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My Dad Didn't Raise Me To Be a Boy — He Raised Me To Be a Confident Girl

Mom.com logo Mom.com 10/1/2019 Tanvier Peart
a man and a woman standing in front of a brick building: Tanvier Peart with her dad © Provided by RockYou Media(mom.me; purpleclover.com) Tanvier Peart with her dad

Chaz Michael: That's the name my father envisioned naming the son he hoped to have after he and my mother found out they were expecting. My dad's desire for a boy was fueled by past memories he'd had with his own dad, playing catch and dribbling a ball. The first led to football and a recruitment letter from the NFL; the second to dominating basketball courts, which almost took him to the NBA. Like many men, my dad desperately wanted a boy to pass along his memories to, and for that boy to continue his legacy.

Those dreams quickly faded the moment my dad found out the boy he was hoping for was a girl, and the reality of a daughter changed his life — for the better.

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With my arrival, one Labor Day evening in the '80s, came a shift in my father's heart. Ricky, a poster child for all things testosterone and commonly associated with manhood, now had to raise a daughter — and it threw that former high school basketball star off his game in a way he'd never experienced. The excellence he strived for growing up was in male-dominated environments that created tunnel vision when it came to aptitude. He wanted a son in his own image, who could carry on the Lee name — but the moment he met me in person, the blinders (and limitations) came off.

Growing up, I learned to throw a punch before I enrolled in dance class. I enjoyed Disney movies with princesses and songs in octaves I could never reach, but loved watching Masters of the Universe and Commando with my dad. Playing ball together allowed my dad to discover that I have his jump shot, which meant extra time on the court tuning it up.

My dad encouraged my curiosity for gymnastics after watching the "Magnificent Seven" take home gold during the 1996 Olympics, and sat through failed attempts of me becoming the next Michelle Kwan when I begged him to let me try figure skating. Every hobby and group I participated in growing up was based on my choice, not what my dad thought I should do because I was a girl.

Martial arts were a shared interest when I was 8. My dad and I studied in separate dojos but put what we learned to use at home with our "ninja sessions." It was through karate that my father challenged me not to fear sparring with boys just because I happened to be a girl. "The only limitations you have are the restrictions you put on yourself," he used to tell me. "You're a Lee, and you're my daughter. Now go kick some butt." (He didn't say "butt," but you get it.)

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My father taught me how to change a tire and forced me to learn how to drive a manual car. "If you want to go somewhere, you gotta practice changing gears," he would sternly reiterate every time I stalled at a traffic light.

As I grew older, there were fears he had as a man raising a daughter in our society. But rather than treat me as a damsel who needed saving, he empowered me to stand strong and take on life and the world as it came.

"You've got to use common sense," he would always say, letting the years of being a police officer seep into his dad talks. "Walking down the street at night by yourself just isn't smart for anyone."

As for the common physical differences between men and women, my dad addressed it, but not in a way that made me feel as if I were inferior because of my gender.

"You can hold your own, but be careful who you square up against," he reminded me growing up. "I'm not saying you can't fight a bigger guy, but even Arnold Schwarzenegger is a challenge for me."

My dad never worried about who I would bring home or felt the need to "clean his gun" to scare a guy into treating his daughter right. I am an extension of my father, and like him, I don't tolerate the BS. I never felt less than — or that I needed extra encouragement — growing up because I was a girl, and I have my dad to thank for that. He raised me in the image of himself, passing along traditions and moments he experienced growing up to keep the legacy going.

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People often questioned if my dad was trying to raise me to be a boy because of the things I liked and did growing up. When certain individuals would question his parenting decisions for letting me skateboard or wear baggy jeans and Dallas Cowboys jerseys to school, he'd simply shrug it off.

In his mind, there were no limitations to what I could do because of my gender (outside of peeing standing up, as he would jokingly point out), and that's the way it should be.

My dad taught me that I don't need a man to save me or make me whole. But most of all, he instilled in me the confidence needed to take on the world, knowing that I am enough.

Related video: Things mentally strong women do (provided by CNBC

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