A Small Victory On The Road To WomanhoodS

In our Daddy Issues series, a father of a young daughter seeks guidance, hoping to raise a strong woman. He looks to feminism - and readers - for insight.

I was messing around with my voice one evening, having fun while my daughter and I played with her dolls. She handed me her favorite — a Buzz Lightyear contraption with a laser beam on his arm and jet pack wings that unfold — and I started dancing him around in that toy store machismo he exemplifies so well.

"Well hello there!" I boomed, "Who are you?"

Emmeline smiled shyly and introduced herself, as if the doll were real.

"I'm sorry," I boomed again, "Did you say you were ... Awesome Girl?"

Her eyes went wide.

"No, I said I'm Emme, but who's ... Awesome Girl?"

"Why, you are!"

Her mind must have been turning with the possibilities and a smile crept over her lips.

"And what does Awesome Girl ... do?" she wondered.

"Why, Awesome Girl can do anything!"

"You mean like this?"

Emmeline jumped to her feet and ran to the kitchen. That was it. She simply ran. She swung her arms, pumped her legs and bolted out of the room, returning a few seconds later flushed with happiness.

"Awesome Girl is the fastest girl in the world!" she told Buzz. Then she disappeared into her room. And then the kitchen again. Then back to her room.

Awesome Girl apparently enjoyed running.

Over the next few days, Awesome Girl set up a pile of couch cushions on our living room carpet, leaping from the top of the couch to "elbow drop" the bad guys. Awesome Girl tried on her ballet outfit and danced "better than anyone else." Awesome Girl didn't particularly like setting the table for dinner, but I admit she did it quickly. Most of these things were games Emmeline liked to play already, but Awesome Girl made them more special.

On a cold evening while we waited for her mother to return from work, Awesome Girl convinced me to set up a tight rope in the living room. Not having any rope or weights sufficient to keep it in place, she suggested that I stretch a piece of lumber between two foot stools to serve as an Awesome Girl balance beam/ tight tope. We started with the stools and then slowly raised the height above the ground. Stools. Ottomans. Chairs. Pretty soon she was dangling over the sweep of a bustling city, one misstep from certain doom.

"But I'm Awesome Girl," she told me. She gritted her teeth and thrust out her arms for balance. "I can do anything!"

I love these alter egos of childhood. Emmeline has never really played around with one before. But I remember them so well, all those games of cops and robbers or cowboys and indians — whole new worlds stretched out for exploration among the typical suburban streets, new identities so cozily slipped on to try things we might otherwise have been too scared or shy to attempt. Some evenings after Awesome Girl made her first appearance, I found myself simply laying there, propped up on my elbows, watching Emmeline explore some new wonderland among the couches and chairs of our ordinary house. From the looks of it, she actually COULD do anything. It made me happy to help her find this daring version of herself, and I wondered who else might be in there, waiting to emerge.

Later that first night, after I tucked her into bed, Emmeline's face suddenly grimaced into a thought.

"Daddy?" she asked.

"Hmm?"

"I'm not really Awesome Girl, right?"

"You're not?"

"No," she said, "I'm Emme. But you know what? I can still do anything."

Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out! He is working on an Awesome Girl costume.

Image by Lauri Apple.