My name is Kate Mangino; I am a gender expert, writer, and Advisor for the Gender Equality subgroup at Fathering Together. To celebrate Father’s Day and #MoreThanANecktie, I talked with 10 dads over 10 weeks about what it really means to be an engaged father. If you like this series, you can read more on gender (in)equality. Website. Twitter.
Name: Dr. Christopher Lewis
Location: Lansing, Michigan
Ages of Kids: 13 & 16
I asked every dad I interviewed what they thought about the term “caregiving” as it relates to being a father.
Chris has no problem with the term; he sees “caregiving” as the act of providing emotional and physical support to those that need it – which can include children. He thinks the term might be helpful in giving us the vocabulary we need to break away from notions connected to motherhood and fatherhood, and focus on more equitable acts of parenting.
A lesson learned in humility:
Chris and I had a long conversation about vulnerability and humility – and how important it is to be humble in front of your kids. Theories are great, but I asked Chris what he actually does on a day-to-day basis to display humility. He told me that he tries to be open and honest with his kids. When he is wrong, he admits that he is wrong – after all, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. And Chris said that he is willing to have tough conversations about anything at all: periods, relationships, racism, bullying – everything.
If you want to connect with other dads who are also working through tough conversations with their kids, and looking for ways to do so, check out the Fathering Together subgroup on Dads for Racial Equity.
Advice on listening vs. solving:
I was excited to talk to Chris, because his kids are older; those of us with younger kids are always interested in those mysterious teen years. Chris told me based on a podcast from Dads with Daughters, he recently started asking his kids outright, as deeper conversations get started, “do you want me to advise you? or just listen to you?” He said that has helped him better understand what his kids need from him. And he says it hasn’t gone unnoticed that 90% of the time, they just want him to listen. Spending more time listening and less time talking is suggested by many experts, too. If you’re interested, check out this article on Listening to Your Adolescent.
My favorite quote from Chris’ interview:
“We have to talk to teenagers, even about uncomfortable things. If you don’t talk about it with them, whatever it is, they’ll for sure hear it from somewhere else.”
Happy Father’s Day! Hope you have a great weekend. If you missed the first article in this series, you can find it here. And stay tuned for the next Dads Who Care article, which will be posted next Friday, June 25.