Saturday, October 26, 2013

Learning Lessons

I have to teach The Child what she is worth.

This is a revelation, but this is not the only thing I have to teach her.

I am a feminist. I don't necessarily believe in "men's work" and "women's work," although Dane and I were pretty divided in that way. Now it is all "my work," and I am learning the things I need to teach Sicily, things that Dane would have (and did) model, or would have talked about. Below is a short list of what we are working on so far.

Practice common courtesy, and expect it of your partner. Dane always unlocked my car door door first, even after 13 years of togetherness, but this is not restricted to men. If someone is close behind you as you approach a door, open it, step out of the way and let them in first. Smile. If they say "thank you," awesome. If not, not your problem. Smile anyway because you have done something nice. Don't settle for someone - a friend or a partner - who isn't going to treat you well on this very basic level.

Get physical. Americans raise their girls to sit down, play nice (quietly) and be dainty. Sicily plays travel softball. This, believe it or not, becomes a (nearly) full-contact sport as the years pass, especially in her position as catcher. Last night at batting practice, we watched as the batting coach tried to teach another catcher to "clear" a batter as part of a throwing motion down to third. Sicily has refused to try it, and this catcher was reluctant also. "What if I kill her?" she asked (jokingly, of course). I am not advocating violence, but I am advocating playing with the same intensity and athleticism as a boy would, and this means taking your space when you need it. And on that note..

Develop a thicker skin. At that same lesson, I worked the pitching machine, and Sicily got increasingly testy as the lesson went on. I generally stay out of the lesson (that's what the batting coach is for), but I made a couple comments on getting lower and other minor corrections (along with appreciative comments when she did well). She was so busy being offended that she sucked. I finally told her to stop focusing in how pissy I was making her and just focus on making her adjustments. She did, and she hit better. I am The Child's biggest fan. Full stop. It is my job to tell her how awesome she is, but it's also my job to tell her when she is awful. If she can't take constructive criticism and use it to get better, her life will be very hard and rather disappointing. Her ability to listen to feedback and apply it is compromised somewhat by teenage hormones, but hopefully it will improve with time. It is my job to help her practice this skill by not overpraising mediocrity; I also give her all of the tools she needs to do well (time, space, training, practice and encouragement). Sicily does not have siblings, so she has no peers to knock her down and keep her honest; her dad used to do that. Now it's up to me.

Ask for what you are worth, and expect to get it. Men ask for raises at an exponentially higher rate than women, and guess what? They get them. Women? Not so much. After batting practice, Sicily told me how much she earned (she works for her batting coach after her lesson, and they have negotiated a rate that is flexible at times depending on what exactly she is doing), and she said, "I'm just glad he's paying me at all." I stopped her there. She is performing a valuable service; she takes her job seriously, and she does it well. I told her that she needs to realize that she is earning the money she makes, and she is worth it; she needs to value what she does. I am raising her to be a conscientious person with a good work ethic (okay, trying. Reference "teenage hormones" again. 'tis a work in progress), and she will be a valuable commodity as she gets older. Women tend to de-value their contributions to the workplace, and it has kept us down. I want The Child to rise up.

Those are the lessons that pop for now. I am sure as we continue this journey more will arise, hopefully after I have learned what I need to know to help Sicily. Having to teach these things to Sicily by myself is alternately horrible and empowering; I wish it wasn't so, but as Dane would say, "Wish in one hand..."

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