So, my wife took my cell phone and went off hiking with my mother-in-law.
I am sitting in our camper at Volga River State Recreational area near Fayette, IA. No wireless network, except for the ex-marine who has labeled his WIFI connection ‘Don’t even think about it.’ The temperature outside is 94 degrees and like much of Iowa, we are under an ‘extreme weather’ warning. Just in case you weren’t smart enough to realize it is hot outside, the meteorologists have told us officially, don’t go outside in the middle of the heat.
That being said, my wife and her mother have decided it would be a good time to ‘get away’ and they are off somewhere along a 6 mile trail up on some bluff I imagine. Bully for them. For me, I sit back in the air conditioner and think, this is the first time I have not had a cellular phone close to me in almost 20 years. I was one of the lucky (or unlucky depending upon your perspective) that had a cell phone as soon as they came out as part of my role when I worked for the railroad. It was ‘important’ for me to be reachable at all times, therefore when some of the first cell phones hit the market I was assigned one. Since that time, I have had one with me almost 100% of the time.
So, now that I don’t have an internet connection, my boys are napping the back of the camper (well, sort of napping) I thought, I am going to sit down and write.
Three months ago, when I pushed myself to start GetConnectDAD, I thought I would write every single week. It is something I really enjoy doing. The reality of engaging with 100 different writers just doesn’t give me an abundance of time to write myself. My ‘real job’ takes a great deal of my time, the editing and coordinating with the other dads fill my heart with joy and cuts into my time to write.
This journey started as way for me to better understand some of the key things I wanted to see in my boys as they grew up. Along the way, I have been blessed with meeting some incredible men and women and I am stunned by the boundless amount of generosity shown to this simple dad. Many parents have reached out beyond the ‘social media’ world personally and have blessed me in ways I will never truly understand. I am excited to see the next generation of kids from many families from dozens of countries.
When I set out on this journey, I wasn’t sure where it would take me. To be honest, I am still not sure; however, what has been inspirational to me, is now I say, “I am not sure where it will take us.” US, what a powerful word. If you would have told me 150+ dads and moms from all walks of life and in all phases of parenthood would sign up to provide wisdom, share their fears, advice and activities for fathers to engage in with their kids, I would have said ‘YOU ARE CRAZY.’ But that is exactly what has happened. We have created a blossoming community of fathers and mothers who only want to do better. We are not striving for perfection; however, we know that we can always get better and we are committed to doing little things as our kids mature.
So, in that light, I thought I would write a summary of what 3 things I have learned thus far from the adventure of building a fatherhood / parenting community.
Parenthood is borderless and colorless.
I have spoke with black, white, Hispanic, gay, young, old, experienced, new, scared, confident, confused, over-achieving, disconnected, separated, single, married, divorcing, abandoned, and probably 100 other types of dads over the past few months. Every single parent I have spoken with has shared their love for their kids. I am not naïve enough to think that all fathers are engaged with their kids; however, I am certainly happy to see parents who are trying to do parenting right. One challenge I struggle with is the inability to reach those dads who might be in more ‘need’ of engagement. This will take a larger engagement from the growing community to reach out to dads in more conventional ways like a phone call and dinner.
The nice thing about creating a new community based upon parenting this common connection I share with the majority of people in the world.
Being a parent is the primary way I connect with people today. Even those who aren’t parents, were once parented and their experiences shape my view of parenting as much as those who are actively engaged in it right now.
There are many, many men who are trying very, very hard to save kids that aren’t even theirs.
I can list out 20 men, off of the top of my head, doing specific things right this minute to bless a child who they did not father. There are men struggling to get one extra man to show up to their men’s group meeting, there are men reaching out by phone right this minute, to counsel another father through a break up, and there are men finishing up a very long week of work just to head to the local youth center to model a father to kids who will not know what it means to say ‘I love you Dad’ their entire life.
This realization both pains and excites me. One father, Joshua McDowell, has decided to create a youth center “to get kids off the street and give them a better life; something to look forward“. Another father, Calvin Mann , is recruiting 100 men in Detroit to be part of a group of men who go above and beyond for dads in their community. The 100 Men Calgary club, meets every quarter and collectively gives away $10,000 to a lucky charity. In Kenya, a MOTHER, writing as a father, is trying to inspire other father’s to get involved in a different way and to stop the cycle of destruction in the community in which she lives. Nick Fat Dad Skinny Dad, is trying hard to influence father’s choices when it comes to food and exercise; Thomas Cohen is creating a company to send ‘just in time’ items to new fathers via an online box company; Aleks from Dads4LifeUK and team are working on raising awareness of the importance of dads & the impact of family breakdown & fatherlessness on children families & society; Ricky Dragoni is working with kids who need a mail role model through coaching; Mike Sudyk (2CentDad) is interviewing busy fathers and sharing their stories about the concept of balancing work / life. Thomas of DadsRockEdin is working on establishing great, fun FREE Playgroups and Outings for dads in the UK; Scott Beller is working on making all of our kids Geeks, encouraging math and science at young ages; Thabiti Boone has become a mentor of mine, working to establish deeper relationships for fathers with their kids and community; Sean Neal is supporting 100 Black Men and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance; William Jackson is using his role as a minister to reach out to men in all seasons of life; Shawn Smith uses his weekly podcast to his congregation to encourage fathers to be more engaged with their families; and Mike at Fatherville is working diligently to raise all father’s skills in parenting.
I could go on; however, the point is we have people who are just stepping up. They aren’t waiting for some bureaucrat to do something; they are convinced they can have an impact and they just simply do.
So, I think about what these parents are doing, some with very limited resources, and I think, what can I do bigger and better than I do today? Last night, Yvonka Trump said her father always said, “If you’re gonna dream, why not dream big?” Amazing statement. I need to figure out what my big is.
There are many dads who struggle with their role as a father.
A consistent theme I have heard from many fathers I have spoke to is a belief there are two generic stereotypes of fathers: the deadbeat and the bearded, six-packed ab’d, BBQ pit-master, who’s sun rises and sets on their children. Don’t get me wrong, I am jealous of the six-pack guys. My six-pack is more of a 2 liter and although I would love to spend tons of time around the smoker learning the craft of succulent barbeque, the reality is, I am ‘told’ to grill something because it will be less mess in the kitchen.
What about the large majority of dads who, like their moms, work all day long and then come home some night and ‘hang on’ until bedtime? I know I am not the only one. Some nights, 7:30 can’t come quick enough. After speaking to a few hundred fathers over the past few weeks, I am so glad to know I am not alone. I remember when I was a young boy, my mother had been pushed to her limit by my brother and I and she said, “Julian, I am at the end of my rope.” In some sort of awesome automatic response, I replied “Well, you had better tie a knot and hang on.” I am still unsure of the reason my mother didn’t spank my butt for that one. I deserved it.
The vast majority of fathers want to do the right thing by their kids and sacrifice most everything possible to provide a good life for their families; however, the belief we have to be everything all of the time to our kids can be overwhelming.
The awesome lesson I have been taught by some great men and women is we have SO much in common. We all way to reach our kids in ways that make they soar; we all want to keep our kids safe from harm; we all want to be in relationships that are healthy; and we all know that our role as parent is the most incredible gift we could ever be given.