My wife and I aim for an equitable parenting partnership. That they see us making decisions as a unit, and assembling the best we can with what we’ve got. To teach our children values instead of policies, problem-solving, and creativity instead of roles.

And we hope they will build lives and societies that are more equitable still.

Last Father’s Day, I could see no further than survival and the second child whose arrival was a month away. This year, I find myself more capable of hope and vision.

Ways I Hope Life Makes You Cry

Making Different Mistakes

I hope to spare my children my own mistakes, and that they know they can come to me after making their own.

My oldest (almost 4 y/o) child is obsessed with stories. Made up, Maked Up, or true. Personal or global. And, especially over the past year, “sick stories.” It’s oddly reassuring to realize how few of our own sick stories we remember. I hope our daughters remember little of the sickness and the stumbles, and more of the sunny or significant moments in between.

When our children tell stories, I hope there’s appreciation and understanding for how we did things, for the choices we made (at least some of them). But also that they don’t feel constrained by our actions and choices. That seeing our attempts at equitable parenting helps them conceptualize the roles that suit them best.

That they become adults who can replicate or deviate from their experiences as they see fit, and that any partner they potentially unite with is confident and self-aware enough to do the same.

In sharing stories with my children, I hope to normalize missteps, mistakes, and setbacks. To not pretend I’m a hero, but show I’m someone who is healing. So they see they can heal too (and understand they’ll also get hurt).

Finding Spaces to Get Hurt


Yes, I want my children to get hurt. Not terribly so — preferably always a bit shy of the E.R. I don’t want their childhoods so cushioned and cocooned that early adulthood comes as a rude surprise.

So, hurts will happen—should happen, so that our children know they can get back up. And when they do, I hope our family doesn’t hide our wounds, and that we also wouldn’t let them fester. That our family provides the safety and salve for healing and recovery, with my partner and I each providing comfort and understanding.

Discovering Your Own Strength

I hope my children find and define their own strength, just as we’ve had to find our own strengths and niches as parents.

I support or “spot” my eldest when she climbs on the playground, but I won’t boost her up beyond where her own strength can carry her. Our family is a place for encouragement, to fall back on, and from which you can develop your own strength, both mental and physical. (Although physically, you might want to consider a personal trainer who’s not me.)

We don’t provide or encourage a girlhood filled with pink and princess, but we don’t discourage or disallow either. Some of this is just surrenderring to society, to Target, and to the Grandmas. But it’s also about — as much as possible — not impressing our own opinions onto our daughters’ psyches.

Sometimes our eldest chooses to build with blocks; other times she opts for a princess-ballerina-cheetah ensemble.

Either way, she introduces herself as a superhero. Either way, she’s right.

For Crying Out Loud


My partner and I aim to share the emotional and practical burdens of childrearing. That our girls find us both emotionally available, and that they internalize healthy emotional expression as human, not gendered. This isn’t about emasculating or feminizing men. It’s about courage. The courage to cry doesn’t preclude the courage to persevere. Self-awareness and emotional presence require more strength, more bravery — not less. We all stand to benefit from normalizing men’s mental health and emotional well-being (for more on that, read Liz Plank’s For the Love of Men).

And I hope my daughters’ world is one where it’s safer for men to express vulnerability and need — and a world that’s safer overall as a result.

Speaking for myself, I know I fall far short of the vision I have for fatherhood that’s a true partnership with my wife.

But I’m choosing to lean into hope, and to aspire for this vision to become more and more my daughter’s reality.

 

Luke Chitwood is a writer, non-profit professional, and education advocate based in Chicago. A beginner-level husband and father, you can find him wrangling words and images, in perpetual pursuit of his next cup of coffee.

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