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Dad, Daughter, Mom 1

Dad, Daughter, Mom

Aisha Graham-Perez

Utah Valley University


Dad, Daughter, Mom 2

The bleachers should be part of a scene in a lonely movie. They look so worn down. They once were
greatly used but now are forgotten. No one sits on them. I can hear the wind swirling around them, it’s
eerie. Leaves dance around the base bench. The metal is rusted and the wood is worn. They don’t stand
as tall as they used to, they lean a little to the left. One day we will be the same. Worn, rusted, and
leaning a little to the left. With time we age, with time we change. And so does our identity.

Where we once looked over at the grown up table wondering what it was like. We now longingly look
back at the little ones and can only remember. Remember being Daddy’s little girl. Remember all of the
times at the fields where he would coach and teach me. Where Dad was the protector. When he would
lift me up to help hang the lights, knowing he would never let me fall.

Nothing could take those moments away. Time seemed to stop, but we cannot. The goals are starting to
fray and it smells like dust. Things are changing. Cars can be heard faintly in the background, we are
removed. There is the humming of lights that shine upon a man in a black shirt. His voice is familiar and
calls out directions, this makes my heart flutter. I know the color of his eyes. But I look past him to the
mountains that are tall and seemingly unchanging. They remind me of my old protector, so strong and
wise. We have come a long way.

**

He would blame his hardships on his life change. An instant father and full time provider. He did not
want me to go through what he did. All of the self-doubt and let downs. But I wouldn’t.

He left for a while. Under the influence that clogged his mind. He had a decision to make. I pushed him
as he pushed me. He came back. A new house was a fresh start. Things slowly went back to normal.
There were no more secret visits to the garage mini fridge and the beard was shaved.

Being Daughter was easy, but I was no longer a little girl. That changed when I had to pick up Dad from
his fallen state. I was angry. I did not understand why he would leave us. Why he was letting the drink
control his life. He was choosing that over us. Had I not done everything he had asked? Had I not lived
up to his expectations? I know I had. He never let me quit, and I would not let him quit on us either.

He was becoming Dad again. I left for a year and a half to a foreign place. Where I would be talking to
people about something that changed our lives. Time had passed. Upon return Dad was there. Better
than I had ever seen him. “Thank you” he said, through tears of appreciation.

Less than twenty four hours and he was on a bike next to me. With a look of determination towards Dad
I say, “Don’t tell me how far, or how long we have gone.” After what had felt like a long time…“How long
have we gone?” He responded, “Fifteen minutes.” Things continued along while the smiles that
occupied our faces after that conversation stayed.

**

Like the sun that weaves in and out of the clouds there are times that fade into the shadows and are not
remembered. We were so young, “The girls”, they called us. I don’t remember every house or even
every pet. I don’t remember speaking my first words but I remember that I was always his daughter.
Dad, Daughter, Mom 3

Road trips in jerseys were common. Late nights were as well. Times where we were starving after the
long day outside. A fifty-piece chicken nugget meal with a Big Mac and fries should cover it. More
memories. Like the time we drove with the windows down, music blasted and made gummy worms
dance along to the tune. Those were times we bonded.

Dad lived vicariously through me. He had given up his goals for a girl and a baby. He followed them to
Utah and created a life. College football was no longer a part of it. I was doing the things he felt like he
never could. As much as we were alike I was not going to be like him. I was going to keep working
towards my goals.

**

I moved. I pursued my own dreams.

Utah, where things had once began for Dad. That is where I now was. I found myself running circles and
trails. Having to buy a new pair of shoes every six months. Dad always bought them for me.

Sports were what I was. I was an athlete. Responsibilities became a reality. I was creating myself. I had
become a student athlete. I worked hard on and off the track. I would go to a field just like the one Dad
would take me to.

I am reminded of the times Dad would come into my room in the early morning and whisper “You
comin?” I always seemed to respond “No Dad, I’m tired” to which he would encourage and say “The first
steps are the hardest.” He would pull of the covers as I looked at my watch while putting on my workout
clothes… 5:00am. An early start.

**

The repetitive thud between cleats is like a clock. Time is moving, and quickly. “I don’t want to live with
him,” my little voice said through tears. “With who?” Dad asked. “That other man, I want to stay with
you”. To which he concluded with a laugh was my future husband. A time that seemed so far off.

But the man in the black shirt now lives under the same roof. My old protector gave me to a new one. I
kept my last name. It was a connection to Dad. 1

There are tumbleweeds that roll with the wind and little bugs that skip across the fake grass. There are
new sights and sounds of construction, just like his job. We had become equals.2 I helped him and he
helped me. We had an understanding, and our identities were changing. I was going to be a mom.

1
Jones, L., Mills, S., Paterson, L. L., Turner, G., & Coffey-Glover, L. (2017). Identity and naming practices
in British marriage and civil partnerships. Gender & Language, 11(3), 309-335. doi:10.1558/genl.27916;
Demonstrates the often difficult negotiation of her own identity as both an individual and a wife when a
woman changes her surname.
2
Watson-Phillips, C. (2016). Relational fathering: Sons liberate dads. The Journal of Men's Studies, 24(3),
277-293. Doi: 10.1177/1060826516661188; By co-identifying with their children, fathers begin to re-
envision their sense of self.
Dad, Daughter, Mom 4

**

I knew we were supposed to have a baby. I knew that it was a life change, but I knew that my feelings
were more divine. Motherhood was calling me. I knew that the man in the black shirt would support me.
He would take on the title of Dad to our daughter.

Would having Baby end my athletic career? What about school? How would Dad react?

As Mom opened the neatly wrapped present on Christmas Eve I could not help but stare at Dad. What
was he going to think? The look was one of shock. Oh no. The screams from Mom and the girls seemed
faint and their faces blurred because of my starting tears. What was that look?

There were hugs all around. His look was one of shock. I knew he was thinking about what I was going to
do with my sport. Was I going to be able to continue? Who was I going to be now? The same questions
had crossed my mind.

There came a day to tell Coach. We had run twelve miles as a team. “Coach, can we meet?” jokingly he
replied,” Are you pregnant?” The response of no was almost like a reflex. I later stepped into his office
and said, “ Whelp, actually you were right. I am pregnant. But I am only telling you so that you are
aware. I am going to keep training and I feel great.” He didn’t really say much. There was a nod was
confirmation of “We’ll see.”

**

I kept training and ran my last race six months pregnant. Dad was at that race. He drove nine hours to
see me run one of the slowest times I have ever ran. But the experience was one that I will never forget.
I was not benched; instead I still raced and worked hard. I was able to do the thing that I love so much
while embracing this new found love of being pregnant.

Running was less of an option because my hips started to hurt. The day that Baby came I had biked
sixteen miles that morning. That evening I was admitted and the labor was easy. I slept as nurses came
and checked on me every hour. My water broke at 8:30 and Baby was born at 10:31. 6 lbs 4 oz of
perfection.

The feeling was overwhelming. The tears I shed were of joy. I could not believe that this little one I had
been carrying with me for so long was actually here. We had already experienced so much together and
that was going to keep happening. I had not really had a lifestyle change with my pregnancy so why
would it be different when she was here?

**

Baby is a big change. I look at all of the moms on the sideline and start to cry. I don’t want to just be
Mom. I don’t want to feel like my life is over and that’s all I have. I want to be Me. I don’t want to feel
like all of my hard work has gone down the drain. I’ve always had goals and reached them. I know I have
great potential. I don’t want to let myself down; I don’t want to let Dad down.

Motherhood is a bigger change than expected. Where I once thought I had my life and things in order it
now has changed. Baby is my top priority. The sacrifices made are small in comparison to what I have
gained.
Dad, Daughter, Mom 5

I did not have the greatest track season. I had to get over the fact that I was not comfortable in my own
body. I was restricted from the things I loved and knew for a time. But, Mom is one of the greatest
identities I have had. I am better able to understand the sacrifices my parents made. I hope to make
Baby proud just as I worked to make Dad proud.

I am a student-athlete. I am Wife. I am Mom. And I will always be Daughter.

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