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Father and Daughter Journeys: Insights from Judges Michael & Megan Cavanagh

Fatherhood is a profound journey marked by growth, challenges, and unwavering love. In a recent episode of the Dads with Daughters podcast, Michigan Supreme Court Judges Michael Cavanagh andhis daughter, Megan Cavanagh, a dynamic father-daughter duo, shared their insights on navigating fatherhood, fostering strong father-daughter relationships, and excelling in male-dominated fields. Let’s delve into their engaging discussion and discover the wisdom they imparted.

Michael Cavanagh: A Reflection on Responsibility

Michael Cavanagh’s journey into fatherhood was met with excitement and determination. However, he also faced the daunting task of raising daughters in a society dominated by male narratives. Through his experiences, he emphasizes the pivotal role of fathers in empowering their daughters and challenging societal norms. Michael’s dedication to instilling values of resilience, respect, and determination in his children serves as a guiding light for fathers navigating similar paths.

Megan Cavanagh: A Journey of Empowerment

Megan Cavanagh’s narrative reflects a tale of empowerment and resilience fostered by her father’s unwavering support. Encouraged to pursue male-dominated fields such as engineering and law, Megan embodies the spirit of breaking barriers and embracing challenges. Her evolution from engineering to law and eventually appellate law showcases the importance of parental guidance in empowering daughters to follow their aspirations. Megan’s story exemplifies the transformative power of parental support in shaping a daughter’s journey to success.

Navigating Male-Dominated Fields:

Michael Cavanagh: Guiding Through Example

Michael Cavanagh’s concern over the lack of female representation in fields like law and patent law highlights the need for inclusivity and support in traditionally male-dominated areas. His emphasis on guiding daughters to pursue knowledge, seek information, and make informed decisions underscores the importance of cultivating a generation of empowered women. Michael’s advocacy for encouraging daughters to study grammar and Latin intertwines with his core belief in the significance of expressing love and fostering a nurturing environment.

Megan Cavanagh: Defying Expectations

Megan Cavanagh’s journey from initially pursuing a career in engineering to transitioning into law and politics showcases her defiance of societal expectations. With her father’s unwavering support and guidance, Megan navigated through uncharted waters to establish a career path aligned with her passions. Her experience highlights the transformative impact of parental encouragement in breaking stereotypes and creating opportunities for daughters in traditionally male-dominated fields.

Balancing Work and Family Life:

The Evolution of Work-Life Balance

Michael Cavanagh’s reflection on the evolution of work-life balance, particularly in his role as a judge, highlights the transformative impact of technology on modern parenthood. His ability to balance work commitments with quality family time, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, underscores the importance of adaptability and resilience in nurturing familial bonds. Michael’s insights shed light on the shifting landscape of parenthood and the significance of finding harmony between professional and personal spheres.

Megan Cavanagh: A Testament to Resilience

Megan Cavanagh’s experience of pursuing a career in law and running for office underscores the complexities of balancing ambition with familial responsibilities. With her father’s initial resistance and eventual support, Megan navigated through challenges to establish her presence in the legal and political spheres. Her journey epitomizes the spirit of resilience, determination, and familial support in overcoming obstacles and achieving personal and professional milestones.

In an engaging dialogue filled with insights and wisdom, Michael and Megan Cavanagh shed light on the transformative power of fatherhood, the significance of parental guidance, and the essence of empowering daughters in male-dominated fields. Their stories serve as testaments to the enduring bond between fathers and daughters, the importance of breaking barriers, and the resilience required to navigate through life’s challenges. As we embark on our own journeys of fatherhood and empowerment, let us draw inspiration from the experiences shared by Michael and Megan Cavanagh and strive to create a nurturing and inclusive world for the daughters of tomorrow.

TRANSCRIPT

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:05]:
Welcome to dads with Daughters. In this show, we spotlight dads, resources, and more to help you be the best dad you can be.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:00:16]:
Welcome back to the Dads with Daughters podcast where we bring you guests to be active participants in your daughters’ lives, raising them to be strong, independent women. Really excited to be back with you again this week and to talk with you about this journey that you’re on in raising your daughters to be those strong, independent women that you want them to be in their lives. And every week, I love being able to sit down with you. You know I’ve got 2 daughters myself, so I learn from you. I learn from our guests, and I love being able to have them on to talk about the journey that they’ve been on to be able to help you and give you some things to pull from to help you in this journey as well. Every week I bring you different guests, different people from different walks of life, with different experiences, had to have gone through this before you or maybe going through it at the same time. And this week, we’ve got 2 great guests, a father and a daughter. We don’t always get to do that, and I love it when we can.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:13]:
But today, we’ve got Michael Kavanaugh or Judge Michael Kavanaugh, I should say, that that, it wait. Let me stop it. We have Judge Michael Kavanaugh, who is a retired judge of the Michigan Supreme Court, and his daughter, Judge Megan Kavanaugh, also of the Michigan Supreme Court. And first, what was really great about this was not only talking about this journey that they’ve been on, but also the fact that one of the interesting things was that Megan was the first child to have joined her parent as a member of the court since 18/57. So that’s a pretty amazing feat in itself. So I love that we’re able to have Michael and Meaghan both here today to talk about this journey that they’re both on. Thank you both for being here today.

Michael Cavanagh [00:01:56]:
Good to be here.

Megan Cavanagh [00:01:57]:
Thank you for having us.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:01:58]:
It is my pleasure having you here today. And, Michael, I wanna start with you. I wanna go back in time. I wanna go all the way back, all the way back to that first moment that you found out that you were going to be a dad to a daughter. What was going through your head?

Michael Cavanagh [00:02:10]:
That was with Meghan’s older sister. And reflecting on that, it was probably one of the brightest, most exciting moments of my life. It was our first child, and she was our first child. And she was born at 5 in the morning, and I remember leaving the hospital saying to myself, I’m gonna be the best dad in the world. I’m gonna take care of this child, and I’m gonna do everything I can to make life easier for I mean, I was really pumped. Then I got, of course, involved in my career. And truth be known, my wife took on the real heavy lifting in making the world great for our oldest child. We then had a son, and after, he arrived 2 or 4 years after that, our daughter Megan arrived.

Michael Cavanagh [00:03:19]:
And the feelings were very similar when all 3 arrived. But that first one was something special. It was alright, man. Now you’re a dad, and you’re gonna have to quit screwing around and get serious and make sure that you have the stamina and mental fortitude to succeed and achieve what you wanna do so you can make life easier for your daughter. I’m sure many fathers on their arrival of their first daughter shared similar feeling, but it was very euphoric.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:03:59]:
So, Michael, one of the things that I hear from a lot of dads is that in having daughters, that there is some fear that goes along with them. You’ve had daughters and sons, so you can kind of relate to both experiences. What was your biggest fear in raising daughters in society today?

Michael Cavanagh [00:04:14]:
I guess a fear was that it was so male oriented, society was. And, you know, and this was only, what, it would have been in the, late 1960, almost 70. But dads were still the stereotypical bring home the bacon and do things like that and let mother do the child rearing. And when you’re out there in the world as I was in particular in politics, I think you get a special appreciation of the current trends and moods, and I guess I just wanted and hope that she would be able, with our help, to find her way in a male dominated society.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:05:06]:
And, Meaghan, when you hear that yeah. I mean, you’ve gone through your career. You’ve moved to into politics yourself. And as you heard your father just say, you know, he tried to do what he could to be able to help you and your sister to be able to maneuver through that male dominated society. And society’s changed over the years. What do you feel that your dad did to prepare you for the road that you chose to be on in the world that you stepped into as you moved in and through your career?

Megan Cavanagh [00:05:35]:
Yeah. I think when he was describing that as a concern or a fear that he had, you know, the first thing that popped into my mind was when I was deciding to go to college and where and do blood and what I’m gonna do sort of thing and getting counsel and advice from my parents and figuring these sort of things out, He was actually probably one of the strongest urgers of me going into engineering, into what is at the time less so now, but at the time, a very male dominated profession. And so I think, like, recognizing that that was sort of a concern is that he didn’t pass that, to me as a reason to be cautious about it or not consider it or hold back from that or what have you. Instead, it was do this. And in fact, the fact that there aren’t that many or there weren’t that many women in engineering is something that you should sort of capitalize on and embrace. And it’s really interesting because I I have a 17 year almost 18 year old daughter who is going in the same process and is looking at engineering. And so as we’re going through looking at all these different things, I just saw the field that she’s looking at or the department that she’s looking at and wanting to go to at the University of Michigan in engineering is 57% female student body, which is which is really amazing. But, yes, I think what he did was, obviously, he was aware of it and it was something he thought of and a concern, but he didn’t pass on that concern to me.

Megan Cavanagh [00:07:08]:
And he didn’t suggest to me that that was a reason to be cautious about doing it. As far as going into the legal profession and then into politics or running for election. Again, that was much later. I was I ran for office in 2018, a much different, you know, time than the late eighties when I went to college. But I think that the landscape had changed a lot. It wasn’t, you know, as far as women in the profession of being lawyers and being judges. We currently, on the Supreme Court, have a female majority on the court. There’s 4 out of the 7 of us are women, and we’re not the first.

Megan Cavanagh [00:07:47]:
I think we’re the 4th female majority on on court. So so I think that was that’s sort of the the takeaway for me was that it was the recognition that he had that it was a male it was male dominated or concern wasn’t a reason to sort of make him hesitate or suggest that I should. So I think looking back, I don’t know what that dynamic would have been like. But he was like, look at this. It’s gonna be you know, why don’t you go into something different that’s an easier path or a more traditional path or something like that? I will say I did follow his advice to go into engineering. I didn’t. He actually encouraged me not to go into law and not to go into appellate law, and that’s not a female thing. It was more we just have a very we have a ton of lawyers in our family.

Megan Cavanagh [00:08:41]:
And I think it was the the uniqueness and and that not, as many people, let alone women, could do engineering, and that would be a good thing to do. And I didn’t follow that advice in part because I think the other qualities that I inherited from him and learned from him was by that time I knew what I what was right for me and could make those sort of decisions. I knew who I was, what I enjoyed, what I was good at, what motivated and fulfilled me and that was sort of more of the motivator as opposed to, you know, him saying we have too many lawyers. We’re sort of, we joke we’re we’re a useless family because we can’t build or fix anything. Right? All we do is either cause or try and solve problems.

Michael Cavanagh [00:09:24]:
I thought you were going to mention the fact that I made you diagram sentences as I did your 2 older siblings. But your teachers in high school at the conferences I attended said you had a terrific ability in math and with figures. I had a math degree in high school, but how I got through plain and solid geometry and trigonometry is beyond me. I thought I hated it. But I thought, alright. Your counselors in high school certainly said, you ought to be headed for engineering, and I would delight it when you did that. But it’s it’s kind of ironic that once you entered law and passed that, you landed back in a, heavily male oriented surroundings in the area of patent law. And there are very few female patent lawyers, and when they find one nowadays that has a background in science or engineering, They grabbed them up pretty quickly and slapped those golden handcuffs on them that you referred to, very impressive starting salaries and benefits.

Michael Cavanagh [00:10:44]:
So it was an interesting background.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:10:47]:
You know, one of the things that you said, Meghan, was that by the time that you decided to go to law school and then run for office, you knew who you were, you knew what you wanted, and you had a direction. And it sounds like through your life that you had support to get you to that point. What did your father do to help you to pave that way for you, to help you to see that direction that you wanted for your life?

Megan Cavanagh [00:11:14]:
I think that trajectory I always when I’m talking usually to to students, be they, you know, 4th graders or law students or anything in between. I sort of use my trajectory as an example of, like, you don’t know where you’re gonna end up from where you are now. Right? And and there’s a huge push, and I’d say this as a mother of teenagers. Right? Like, to like, you’re supposed to know at 16 what you’re gonna do at 55. Right? And that’s just not feasible. And I use that example. I mean, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do at 17. I didn’t really like that sort of I didn’t know.

Megan Cavanagh [00:11:50]:
I listened to people who told me this is what you are good at and you should do this sort of thing, and I ended up in engineering. And I wasn’t, to be honest, a huge fan of it. I worked for a couple of years. I did environmental engineering. Afterwards, I liked working in the field more than I did studying engineering, and that actually sort of made me a bit hesitant about going to law school. But I got to law school and it was really there was, like, this huge exhale. It was like, oh, this is me. They teach the way I learn.

Megan Cavanagh [00:12:19]:
They think the way, that sort of thing. It really was a fit. And then when I got out, as my dad mentioned, I was like, well, I should use them both. So I’ll go into patent law and I should do that and found that it it really wasn’t for me. I it was so it was for me, it was sort of like learning, trying a lot of things and then finding out whether or not it wasn’t tuning into that. I really like to write and research and the area of Patmos that I was in, that wasn’t it. And so I ended up back in appellate law. And again, I had that same sort of, this is where I’m supposed to be.

Megan Cavanagh [00:12:51]:
I think what helped me, you know, what my dad did that helped me was being supportive of that. Not always saying yes and agreeing with me on it, but helping me being open to it and helping me sort of think through it so that I could figure out what it is that is mine, you know, my thoughts and my my wants or what have you and what and to separate that out from what others say I should or shouldn’t do. You know, and I think that it’s part of his personality. I think it’s also part of profession. He was a judge for a very long time. He was a judge on the Supreme Court for 31 years and six years before that on the Court of Appeals and, I don’t know, a couple of years on the district court beforehand. But I would always people would always say, oh, your dad must hold court at the dinner table or something like that. Really, it wasn’t the case.

Megan Cavanagh [00:13:39]:
He was the one who would, like, sort of toss out a topic or an idea or a thought or what have you and then sit back and listen to how other people think about it and hear it, which makes sense. That’s what we do on the Supreme Court. Right? We have like, cases don’t get up to us unless they’re tough cases and there are good arguments on both sides, and our job primarily is to hear out all of the arguments and the reasons and the thoughts and that sort of thing. But I think in doing that, I mean, he did that as a profession, and I think he did that as a dad of listening probably first rather than speaking, and it was more important for him to hear what other people had to say than for me to hear what he thought about what I was doing. So I think that’s a big thing.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:14:22]:
And Michael, I know earlier you said that you gave your wife a lot of kudos for helping to raise your kids and because you were in a very demanding and a very active career that pulled you in, took a lot of time. Talk to me about what you had to do to be able to maintain and build those relationships that you still wanted with your daughters, even though you had such a a public role and a role that took you away from your family as well.

Michael Cavanagh [00:14:56]:
Well, I think I was particularly fortunate in that when I left the trial court, which required me to be on the bench every day, 5 days a week. The appellate court, the 8 years I spent on the Michigan Court of Appeals, and then as Megan mentioned, 32 on the Supreme Court. An awful lot of that can be done, well, 90% of it maybe. That might be an exaggeration, but it deals with reading. Endless briefs, records, former opinions, research, and, you know, it’s amazing. Even during that period, I was able to bring a lot of work home and fit some of the parenting functions with the the work of the court. And I think that was a unique benefit to me to be able to do. I think so many working fathers are in their particular job or profession 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and it’s my hands on.

Michael Cavanagh [00:16:10]:
I think today, it’s even greater with, after COVID with everything being the Zoom conference, for example. Megan’s in Troy. I’m in Lansing. A lot is achievable.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:16:25]:
A lot is definitely achievable now where you couldn’t have that in so many ways before COVID. So you’re definitely right in that regard. Now, Meaghan, I I would I know that you said that your dad, when you said that you wanted to go to law school, has tried to convince you not to do that, and you paved your path and ended up going in that direction. And after some years, you did decide to run for office. Talk to me about that experience for you and the experience of going to your dad to talk to him about that decision and what that was like for you?

Megan Cavanagh [00:17:01]:
It’s odd because it’s a lot of those decisions whether to go to law school, whether to do appellate law, you know, leave patent law, do appellate law, whether to run for statewide election for the supreme court were things that he had literally done. Right? But in very different environments. Right? Like, thinking of the difference between, like, when running. I mean, he was first elected, I think, in 82. Yeah. And I was running in 2,000 and 18 and just just a tremendous difference in how elections were run, the amount of money that’s required, how you reach voters, how much more sort of aware people are now about the supreme court and what it does and are engaged in that sort of thing. And it was great to have I’m incredibly fortunate. I’d say that today.

Megan Cavanagh [00:17:55]:
I mean, I literally look at cases all day that he has done the same job that I did that I’m doing. Right? So and a lot of what we do obviously as a court and as the institution is it’s not just what I think. It’s not even just what the 7 of the current justices think. It’s an institution. It’s it’s something, you know, sorry decisive precedent that’s existed for a long time, and and I have this incredible resource, this institutional memory of somebody who has, in any kind of environment, who has done the thing that I am confronting now even if it’s in a very different environment, you know, like, even something like interpersonal relationships with your colleagues or something. He I mean, I think it’s so unique, and I’m so fortunate to have that experience of and that resource of being able to do that because I don’t think that many people can do it. So, like, for me, it was this sort of like, oh my gosh. This is great, and I have this opportunity, and isn’t this wonderful? And I’m so fortunate, but at the same time, like, having to navigate, like, well, that isn’t necessarily like, when you did it, it’s it’s a different like, knowing what’s similar and what’s different now.

Megan Cavanagh [00:19:12]:
Right? And sort of like what I had mentioned before of figuring out, like, what works for me or who I am and and knowing that sort of thing, I think it has helped. I need to know that difference. It’s like, yes. You ran a statewide election, and you have opinions on how I should do it. Well, I might have different opinions based on this is a different time or this is my experience or people are telling me something different or that. And, again, like, it’s just a knowing sort of where and what’s the advice and what’s eventually, it has to be my decision of of what I’m doing. And I think that that all stems from, like I said, I don’t know what it would look like if his response to any of that were, well, this is how I did it. This is the only way to do it.

Megan Cavanagh [00:19:55]:
Or if you’re not gonna listen to my advice, then I’m gonna stop giving you my advice. Yeah. I mean, there’s a 1,000 different reactions that somebody you know, that somebody in his position position could give me in that reaction instead of saying, yeah. This is how I did it. And then they said,

Megan Cavanagh [00:20:06]:
and I think that was the right way.

Megan Cavanagh [00:20:07]:
And I also have opinions about how I think you should do it, but I also trust that you can figure that out on your own. So so I think that’s that I’m very fortunate that that was that’s the response that he gives over and over whether again, whether it’s getting into law in the 1st place or whether it’s running for statewide election or whether it’s how do you handle this difficult dynamic that you’ve got going on in your own chambers.

Michael Cavanagh [00:20:33]:
I was just gonna say the nature of the job, I think, lends itself to forcing you to adapt to a change. You know, Michigan is unique in that all judgeships are nonpartisan. They appear on the nonpartisan ballot. But for supreme court, to get on the ballot, you have to be nominated by a political party. So you go through that process of getting nominated and then miraculously walk out the door and become nonpartisan. And it’s once you are elected, then you are certainly not supposed to be partisan, and so you strive to keep your head low and stay out of partisan politics or those disputes. And for the supreme court in 8 year term, you emerge 8 years later after your first term, and I had 4 8 year terms on the court. But you emerge at the end of the term, finding that probably 70% of the players are different.

Michael Cavanagh [00:21:48]:
They’ve died. They’ve retired. The people you need to contact, you know, for support for reelection, and you have to go through that process again. So I think adapting to what Meghan had to do, being different in many respects from what I had, I benefited from my past experience.

Megan Cavanagh [00:22:11]:
I always say that, like, when you’re running for a judge that if you’re good at the running part, you’re probably not a very good judge. Right? Like like, the very thing that you need to be good at to get the job is the opposite of what you need to be to be good at doing the job, which is staying out of that. You can’t say this is what I think about this or this is, you know, I have these very strong opinions and this is how I would decide this. I mean, you’re just you can’t do that as a judge. Right? Like but it’s a unique system that we have in Michigan. But it’s so there’s a lot of downfalls or negatives to that, but I think one of the positives, it ensures that you have some accountability to the people that you’re serving, you know, and if you’re just appointed or even running for retention elections or something like that way different states do it, you don’t you don’t have the opportunity or the need to get out and and actually see the people that are voting for you and that your decisions are affecting their lives across the state, pluses and minuses.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:23:09]:
Now, Michael, you just talked about the fact that as you are on the court, you gotta keep your head low. You gotta understand the political dynamics around you, but try to keep out of the fray. And I’m sure that along the years on the court and in your own home, you modeled by example and allowed for your kids to learn from example. What were some of the things that you did to try to teach your kids those lessons that you were learning on the court that would help them in their lives?

Michael Cavanagh [00:23:36]:
Well, that’s hard to categorize. I guess I tried to keep them from being judgmental, ironically, too fast to not take a glib from social media and think that that’s all there is to a question or a problem. And to try and if it’s interesting enough to them to find out all they can about it before they come down one way or another with a decision. And I think that’s crucial in my way of thinking to being a good judge, to trying to be as informed as possible, weighing both sides. And as Megham said, the Supreme Court, if they’re doing their job correctly, is taking very gray cases. There are great arguments on both sides in most cases. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be up there at the Supreme Court. So it’s difficult, and it’s all the more important that they be as widely informed as possible.

Megan Cavanagh [00:24:48]:
Yeah. In terms I was gonna answer maybe this is where the diagramming sentences comes into. It was very big on study. He would make us diagram sentences even though we weren’t required to do that in school. But I think, you know, if anything, I’m putting in the work sort of for school and doing that and a big part of, I mean, that’s what makes you a good writer is knowing how to use words and things like that or taking remember you took me to the state spelling bee. I still have the dictionary behind me from when I was in 8th grade. But so the hard work sort of thing, but it’s that that was what he said because that was one of the first things that came to my mind. And I remember a specific case.

Megan Cavanagh [00:25:28]:
I don’t want sort of go into it, but it had gotten a lot of media attention. I was in college at the time, but it was up in front of his court. It was in front of a couple of different courts, actually. But and there’s a lot of media attention about it, and it was a very emotional issue. And there was definitely sort of a media narrative sort of on one side of the issue. And I remember being like any 19 or 20 year old where I knew all that I needed to know about it, and I, you know, shared that opinion with him. And his response was like, well, let’s look at the other side of that. Did you know this? Did you know that? What would you think if this were part of it or what have you? And I always think of that, of we live in the gray in the Supreme Court.

Megan Cavanagh [00:26:13]:
Right? And that can be a very sort of frustrating thing for us as well as sort of the perception of what we do. It’s like, well, some things should just be black and white. But I have found that mostly a lot of the stuff in life or the important stuff in life is in the gray. And there are two sides to most things. But I always recall that that incident of sort of going to him or, you know, whether it was I don’t even know when it was, but it’s saying, well, here’s what this whole thing is about, you know, and here’s my idea. And he’s like, oh, really? Well, what did you do? What what about this sort of thing? And so that has always stuck with me. I’m like, oh, remember that.

Michael Cavanagh [00:26:51]:
I I have very distinct memories of those two experiences that Meg mentioned. I still, would like to throttle the reader at that spelling bee because as soon as he pronounced the word, and she was almost at the final, as soon as he pronounced the word, I knew she was gonna get it wrong because he mispronounced it. And sure enough, she got it wrong, but she came away with that addiction hurried behind her desk, and, it was interesting. I did a great did my best anyway, trying to control her on the way home from from that experience. And the other that she mentioned about a case, I’m pretty sure I know the case to which she refers, and it was really the subject of multimedia opinions, and it arose out of the hotbed of intellectualism and liberalism in Ann Arbor. And everybody. I was chief justice at the time and was on a flight to San Francisco for a conference of chief justices. And I think I think I might have had Meghan with me at that time, but I read in the New York Times an article on the case, and it started out from a totally false premise or wrong, I should say, not false implies intention, but it was a wrong premise.

Michael Cavanagh [00:28:31]:
And if you looked at that case based on the fact, you know, you had little choice but to come out a totally different way than the media which would have surmised. So that’s interesting that she remembers it as I do, that those two events stick out in both our cobweb.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:28:54]:
Now we always finish our interviews with what I like to call our fatherhood 5 where I ask 5 more questions to delve deeper, typically only into the dad’s mind, but we’re gonna go into both of your minds to get a little perspective here today. In one word, what is fatherhood?

Michael Cavanagh [00:29:08]:
Responsibility. For me, one word.

Megan Cavanagh [00:29:10]:
I say engagement.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:29:11]:
Now, Megan, when was a time that you feel that your dad succeeded at being a father to a daughter?

Megan Cavanagh [00:29:19]:
There’s a lot. I’m trying to think, you know, there are some of the obvious ones. You know, the first that came into my mind was not a particular event necessarily, but what came into my mind is when I had kids, when I first had my daughter. And my oldest daughter was there were some difficulty. I mean, she was it was I had difficulty getting pregnant, right, of she was IVF, and then there were some complications when she was born and she spent time in the NICU. And I guess in that regard of feeling sort of supported is where I think he definitely and just it’s the most amazing thing, like, that nobody ever sort of can describe well enough, but it’s the most amazing feeling to see he and my mom are they’re the one people who love your kids as much as you love your own kid. Nobody else can sort of fill that role.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:30:12]:
And, Michael, what about you? When was the time that you felt that you finally succeeded at being a father to a daughter?

Michael Cavanagh [00:30:18]:
Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure I’ve arrived at that time yet. As as I’ve seen all 3 of our children evolve at different stages and arrive at where they have, come to rest currently. I feel that my wife and I have been successful, and it probably is a feeling that we’ve experienced each step along the way that you wish the best for them. You wish that they had a better opportunity than you did. Although, I certainly can’t complain about the opportunities I had, but that they took advantage of them when they appeared to fit their circumstances. Every one of those made you feel well. Alright.

Michael Cavanagh [00:31:10]:
Maybe we’ve done something okay or something good.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:31:14]:
Now, Megan, if I was to talk to you and your siblings, how would you describe your dad?

Megan Cavanagh [00:31:19]:
I would say it’s sort of almost sort of contradictory. He’s this larger than life. He’s incredibly accomplished. He’s done so many things, so many people outside of it. I mean, this is a unique thing. It’s not just not very often where you have a whole state and a whole profession and a whole whatever who every time they see you are like, do you have any idea how great your dad is? So that’s a unique experience we get. So we get that, and yet at the same time, knowing that he’s really one of the most humble people I know, and I think that that is partly that makes him such a it makes him a great dad, and I think it’s the same thing that made him a great judge is that he has he keeps that sort of humility. And I think in deciding cases that he was always like, you know what? You know, sort of there, but for the grace of God, go I.

Megan Cavanagh [00:32:08]:
Like, he has that humility of of I’m not really any different than the person that’s coming in front of me with their issues. So it’s like this huge sort of superstar in my world currently, but somebody who who doesn’t see himself that way.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:32:24]:
And, Michael, who inspires you to be a better dad?

Michael Cavanagh [00:32:27]:
Yeah. That’s interesting. My father grew up on a farm outside of Ottawa, Ontario in Canada and got to maybe the 6th grade. And I think at age 16 or 17, went to, Northern Ontario to work in a logging camp and then came back. He was the youngest of 7, so he didn’t have a shot at inheriting the farm and wound up around 1915 coming to Detroit to get a job at ford motor company and he, worked at ford he went back and married my mother and then they came back, and all 6 of children were born in Detroit. But he worked at Ford for 42 years. He got up to 5:30 every morning, got on that bus with his lunch bucket, and, went to the boiler plant at Ford. How he did that for that length of time is beyond me, but he did.

Michael Cavanagh [00:33:34]:
And he was older when I was born. I was the last of the 6, and and my dad, I think, was about 52 when I was born. So he he wasn’t able, really, to be that involved in the father’s club or different events like that at the school. And he was a strong disciplinarian, but there was never a second. I think as long as any of I or any of our siblings thought about that, we didn’t think he loved us. And it’s interesting. He had he had trouble, I think, being emotional, although he was, but expressing him. So, like, I can never recall him telling me that he loved me, but there would never a doubt in my mind even, I mean, that the discipline was a form of love.

Michael Cavanagh [00:34:33]:
And I, you know, I still get a little moist in the eyes when I think of my wedding in Toronto. And, how he came into my room before I left for their church. I was finishing up with my bow tie or something, and he came in and kinda gave me a hug, which was not real usual for him and slipped me a $100 bill. And I’ll never forget that. And it’s, man. That was, I realized, a big effort for him. And it’s interesting because I tried to not miss opportunities to tell my 3 children that I love them. And it’s interesting.

Michael Cavanagh [00:35:19]:
Our kids wind up phone calls with us invariably with telling them they love us. So it was he was a great example. And as I say, he lived by example and showed me by example how a good father should be. But that was, you know, for him way back in, in the time of the father doing the work and providing the financial support and the mother doing all the raising.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:35:49]:
Appreciate you sharing that. Now, Megan, you and your dad have both given different pieces of advice today, and I’m gonna give you both an opportunity to answer this question. As we finish up today, what’s one piece of advice you’d wanna give to every father of a daughter?

Megan Cavanagh [00:36:03]:
I think if I did, I think and I try and do this myself, so it’s not just necessarily limited to dads. But I think in raising kids is and it’s it’s hard. I find it very hard for me to do is admit when you’re wrong and apologize because there’s usually some part of whatever happened that, yes, the kid had some involvement in that, but there’s any sort of negative interaction. There’s there’s some thing on your part as well. And even if you can’t sort of always get it right, at least you can show them that you recognize that you didn’t get it right. And I think it’s really is a gift for them because they’re not always gonna get it right. They’re gonna make, you know that’s why you’re showing them by example. It’s okay to admit that you’ve made mistakes, but when the the actually stronger thing to do is not just to get it right in the first place, but to recognize when you get it wrong and express that you’re gonna try and do it better next time.

Megan Cavanagh [00:37:00]:
And that can be hard to do as a parent because a lot of times you’re not supposed to get this you know, I’m not I’m supposed to have the answers. I’m supposed to do everything right. I’m supposed to get to the right place, but I think it it helps and help kids recognize that in recognizing that I am human, that they are human as well, and that they’re gonna make mistakes, but that that’s gonna be okay and that they can get better.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:37:21]:
What about you, Michael? What would you say in regards to a piece of advice you’d wanna give to every dad of a daughter?

Michael Cavanagh [00:37:27]:
I might be kind of dated, but I guess I would urge them to urge their daughters to, diagram sentences, to take Latin in, to be sure and tell them that you love them.

Megan Cavanagh [00:37:41]:
Not necessarily in that order.

Michael Cavanagh [00:37:42]:
Certainly, the last of that is the most important.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:37:46]:
Well, you could always say I love you in Latin, and kill 2 birds with 1 stone.

Michael Cavanagh [00:37:49]:
I’m okay.

Megan Cavanagh [00:37:50]:
I was gonna say he’s gonna do it. I don’t think I could even though I had some 2 years of it. Yeah.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:37:55]:
Well, I wanted to say thank you. Thank you, Megan. Thank you, Michael, for being here today, for sharing your own journey, and for being here with us. And I wish you both the best.

Michael Cavanagh [00:38:05]:
Thank you. It was enjoyable. Thank you so much.

Dr. Christopher Lewis [00:38:09]:
If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode of the dads with daughters podcast, we invite you to check out the fatherhood insider. The fatherhood insider is the resource for any dad that wants to be the best dad that he can be. We know that no child comes with an instruction manual and most dads are figuring it out as they go along, and the fatherhood insider is full of resources and information that will up your game on fatherhood. Through our extensive course library, interactive forum, step by step road maps and more, you will engage and learn with experts, but more importantly dads like you. So check it out atfatheringtogether.org. If you are a father of a daughter and have not yet joined the dads with daughters Facebook community, there’s a link in the notes today. Dads with daughters is a program of fathering together. We look forward to having you back for another great guest next week, all geared to helping you raise strong empowered daughters and be the best dad that you can be.


We’re all in the same boat, And it’s full of tiny screaming passengers. We spend the time. We give the lessons. We make the meals. We buy them presents and bring your a game. Because those kids are growing fast, the time goes by just like a dynamite blast. Calling astronauts and firemen, carpenters, and musclemen. Get out and be the world to them.

Be the best that you can be.

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Christopher Lewis


Christopher is the co-founder of Fathering Together and the Chief Information Officer. He is the father of 2 daughters that are now in their tweens and teens. He started Dad of Divas, a blog to share his own personal experiences in being a father in 2007 and in 2018 started the Dads With Daughters Facebook Group to allow dads to connect, learn and grow together. He works in Digital Media on a daily basis, but also has over 20 years of experience in higher education administration.

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