, 'You know, my one hope, the one thing I hope for my daughter, is that she find a really good husband, someone who will really take care of her.' "
Greg relayed surprise over his friend's hope, expressing that he hadn't considered that as a goal for his own daughter, or a hope that he had for her.

I don't know if this is a typical hope that dads have for their daughters.
I haven't asked many fathers that question.
I've never even asked Dave that question.
I don't know if my own father had that hope for me, when I was 3, or otherwise.

The role of fatherhood is such an important one in raising strong girls.
Fathers model supportive partnership to their daughters (ideally), and through their own hopes for their child, they guide them to to explore and take chances that will lead toward growth and strength.
Or, they close off certain paths that aren't seemed as integral to their dreams for their daughter.

I've had more than one client in therapy who, as a grown adult, is still injured by the norms created in their household while growing up. Their ability to live in the present is still hindered by the expectations of their past.  Even as adults, free to live as we choose, we are often still responding to the rules that were set for us in the first decade of life.  As William Faulkner wrote, "The past is not dead.  It's not even past." Given this as true for most people, it is an awesome responsibility to be aware of the hopes we have for our daughters.  Our "yes" and "no" to them, verbal and nonverbal, will be the yes and no they pause before as adults, the voice in their head that they will sometimes heed to and sometimes discard.

Looking back at goofy me, wearing a soccer ball and baggy shorts at the age of 16, I would guess that if my dad were worried about my marriageability at that time, the worrying could have gone on and on.  "Please take care of my daughter, she make you many fine hats to wear."

As the World Cup plays out in South Africa (and the US is still in it!), I've been telling Miss C about my favorite soccer heroes, and have found library books to talk about these players:
Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Kristine Lilly.


USA's forward Kristine Lilly kicks for the goal. (Photo: Bill 
Kostroun/AP Images)
The names don't stick quite yet, (she calls them Lily Hamm, or Abby Hamm, or Hammy Hamm)
I don't know the romantic histories of any of these players.  Nor do I care.
What I do know about them, and what they've brought to the game of soccer in the US, is what I share with my daughter.
Even if the names don't stick, I'm hoping that the stories will.


  1. I wonder, does it make a difference which parent encourages non-stereotypical activities? Does dad's encouragement have more weight than mom's with daughters?

    Here's another good princess book for you..."The Paperback Princess" by Robert Munsch. Not only does the princess not wear a gown, she doesn't wait for the prince to save her (actually, I believe she saves the princes.)

  2. Tigerknitting: No, I don't think it makes a difference which parent it is. "The role of fatherhood is such an important one..." could also say motherhood, grandmotherhood, basically, whoever is caregiver. The caregiver(s) set the norms and expectations within the family. My viewpoint here is my own background, in which my own mother and father equally imprinted me.