There’s a lot that’s coming out of Kobe Bryant’s untimely death. Stories, and tributes, and a large range of emotions that really show how much he meant to so many people.
Sure, I’ve got my personal stories of meeting him and interacting with him a handful of times, and what I can say about that is that Kobe had this aura about him that was unlike anyone else I’ve met. It was like it wasn’t just “Wow, that’s Kobe.” It was more like “Wow, that’s KOBE.”
But what has been the best thing, to me, that has come out of Kobe’s passing is the stories about how much he loved being a father, and one simple hashtag: #girldad
Kobe was one of the fiercest competitors to ever play professional sports and his motivation, his workouts, his dedication, his attitude – all were legendary. Even in the NBA, he was operating on a different plane. And, he was otherworldly. He was KOBE. Even to these other professional athletes – he wasn’t Kobe, but he was KOBE … even to them. Which tells you something.
No one could relate to him.
But, in retirement, he showed us this soft side. All of a sudden, we could relate to him. KOBE became human. He became more of a regular dude, someone that had the same interests as you and me. Coaching his kids, talking to them, discussing life with them.
That’s stuff that good dads do. It’s things I try to do.
He had four girls. He embodied being a #girldad
Honestly, for me, it took some time to accept being a #girldad
My wife and I each wanted a son. We were blessed with a daughter. And she is incredible (more on that in a moment). When we were lucky enough to find out we were having another child, we both took a beat when the doctor told us And you’re having a girl!
We talked on the phone afterwards – I remember exactly the place I was, in a cavernous Venetian hallway in Las Vegas where I was for work – we both expressed joy in being able to have another kid, but also mutual love for each other that we were having another girl. And, how we were blessed to have a healthy baby. Alas, there was initial disappointment in our voices because we did want a boy.
That’s when I had to rid myself of all of the insecure, stupid, short-sighted, inexcusable comments about being a man who only had daughters.
A famous left-hander for the Angels, the Major League Baseball team I used to cover every day as a beat reporter, once told another writer: You had a son this time? Good! Now you’ve officially become a man.
That’s the type of comment that seeps in through fear, the kinds of comments that allow generations to continue racism, sexism, and ignorance about something different than someone is used to. It’s that kind of thinking that, unfortunately, drags down human beings.
Maybe Kobe’s legacy isn’t the KOBE that we all knew. Maybe it’s the Kobe that was coming out of his own shell and showing us all that to embrace being a man, you have to be a father. And to embrace being a father, like a truly, really good father, you need to have a girl to challenge your own DNA-led mental model of being a male.
Did I want a son to be able to throw a baseball with? To teach how to start a campfire? To teach how to cook the perfect breakfast, or grill the perfect steak? To light off fireworks, or pop wheelies on his bike, or play video games with, or go have a beer together in 21 years?
Sure … Initially.
But, instead I have girls. Girls that I can teach and do all of those things with and it’s infinitely better.
Because I get to do all of that. But wait – there’s more! I also get to experience their interests, things that I probably never would have with a boy. Ballet. Barbies. Books about female super heroes. Princesses. Lots and lots of princesses.
And it makes me more well-rounded. And it makes them more well-rounded.
The challenge of raising girls is also a welcome one. Maybe it’s because girls need a strong father figure around, and maybe God sees me as that – and it’s something I am trying to lean into every day.
My oldest daughter is turning into this perfect mixture of tomboy and girly-girl – her favorite color is pink, she loves Barbies, and she loves wearing dresses. But she also can throw and hit a baseball, wants to watch sports with me, is learning to how to code, and likes getting dirty outside whether it’s camping, or on a playground, or running around.
For her birthday last year she wanted to go camping. For her birthday this year she wants to go to a baseball game.
She also wants to be in the Nutcracker next Christmas, and be the best ballerina in the world.
And I get to help her try and achieve those dreams, too.
Because, ultimately, parenthood is not just helping your kids through life, or trying to provide something better for the next generation.
It’s sacrificing yourself, and your beliefs, while also teaching and explaining the world. It’s a calling that some people get, and some people don’t.
Kobe got it. KOBE got it.
And, I’d like to think I get it. At least a little. So, maybe the silver lining we get out of this horrible, untimely, and cheerless moment of Kobe’s death is that it’s not just about raising daughters.
It’s about being a #girldad
And loving it.