By Nick Goralczyk
WARSAW – Being a stepparent has its fair share of challenges. You get all the highs of being a “bonus parent” but still face the occasional lows of your children not always being “your children.” I experienced both extremes of that spectrum as I woke up Saturday, my birthday.
The kids were at their dad’s this past weekend so my wife and I were left as a party of two for my special day. Needless to say, I woke up in a less-than-stellar mood not having the kids around to celebrate with. Then, as I got out of bed, I saw I had a notification. It was an email from our 10-year old daughter, Alison. She had sent me a video of herself singing a happy birthday wish, addressed to “Nick-Dad.”
Yeah, my eyes got more than a little misty at that point. It reminded me of all the great things about being a stepparent and why I would do anything for that little girl.
Since stepping into this “bonus dad” role the kids and I have bonded over plenty of things. Benjamin and I will talk all day about Legos and Batman while Alison and I bond over just about everything else. One of those things has been football.
There is no doubt her biggest draw to the sport is how I react to the television cheering on my Colts and Hoosiers or rooting strongly against Tom Brady. She asks questions and wants to learn about the sport. She, like most little girls, wants to see a girl out on the field. It was exciting for her when I pointed out the lone NFL female official, Sarah Thomas. She thought it was really cool to learn about San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers, the first female to coach in the Super Bowl.
Naturally, I am excited to see Alison come home this week so I can tell her about the most recent glass ceiling shattered by a former little girl. On Saturday, Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller became the first female to ever play in a major conference college football game.
Fuller, a goalkeeper for the Southeastern Conference champion Vanderbilt women’s soccer team, came in and performed a kickoff for the Commodores in Saturday’s loss at Missouri. It was a designed squib (short) kick in a blowout loss but its cultural impact was paramount for girls like Alison.
Now, let me head this off right now, I do not expect my daughter to be kicking off the Super Bowl in 15 years. I don’t even expect to see her place kicking for Bart Curtis and the Warsaw football team in a few short years. But you better dang well believe that I will support her every step of the way if that’s what Ms. Fuller has inspired in my baby girl.
Since becoming “Nick-Dad” I have done my best to live up to the lofty example my own father set for me and my sisters of what a father should be. I encourage Alison and Benjamin to aim high, try everything once and always finish what they start.
“We don’t raise quitters in this house,” was a staple in the Jeff Goralczyk Rolodex of lessons.
So when Alison wanted to be a teacher, she got a mini chalkboard to play school in her room. When she wanted to be a gymnast, she was signed up for lessons and given a mat to practice on. When she was dead set on being a scientist, she got dig kits and free range to try experiments in the kitchen. Last week she decided she was best cut-out to be a spy, when she isn’t busy cooking. There will be a spy kit next to the Easy-Bake Oven under the tree this Christmas.
I watched as my sisters grew up and were constantly encouraged to follow their dreams. Now the sister I watched dream of being a mother is three years into raising my beautiful niece. The sly, cunning middle sister that always seemed to wiggle herself out of trouble is on the road to being a lawyer. And the strong-headed baby of the family that always carved her own path? She started her career in local government earlier this year.
All three of them were athletes, all three of them had incredible family support every step of the way. I want that same path for Alison.
I want her to see how successful her aunts are. I want her to see the Sarah Fullers, Katie Sowers and Sarah Thomas’ of the world. I want to teach her about Kelly Krauskopf, the NBA’s first female assistant general manager. She works right here in the Hoosier State for our Indiana Pacers. Becky Hammon became the NBA’s first female assistant coach in 2014 and I want Alison to know about her too. Kim Ng was recently named the Miami Marlins general manager, the first woman to be named to such a position in any major North American sports franchise.
Sowers, Thomas, Hammon, Ng, Krauskopf and Fuller are just some of what is happening right now in sports. One day I will fill her in on Billie Jean King and other pioneers.
I’m a sports writer so obviously, I’m focused on the sports angle of encouraging my little girl. But when she asked about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I told her how important the late Supreme Court Justice was and how influential and important Justice Amy Coney Barrett will become.
If all of that wasn’t enough for Alison to think about, in January she can watch as a woman will be sworn in as Vice President of the United States for the first time in history. Regardless of where my politics stand, seeing Kamala Harris move into Number One Observatory Circle will be a historical and important moment for every little girl in this country.
These are the women I want my little girl to look up to as she grows into a young woman. The trailblazers like Fuller and Hammon. The superior thinkers like Ginsburg and Barrett. The hard-working women like Alison’s mother and the ones that are achieving their goals as we speak, like my sisters.
Fuller’s kick was ultimately insignificant in the stat book, but the moment is one to be celebrated. There is enough division in the country on a daily basis without somehow twisting this exciting moment into something negative.
I congratulate Fuller on finding her own path, making history and providing inspiration to every little girl that wants to suit up on Friday nights and Saturday or Sunday afternoons. I will use this moment to inspire the little girl in my life, I hope you will do the same.