I am about to become a father for the second time, but things are different now.
It was over three years ago I first contemplated the reality that I would be a father and there is no way to replicate the excitement, the wonder, and the ignorance that comes with that initial voyage. To my surprise, I was told we were having a boy.
Now, a daughter will enter our family’s story. Eden Marie is forecast to be born to us on June 20th and she will change the family dynamic we’ve become accustomed to.
When Eden was conceived President Obama was still in office and I was excited to cast my vote for the first woman president in our history. I anticipated the sweet poetry of my daughter sharing her birth year with the inauguration of our first woman president.
Alas, you know what transpired.
The name Eden is a Hebrew name and it means “delight.” The word delight is one of my favorite words. When I think of the people I like most in the world, it is “delight” that they evoke in me, and I am certain that my daughter will evoke just that.
One of my favorite novels is “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck – not always a happy story, I admit, but it’s a very human one, and in the end, hopeful. As I think about what my daughter will face in this world, I find solace in the story.
My daughter will be born into a society that has made progress, but not enough. She will be born into a world deformed by the sickness of misogyny and sexism. She will be born into a country whose president has openly mocked feminism and has justified statements about grabbing women’s genitals without their consent.
It turns out that Eden’s birth year, was a year that hundreds of thousands of women donned pink hats and marched for women’s rights. I will tell her that story, and I believe that in her lifetime she will witness the long overdue inauguration of the first woman president of our country.
She will be born into a world of strong women who have walked through the fire and who have made the path a bit straighter for her; born to a strong and talented mother who always speaks her mind and to a father who has had the great privilege of co-laboring, loving, and being loved by too many extraordinary women to count, women who will be a great cloud of witnesses to show her the way.
In “East of Eden,” the narrator says “And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes…” I will fight for that for my daughter – the freedom of her mind to take any direction.
The enduring message of Steinbeck’s story can be summed up in the Hebrew word timshel, which means “thou mayest.” The novel invites the reader to embrace the truth that we are not damned to repeat the sins of our fathers and mothers; instead, we have a choice.
As the character Lee says in the novel, “The way is open.”
I want to be able to say this is true, but such a beautiful sentiment can’t be left to the individual alone – it must be a collective decision, one that society makes. We must be able to say with utter confidence to anyone regardless of sex, gender, orientation, or skin color - “thou mayest” and to mean it.
One final theme of “East of Eden” is the quest for parental blessing. This blessing seems particularly poignant for young women who so often carry the weight of perfection to prove themselves with fewer margins for error than their male counterparts.
So, I say it now – Eden you have our blessing, which comes from some of the final words of the novel, “Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
And with this blessing comes our promise to do whatever we can to be able to say to you with confidence, “thou mayest – the way is open”.
Tad Monroe of Tacoma is a consultant, storyteller and creative entrepreneur. He is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org