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The Best Role Models for Our Daughters Are Right In Front of Our Eyes

Photograph by Serge Bielanko Private

My daughter Violet, 8, really likes this show on YouTube called "Daily Bumps". She isn't alone either, they have over 2 million subscribers. Still, at first it annoyed me. Why this show? Not much happens. There's no chase scenes or talking animals or people staring at video games while you watch them play (yes, that's a thing). "Daily Bumps" is simply a young family of four hanging around their house, playing in the pool, maybe going on vacation to Disney World or London or whatever.

I didn't get it and I let her know.

"Violet, please put something else on," I'd beg her. "Whatever happened to Sponge Bob or Wild Kratts?!?"

She ignored me, all smiles, all caught up in the scene of the older kid's birthday party.

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And sure, I could have easily exercised the totalitarian power that comes with being a single dad and pried the remote out of her fingers and switched shows without a second thought, but something prevented me from going the distance. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but I think I have an idea It took me a while to see this DIY reality show for what it really was, from what it is. And what it really is is this: regular people living more or less regular lives. A mom and dad loving their kids, the young kids digging their life, digging dinosaurs and pizza and running around smiling.

And when that dawned on me, I backed off with the quickness. Realizing that my young, impressionable daughter was into a show about regular family people just living their lives without any Jersey Shore drama or Real Housewives of Hell venomous fakery was suddenly a relief.

Parents need more of those kinds of moments, I think. We need epiphanies that help guide us guide our kids. Especially our young daughters. And the truth is, we ought to be helping them recognize that the coolest role models in their lives, the women who they should at least consider as a hero or a focus of their emulation, aren't Instagram waifs battling inner demons with 68 trillion followers.

So as the guy a young girl calls Daddy, I've begun steering us both in a new direction.

These women, they mostly have no idea that little girls might be watching them and being influenced—they're just kicking ass because that's how they roll.

It isn't rocket science, but these days I'm emphasizing to Violet that her mom and her Grammy are the people she needs to take a good hard look at when she's trying to figure out who she wants to be. Think about it, what women do we know who are better badasses than the ones right in front of their eyes? Not all of them, mind you. But I'm talking about all the women in your life—and mine—who maintain a level of graceful survival by tapping into a seemingly endless well of galactic strength.

Violet's mom, Monica, has been through a divorce in the past few years. She and I busted apart and it hasn't been easy. Many people might collapse in the midst of times like we have each known. And nevertheless, she persisted.

She works, writes, reads bedtime stories, runs around the park with three little people and a dog at her heels, cooks chicken tenders for hungry thankless creatures when she's tired as hell and just wants to get off her feet for a damn minute. It's pretty common stuff and you're likely saying to yourself, "Hey, that's exactly what I do everyday!"

And that's my point.

My daughter, I want her to see that the magic lies in the tiny details. The best stories unfold in wee ways. This is 2017. Princesses are bullshit.

My own mom is 69. She's worked hard since before I was born. And now she's earned the right to sit on her ass everyday and watch the hummingbirds flit around her porch if she wants. But she doesn't. She loves on my kids as if they were her own. She watches my three-year-old tornado of a son, Charlie, a few days a week. Why? To help me out, sure. But also, she does it because she loves him madly. Just like she loves my other son, Henry, 6, and Violet, too.

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There is something wonderful to behold in that and I want my daughter to see it now, before it's too late.

Her coolest female teachers, the lady that drives her school bus, the women up and down our road who work and raise babies and sing in bands and mow the lawn and bring us eggs sometimes and waitress up at the cafe who smile and wave when they pass us on the street but also probably lock themselves in the bathroom sometimes for the same kind of reasons we all end up doing that 10,000 times in a life, they're all right here, right in front of us, right in front of my daughter to recognize and to look up to.

Not because they're stared at by millions on social media. Not because they're enormously wealthy or CEO of some big company. And not because they're super thin with huge fake boobs and lips full of fat that used to live in their butts.

Instead, it's because their true stories are unfolding 50 feet from our front door. They're strong and loving and they never give up. These women, they mostly have no idea that little girls might be watching them and being influenced—they're just kicking ass because that's how they roll.

They're everywhere. Point them out to your baby girl. We all have a hand in this. Today's Instagram heroes are tomorrow's My Space ghosts.

You know what I'm saying.

And you know I'm right.

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