It's a revelation that hits every parent at some point in the Goldfish-cracker and Cheerio years: I cannot protect her from everything.
For me, it was in the bathroom of a Greek restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina, when she looked up at me from her toilet perch and began a conversation that went something like this:
Sasha: Daddy, what is it like to die?
Me: Sweetie, it's not something you need to worry about for a very long time.
Sasha: But Daddy, just tell me what it is like.
Me: It's like a deep, deep rest.
Sasha: Daddy (as a look of worry crept onto her face), are you still a person when you die?
Me: Oh, Sasha, I don't think you are. But your soul, the part inside of you that makes you you, goes on forever.
Sasha: (Worry increasing) Daddy, can you still see when you die?
Me: No, you can't, sweetheart.
Sasha: (As I leaned down to comfort her) Daddy wipe now.
And as abruptly as it started, the conversation was over, and she moved on.
I didn't -- for a while, anyway. My darkest fear is death, and my 3-year-old is already worrying about it. Worse yet, I can't protect her from it, and she knows it. That's a lot to swallow. But I am an activist at heart, and have never let a quixotic adventure pass me by if I felt I could make a difference. And there are so many ways that I, as a father, can protect her, make her world a little better, easier, safer and more rewarding as she grows from a girl into a woman.
So here goes: Call it Dadvocacy.
I can tell her she is smart, funny and strong at least as often as I tell her she is beautiful.
I can admire, respect and always be in her mother -- my wife's -- corner, so Sasha can develop a powerful sense of how she is entitled to be treated by her boyfriend, husband or partner.
I can give more time at her school, making sure that she finds her voice, learns to stand by her choices, gains confidence in math and science and feels as entitled to play with trucks as she does with dolls.
I could volunteer to mentor boys and young men to provide a model of a strong man who honors and respects women, rather than demeans and diminishes them.
I might become more active in my religious community -- the Jewish community -- to ensure that there are equally meaningful roles for girls and women as there are for boys and men in our sacred communities.
It would make sense to work with anti-sex trafficking and sexual violence organizations to help pass laws with tougher penalties for those who prey on girls and children in general.
Maybe I should tell my member of Congress that I want to be sure that my daughter earns the same as her brother or any other man for doing the same work.
She and I will both have to face death -- hopefully not for a long time. But in the meantime, what I found myself thinking about is that as a dad, there are many things I can do in private, from home, to prepare my little girl for the world she is entering. But I need to do more.
That is my sacred obligation as the father of a girl. Want to join me?
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