HOW IS MY performance as a dad? Ultimately the final judges will be our two sons but until they reach a place to pass judgment how do I gauge my learning and success in the role of father? These are two questions that I think about often in my fatherhood journey.
Three years ago I was just over a year into my new role as Dad. We had moved to a new town nine months previous with a loose community of friends and connections. I still felt isolated. Friends without kids were disappearing from my daily life and calendar while finding new father-friends was challenging and took time - something I didn't have much of being a new parent. Then my partner introduced me to a group of fathers that met once a month called Father’s Community Café. This is a group of fathers, grandfathers, uncles, neighbors, and friends is funded by Alaskan Children’s Trust.
At the first café that I attended I was introduced to eight other men who were also fathers at different places along the journey. Although I didn't know any of them, I didn't care - I wanted support. I felt like my challenges with the transformations of man and partner to father were unique and I was alone. I wanted help and advice of how I could get through this period and how to do so in a constructive way. Through the round of introductions to these other men I quickly realized that my challenges were not unique. I also was introduced to the realization that my challenges with fatherhood could be much greater. This is when I began to discover the strength and bonds that are created when men share their experiences of guiding of children, youth, young adults and eventually, adults.
For two and a half years now I have now been the parent leader of this organic group of men that meet once a month at evening meal time. Rarely is there a specific agenda. Occasionally there is a suggestion of a topic by one of the attendees before the gathering but more frequently the discussion revolves around a topic brought by an attendee. Organizing this group and more importantly attending monthly is my litmus tests of how I am doing as a father. This event allows me time to think about what I am doing well as a father and a platform that I can share these accomplishments with other fathers. This is an empowering feeling.
This time for connection with fathers also allows me time to listen and empathize with their challenges. The connection also teaches me methods and creative solutions to challenges that I have with my family and within myself. I no longer feel as alone as I did in my first years of fatherhood and know that there is a community of dads that I would consider as friends. We are now friends because we share the bond of fatherhood but also because we have shared our experiences.
I have tried numerous methods and outlets to bring other fathers into this continuing conversation that happens once a month. It is challenging to get men to engage in conversation outside of a sporting event, a fishing boat, a hunting trip, you get the idea but these are important connections that fathers need to make!
I still do not know how my overall performance as Dad will be judged in the end, but I do know that I have learned so much in my on-the-job training to date and I have been able to share some of those successes that I've had while learning from other dads.
If you are interested in joining this group in Juneau, or maybe have a question or two about how to get one going in your area drop Seve a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
DADS HAVE BEEN the focus on Kids These Days! quite a few times. We know that the importance of fathers means a lot to our listeners because one of our most popular shows ever was all about dads. Here, we've gathered all the shows, stories and posts that focus on fathers in one neat list for your browsing pleasure.
FROM THE RADIO:
FROM THE WEBSITE:
I ENJOY READING for its ability to transport me somewhere else. Like many parents I find the opportunities to pick up a book of my choosing few at best. Most of my reading moments are seeing what a curious monkey is doing (again), what Dora is taking a picture of, or what human activities Richard Scarry is illustrating via the animal world.
A work trip or late sleepless nights seem to be some of the few opportunities I get to read for me and I consider it a luxury. For this reason I have surprised myself by recently picking up some non-fiction books that deal with fatherhood. But, unfortunately I feel like these choices may have not made the most out of this luxury time.
As someone who enjoys humor more than most I have found it an essential asset to getting through many of the challenges of fatherhood. The fathers who penned these books must have felt the same way because many (if not all) of the stories they offer are predictably funny. There is the story about changing a diaper somewhere uncomfortable to the distaste of onlookers. The realization in a late moment in the day that Dad discovers that he has been sporting some spit-up milk on the shoulder of his dress shirt. Not being prepared for the second urination while changing the diaper from the first. Oh, and the father carrying a diaper bag and pushing a stroller while his buddies pass-by with catcalls! Ha ha! I get it. These moments are funny and sometimes it helps take the stressfulness out of parenthood to sit-back and laugh at the absurdity.
Then my laughs subside and I get frustrated with the make up of most of the “Daddy” books. They are not real. Where is the Dad who is trying to keep friendships alive with friends who consider other people's children baggage? Where is the Dad who works at home and spends copious amounts of time with his children because he is an established writer?
Where is the dad who is working hard at his career but is rarely recognized with appreciation by his family and friends? Where is the Dad who gets the sideways glances from the moms at the playground or playgroup because he is the only Dad present?
Humor is an escape and I am glad that there are authors that present the obvious that doesn't always enter a father’s head in the moment but I am tired of the predictability! Why is humor the constant default setting for us Dads?
Portraying the humorous is ignoring the realities of this role of father. It is messy, loud, disorganized, taxing, sleepless, disorienting, demanding, endless, and sometimes it just sucks! Fatherhood is challenging and continuous work and that is what makes it worth so much more than laughs!
I now find myself attempting to escape from this unrealistic escape of Dad books after all I am busy creating my own father story.