Brian Stout




Speedy Ortiz:
Raising the Skate


As soon as she could string together a couple words at a time, I taught my daughter to say, “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss.” I’d read a few articles around that time addressing the tendency to call women “bossy” rather than “confident” or “visionary.”

Well, fuck that.

As a new dad to this little girl, I wanted her to feel like it is natural to lead and to expect that others will listen and respond to her. Her parents have both had (and still have) issues with assertiveness and self-confidence, and the desire of all parents to guide their kids past their own foibles to something better.

Fortunately, her self-confidence currently outstrips her mom’s, her brother’s, and mine. She dances as if no one is watching every time “Let It Go” comes up in Frozen, twirling in circle after circle and encouraging her big brother to join in. She nods her head with her eyes closed when we listen to “All the Stars” in the car. She gleefully shouts the “Hey!” in Taylor Swift’s ”Bad Blood” and requests it every time we go for a ride. Music is strength, and I cannot wait to introduce her to Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney one day. She is also blessed with a strong woman and musician for a mom. I go along with all the directing that comes with playing hospital or restaurant. I see the determination in her tiny face and eyes and I know my girl is going to be all right.

Sometimes I like to hang back when I am picking her up from school. It is a joy to see her leading on the playground. Kids like her. They listen to her. At home, she is encouraged to speak up positively, to communicate calmly and clearly. She still has toddler tantrums and meltdowns, but she is also extremely perceptive and adept at expressing her feelings.

The mixed blessing of confident children is guiding that undisciplined trait, to teach them to wield it for good. For now, she naturally leads in playgroups and loves to direct our play. She also has a very special mission: eventually advocating for her older brother.

Having children is a tremendous blessing, but it is also a stern reminder of one’s mortality, further amplified by having a child with a disability. The thought that one day I will not be here is always lingering somewhere in the background. I hope that my daughter will fight as hard for my son as we do. Seeing the love they share makes me optimistic. She makes a point of introducing him to her friends. She loves him. I hope there is never a time when she is embarrassed of him because of Down Syndrome. It is not exactly fair, but we are depending on that.

Other parents have told me that school teaches girls to step back, to minimize achievement. I do not recall it from my time in school, but I could imagine it thinking back. She is too bright for that, but I remember coasting through grade school with confidence, only to be derailed by relentless teasing in middle school. I went into a cocoon that I did not emerge from until graduation. For her mom, it was less severe at school, but no one emerges from public education unscathed. And the real world is even worse in many ways. I hope she never has to rebuild the way her parents have, but we hope to instill the determination to do it if she has to.

Chief, not the overthrown. Captain, not a crony. So if you wanna throw, you better have an awfully big stone. How naïve to trample she who’s running the stampede. I’m raising the skate.