I HAVE THE PRIVILEGE OF WATCHING MY DAUGHTERS, ELEANOR, 10, AND ABIGAIL, 8, GROW UP. AT TIMES, I FEEL OUTNUMBERED IN A FAMILY WHERE THE FEMALE-TO-MALE RATIO (COUNTING OUR TWO GUINEA PIGS, S’MORES AND NIBBLES) IS FIVE-TO-ONE. THOUGH MY WIFE, BETH, AND I SHARE PARENTING DUTIES, SOME GIRL-SPECIFIC TASKS ELUDE ME. I ADMIT, MY PONY TAILS ARE ALWAYS LOPSIDED.

Despite this shortcoming, I’m proud I can pack a picnic in minutes, and when I make breakfast, it always ends up having two eyes and a mouth. If I pack the school lunchbox, you know it has a special note, maybe encoded as a secret stretchy rubber band message—write the note on a rulerstretched rubber band, then when it shrinks back to normal size, the note is unreadable unless you know the secret.

As a professor, I have my summers off, and I spend a lot of time with my daughters. I love taking them to concerts and cultural events. Over the years, we’ve gone from walking with one girl in the backpack to being able to ride our own bikes.

A CHEW STORY

Periodically Beth travels to conferences, and we make these trips family affairs. While Beth attends sessions, the DADventures commence. During a Seattle conference this led to a sticky situation. I’d read about the Market Theatre Gum Wall in Post Alley. Despite being the germiest tourist attraction ever, I thought it might be the perfect excuse to let Eleanor, then 5, and Abigail, 3, have their first gum-chewing experience (yes, they live a sheltered life).

Each daughter got a shiny quarter for the gumball machine. The gum quickly lost flavor, and before we made it to Post Alley, Abigail wanted to spit hers out while Eleanor wondered if I had a baggy to keep hers in. Both girls toughed it out for the chance to leave their mark on the inches-thick mass of gum stretching 50 feet long and 15 feet high. Amazingly, neither got sick after the germy encounter, but they’ll never forget their first chew.

IF THE SHOES FIT, SHARE IT

Shoes are stereotypical girly accessories and aren’t usually a dad’s domain, but my fondest memory of my daughters’ footwear deals with creating our own fashion. Local artist Amarama Vercnocke hosted a shoe-adorning class, so my wife suggested we pretty up our kicks. While Beth, Eleanor and I were excited to decorate our shoes, my younger daughter, Abigail, was hesitant to wear her own art. I promptly became her shoe model as she drew on one of my shoes, and I proudly wore her art.

I’m still loving our co-designed shoes. Abigail’s art is on my right foot, and mine is on my left. Abigail is proud I’m wearing her design, which gets complimented at every outing, and my wife and I managed to create some positive family time nurturing our daughters’ creativity and their self-confidence.

GOOD NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT

One of my favorite times of day with my daughters is reading aloud before bed. Since I’m an English professor, reading is something I really value. The nights I’m not out playing a jazz trombone, I make a point of reading to the girls. As they’ve grown, we’ve read everything from board books to

young adult novels. “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” focusing on a young woman fending for herself after she’s left behind by her tribe, was a favorite.

Sometimes we’ll fill the tub up with pillows to make a reading nest. After reading, I tuck each girl in, and we say words from our first book, “I Love You Through and Through.” At the end of the book it says, “I love you through and through yesterday, today and tomorrow too.” The words, though borrowed, are heartfelt. I hope one day my daughters will echo this phrase to their children and think of me when they do.

John Sievers is a husband, a father, an English professor and a freelance writer. When you don't find him busy with one of these roles, you're likely to find him playing trombone.

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