My wife is 39 weeks pregnant, one week from the due date of our second child.
My wife holds a lot of titles in her life. She is an entrepreneur and a Brazilian. She is a daughter, wife and a mother to our one-year old son. She is the strongest person I know and is the glue that holds our family together. In the words of Kevin Durant, she is the real MVP.
And sometime soon my wife is gifting me with a new title that has me nervous and excited at the same time.
I’m going to be a girl dad.
You see, I come from a broken family where my parents divorced when I was young. On top of that, I was the only child. I never knew either of my grandpas and was never really close with any of my uncles. So, the idea of a girl dad was always a foreign concept to me and something I never really put much thought into. The only girl dads I ever knew in my life were ones I saw from afar. Dads of friends or celebrities I followed online that seemed like cool dads.
But I never put much thought into being a father to a girl until my wife and I walked in for an ultrasound back in September. The technician asked us if we wanted to know the gender and after we obliged (we aren’t the gender reveal party type of couple), she turned to us and said that we were having a girl. I was going to be a girl dad.
I didn’t know it was possible to be so excited and nervous at the same time. Our son is over a year old so this wasn’t our first time around in parenting, but a girl was going to be completely different. I had never seen a girl dad in action before up close or how being a girl dad was different from being a dad of a boy. So, over the next few months I tried to seek out other girl dads. Whether it was getting simple advice or finding more examples to watch from afar, I wanted to be the best girl dad I could possibly be.
One of those girl dads I admired from afar was Kobe Bryant.
I obviously didn’t know Kobe on a personal level but when it came to professional athletes, Kobe seemed like the ideal girl dad. The way he supported and praised his daughters publicly. The way he pushed them to be whatever they strove to be. The way he embraced being a father of girls despite not having a son. I had sometimes seen men in my life be “disappointed” or “bummed” when they didn’t have a boy, but Kobe was the exact opposite. From afar, he seemed to have been the president of the illustrious VIP girl-dad club. He made that club seem like the best, most rewarding one in the world.
But when that tragic day came in late January when we lost the lives of Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people, the world didn’t just mourn the loss of a great basketball player. They mourned the loss of one of the best girl dads. Stories came out by the dozens about him as a father and the hashtag #girldad became a trending topic. Dads around the world were posting pictures of their daughters using the hashtag. It made people re-examine their lives and their relationships with their kids. It made people appreciate the unique bond between a girl and her dad. For me, it inspired me even more to be the best dad I can be for my little girl when she enters the world. For J.J. Barea, it made him think about Paulina, his three-year old daughter.
“That was tough,” Barea said. “When I heard it happened. Accidents happen and it was my favorite player. But when I heard it was his daughter, too, that is when it really hit me. You start thinking about your daughter. You have to take advantage and enjoy every second you got.”
Barea has three children, starting with Sebastian, his first born. But when they went into the doctor’s appointment to find out the gender of the second child, it would be a day Barea will never forget.
“We went to the see what it was, I had a boy already and we didn’t see that turtle (that’s what we called it),” Barea said with a laugh. “When I saw the three lines. I got super excited. There is no feeling like it in the world.”
From that moment on, everything changed for Barea. Just seeing him light up when talking about his daughter was a tiny glimpse into the affection he has for his daughter and his family. After crediting his wife, Barea shed some light on what makes being a girl dad so special to him.
“Girl is more daddy girl-like,” Barea said. “You want to protect your kids, but with her you want to protect everything. Every time you see her you want to hug her. When she says ‘daddy I love you’ or gives you a kiss it is over. If she asks you for candy it’s impossible to say no.”
One of Barea’s teammates, Seth Curry, is in a whole different stage of fatherhood. Curry and his wife welcomed their little girl into the world just 21 months ago so he didn’t need to think back too far to remember the moment he found out.
“It didn’t really hit me until months down the line,” Curry said on his first thoughts after learning he would be a father to a little girl. “Nervousness and excitement. I was looking forward to it because I have a couple of nieces. They would always tell me it’s different when you have your own daughter but it was hard to believe because I love my nieces so much.”
As far as parenting, Curry got all the advice from his family. “I got all the advice in the world from my dad and brother. It was like riding a bike for me. Just learning something new every day. It’s the most fun part of my day is going home and seeing her.”
From 21 months to nine years old, the 26-year-old Dorian Finney-Smith remembers being scared when he found out that he would be having a little girl nine years ago. “I was scared because I was young,” Finney-Smith said. “I just wanted to be that provider and protector. I wanted to show her how a man is supposed to be.”
Finney-Smith, like Barea, has a son in addition to his daughter. “It’s a little bit different than my son,” Finney-Smith said with a smile. “Got to show your emotions a little bit more. When she falls you are like ‘oh my gosh’, but when your son falls, you’re like ‘nah, get up.’”
Talking to players or athletes about their stats or play on the court is one thing, but asking them about fatherhood brings a smile to their face that you don’t get to see all the time from a media standpoint. Having the oldest girl on the team at nine years old, Dorian shared the biggest “struggle” at the moment in parenthood.
“Dad don’t know nothing,” Dorian said with a laugh. “That is what I am starting to learn. At first, I was her world. She’s still up under me all the time but when it comes to decision making or you tell her one thing compared to my girl telling her the same thing, she is going to listen to her because Dad don’t know anything.
“Everybody’s been trying to warn me that when she becomes a teenager, then good luck.”
As far as advice from a girl dad, to an upcoming girl dad like myself, each player took their own approach to the question.
“My daughter really likes it when I take her on dates, just me and her,” Finney-Smith said. “She always asks for dates. Just make that time just for them.”
Curry reminded me that she becomes the first priority and everything you do is because of her, while Barea stressed patience and to enjoy every moment. Courtney Lee, father of a four-year-old little girl, told me to get more in tune with my softer side because it’s different than having a boy.
“Growing patience,” Lee said. “You raise your voice, she might just melt and shut down. It is different.” Lee was honest about his feelings when he found out he was having a girl four years ago, that he was like a lot of guys in being a little disappointed that it wasn’t a boy. But now, Lee wouldn’t change a thing. “At first I wanted a boy, but after I had a girl there was nothing like it,” Lee said. “They are daddy’s girl. It’s a different type of love. It’s a pure love.”
When I saw the passion inside of Lee talking about his little girl, I asked him a question I didn’t ask the other girl dads on the team. I asked him what he wanted his little girl to learn the most from him and to be honest, because I’m stealing this for my answer if someone ever asks me one day. “Be respectful and treat people how you want to be treated,” Lee said. “Have morals and to not get caught up in this crazy world. Just to always be herself, be a leader and always have self-confidence.”
A common denominator that all professional athletes struggle with is time away from their kids. And for the girl dads on the Mavs, things aren’t any different. Some say it’s the hardest part of parenting as an athlete. “Being in season and going through these long stretches, especially on the road. You get used to waking up to her and hearing her voice every day. Then you’re off on the road for a while,” Lee said.
But even on long stretches away from home staying in different hotels in cities across the country, phone calls help get Lee through those moments away from his daughter. “Every night she calls before she goes to sleep and we say our prayers together,” Lee said. “It’s something I look forward to every night.”
And when they get home, the embrace from a daughter is something that seems second to none. “Especially when you have a job like this,” Finney-Smith said. “Just to go home, regardless of how I play, she is happy to see me.”
“It’s a warm feeling when they kiss you on the cheek and say I love you,” Michael Kidd-Gilchrist said about his seven-year-old girl. “It’s totally different from your mom or girl saying it.”
So here I am. In the final days before I become a girl dad for the first time. I’m still nervous and anxious, but this last month has put a whole different meaning to the term, and now hashtag, #girldad. I’ve always looked forward to this day, but I never truly understood the magnitude of it until now. I can’t wait to take my daughter on dates like Dorian does with his and I can’t wait to say prayers with my daughter at night like Courtney Lee does with his.
After all the advice, admiring from afar and tips I have picked up, there was one thing that Barea told me that hasn’t left my mind. After talking about the similarities of us having boys first, followed by a girl, Barea couldn’t hype up the significance of having a little girl enough.
“Not everybody gets the chance,” Barea said.
I loved the way he worded it. It’s a privilege and honor to be a girl dad. I can’t wait to make the most of the chance that I am being blessed with.