Last year, Cindy and I attended a Cardinals baseball game in St. Louis. Just in front of us sat a father with his young kids, a girl and a boy. The girl, who was probably about five, had her baseball hat and her glove, ready for anything.
At one point, the following conversation took place:
Girl: “Daddy, can girls play in the major leagues?”
Dad: “No, they don’t let them.”
Girl: “Why not?”
Boy: “Because they’ll cry if they get hit by a ball.”
And that was the end of the conversation.
This is obviously a tough question to answer. On one hand, there is a certain reality to what is possible in life. On the other, kids need to dream and think life is almost endless in what might be possible for them.
Later, Cindy and I discussed how that father might have answered his daughter—ways that would allow her to hold onto her dreams, not only about baseball, but more importantly about what she might do in life.
I don’t know this father or the girl or their family, so I can’t know what the best response would have been. But it’s less about a perfect response and more about noticing the conversation that just began.
I would hope that father could thoughtfully reply in a way that might open up the future rather than close it down—even in a small way. And even if he doesn’t answer in an empowering way in the moment, he could remember the exchange later and reopen the conversation. His daughter’s question could become a starting point for a conversation that might go back and forth for awhile, deepening their connection and understanding of one another.
If you notice the question and are thoughtful about your response, I trust your reply will be supportive and useful.
How would you have answered her?
The idea is that your words have the power to create. What are you creating for your child with your words?
— Paul Axtell, Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids
PS: The comment about crying is not something I want to address here, but the father’s lack of response might suggest to his daughter that he agrees with his son. This is a wake-up call to watch all family conversations more closely.
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