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To My Dad, Who Taught Me to Throw Like a Girl

The first time my father saw actual grass was at the Polo Grounds in the 1950s, when his dad took him to see his coveted baseball team, the then New York Giants, play.

Born and raised in the Bronx, my dad's childhood was concrete and stickball, urban adventures that matched nothing like my suburban upbringing.

My dad wanted to be a father. He wanted the opportunity to continue his own learning and share what he knew with his children.

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He's a smart guy: former chemist, computer scientist, tri-lingual. He finds no interest in things he can't master, from playing guitar to "captaining" a sailboat. (I'm not sure how one says that.)

He is constitutionally incapable of half-assing. And because of this, my father poured himself into being a dad.

He's a sports guy. On top of previously mentioned credentials, he also has a master's degree in athletic management. He followed the Giants to San Francisco and laments the destruction of Candlestick Park.

Baseball is important to him. He was pretty good at it. And I'm guessing he had some dreams of bringing his son to games. But then he had two daughters.

So instead, he taught me and many of my friends how to throw like girls.

Any moment was an opportunity to teach. "Let's talk about saving for retirement," he once said to a 10-year-old me, as we waited for our plane to take off.

When our high school had no varsity softball program, my father created one, became its commissioner and organized international tournaments to enable us to play.

He taught me to drive a stick shift by letting me follow him in first and second gear as he jogged.

Any moment was an opportunity to teach. "Let's talk about saving for retirement," he once said to a 10-year-old me, as we waited for our plane to take off.

His hobbies were our hobbies. I learned to ski at 3, with him holding onto me as I glided along with my skis between his. He is why I picked up long-distance running.

Other things—like bridge or the guitar—we weren't so quick to pick up, but he did try.

On more than one occasion, I crashed his cars, broke his televisions and kept him up nervously until I came home at night, but he never made me feel like I was capable of anything less than great things.

When my husband and I learned we were having a daughter, we were given a book about how to be a dad to girls. It had a lot of good information—how to be a role model for her future partner, how to allow yourself to put on that princess dress—and it made me appreciate that, to my dad, it never mattered: being a dad to girls was no different to him than if he'd had sons.

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I write a lot about motherhood and my mother. But the roles of dads should not be downplayed, nor should they be perceived as totally foreign: my dad showed me what he knew and continues to, which is the best any parent can give.

Photo via Tracy Brown Hamilton

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