Let’s Ruin Our Kids

Doug FrenchFatherhood on Friday

Four years ago, when Juneteenth coincided with Father’s Day, The Root editor-in-chief Danielle Belton wrote a piece about growing up with a Texan father who celebrated Juneteenth with a Texas-sized pride. Every year came a barbecue, a recap of the holiday’s origins in Galveston, and a rejoinder from her mother, who playfully tried to pop his balloon by mocking Texans for finding out about the Emancipation Proclamation so late.

By 2016, her mother had developed severe dementia, and her dad took care of her full time. Which was only the latest example of his long career as a devoted, reassuring father who taught his children to expect honor, respect, and support from the people in their lives. Which led one man, later in her life, to say that her father’s example had essentially “ruined” her, because her expectations were too high.

Right now, within the confluence of a pandemic, unprecedented unemployment, massive nationwide protests against systemic racism, and a political system vastly ill-equipped to deal with any of it, just about every father is fighting for something — his job, his dignity, his life, his peace of mind. We keep fighting because we maintain the expectation that better things are still possible. And since adversity reveals character, when we fight we have the singular opportunity to show our kids who we are.

When it comes to inspiring the next generation to expect something better and to fight for it, “instead of settling for the scraps the world throws down at us, expecting us to be grateful for them,” we think Danielle Belton’s father makes a great role model. We’d feel pretty proud if we were able to ruin our kids as well as he did. 


In 2015, men spent 39% of the time women spent on childcare. In lockdown, this figure has risen to 66%. More work to do, but working from home during quarantine has worked very well toward making childcare more equitable.

WalletHub has named Massachusetts as the best state for working dads, using 23 key indicators such as average length of work day for males, to child-care costs, and share of men in good or better health.

New research from our friends at Promundo shows that most boys aged 4-14 feel they have to adhere to traditional masculine traits in order to fit in with their families and peers.

June is also Men’s Health Month, and here are several important tips for staying in sound mind and body, so our kids can have us around longer.

Serial Dad Joke inflictor Tom Schruben is holding a Father’s Day Bad Dad Joke contest to raise money forMartha’s Table, the D.C.-based nonprofit that supports children and families.

It’s becoming more normal to depict stories in children’s books about dads and kids just going through their ordinary day.

“Papa” Hemingway had a deeply ambivalent view of fatherhood.

Nik Robinson started Good Citizens, which makes sunglasses from recycled water bottles, with his two young sons. After two years of research, trials, and tweaking, it’s starting to make an impact.

Check out these six podcasts that support fathers during their kids’ early developmental stages.


“I experience joy, but it’s also a little lonesome, because my wife and child adore each other, and I’m perhaps even more lonely because not only am I lonely but I’m not allowed to say I’m lonely. I have to say, I’m the luckiest man in the world.'” — Mike Birbiglia, Mike Birbiglia Thinks Many Parents Are “Pretending”

“Asking ourselves to consider what is ahead or closely examine what was just behind us is, if you’ll forgive me, untimely. Literally, now, this now, is not the time.” — Bill Peebles, Struggling to Make Sense of a World in Continuing Crisis

“I was following at a safe distance for dry pavement. But in the last few minutes, it had started to drizzle. I failed to take that into account. For a wet suburban road, I was following too closely.” — David Stanley, My White Privilege Moment

“Sitting in rooms with eight heterosexual couples, three queer couples, and two singles, it was hard not to feel like you were competing with more ‘traditional’ families.” — Avi Magidsohn, What Fatherhood Means To A Trans Dad Raising Black Sons

“Call them your family, not your stepfamily.” — John Adams, The Much Misunderstood World of the Stepchild


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Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash