Ambassadors of Involved Fatherhood

Me, along with fellow ambassadors of involved fatherhood at the National At-Home Dad Network Convention
The ambassadors of involved fatherhood of the National At-Home Dad Network

Say it with me: “Almost every dad I know is putting in the work to be a loving, hands-on, involved dad.”

Last week, I was honored to be the opening keynote speaker at the 20th Annual National At-Home Dad Network Convention. It was an amazing experience: I met so many fantastic dads, learned a lot,  and made many new friends.

More than any other group, this network of at-home dads represents the front lines of changing the way society looks at involved fatherhood and modern masculinity. Of course, being on the front lines means that these at-home dads face a lot of scrutiny and stigma, and that they get A LOT of really dumb things said to them. Things like:

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(insert number) Lessons About Fatherhood I Learned from (insert tv show/movie)

As you can imagine, I read a lot of parenting blogs and websites. If you visit enough of these sites, you will quickly come across posts like “X Things I Learned About Parenthood from Y,” with Y usually being a popular tv show or movie.

You can learn a lot from fictional dads!

There’s no surprise why these are popular: they are fun to read, fun to write, are universal and accessible for a wide audience, and VERY clickable. When a movie becomes a phenomenon, that rising tide lifts all posts- witness the thousands of Frozen-related blog posts last summer- I bet the readership numbers were also really high. Also, because people will be making Google searches for Frozen or Star Trek or the Goonies or even Leprechaun 3 probably forever (especially when the sequels and remakes come out), these posts tend to have a long tail. (Heck, the awesome Jeffrey Brown has made a career of this)

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Catch These Moments While We Can (on the end of “Nicky, the Skunk and the Dinosaur”)

…but then it occurred to me that never again would he be seven years, one month, and six days old, so we had better catch these moments while we can. -Bill Bryson

I'll miss fun times like these while Nick is little...
I’ll miss fun times like these while Nick is little…

My wife Amy was recently in a play in which her character’s family was, after many years, selling their family farm. In one scene, she’s reflecting with her teenaged son about the memories they shared in the house, and she dreamily reminisces about the bedtime stories she had made up for him when he was a young boy. She ends this scene with the line, “I don’t remember the last time I told you one of those stories.”

On this day, as Nick enters fourth grade, I found this line particularly profound. My son is growing up, and there are lots of things I “used to do” with him that he’s now grown out of. But, just like Amy’s character, I don’t remember the last time I did those particular things with him.

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Father-Son Ice Bucket Challenge! (and welcome NPR Listeners)

Like everyone else on the internet, I have done the ALS Research Ice Bucket Challenge!!!  My brave 9 year old son joined me. Here are the videos, and a link if you’d like to join us in making a donation for research into stopping this horrible disease.

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School’s Out For Summer! (on the mixed blessing of school vacation for working parents)

School summer vacation can be a great time for downtime. But this extra time can also be too much of a good thing, leading to too much screen time for both dads and kids. I need your help!

This summer, I want to spend time doing this...
This summer, I want to spend more time doing this…

I’m technically not employed by FDU for the summer (although I always have class prep and, of course, writing to do). So, I am so incredibly lucky to be home to share the summer with Nick. Nick just ended third grade (where does the time go!), and Amy’s both rehearsing a show and directing a youth theater program. Nick will be going to a local camp from 9-3 on Tuesdays through Thursdays and has gymnastics on Monday and Friday afternoons. This means lots more me-and-Nick time, which is 95% awesome, with a small downside.

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Building Father-Child Memories That Last

If we want to be remembered as good dads, we have to both put in the hard work of being a good father and also carve out time for fun, memorable shared experiences with our kids. Here are some ideas on how to maximize the latter.

Star Wars is one of our family traditions
Star Wars is one of our family traditions

Flying in an airplane is much safer than covering the same distance riding in a car. Yet, most people are more afraid of flying than driving. One of the main reasons why is “Availability Bias,” in which things that are easier to call to mind (like the rare plane crash that is all over the news) are given greater weight than things that are less memorable (like the thousands of car crashes a day).

Most of the time, the availability bias is a problem that leads us to make faulty decisions regarding risk (at the beach, we may be more concerned with shark attacks than skin cancer; after watching Law & Order SVU, we vastly overestimate the incidence of child abduction, etc.). But we can also use this quirk of human memory to our advantage.

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Fun Family Science Experiments (A Photo Essay)

Last weekend, Nick and I spent some time working on four short, easy and fun science experiments. Here’s a photo-essay.

Nick really enjoyed the science experiments in this book
Nick really enjoyed the science experiments in this book

My friend, Mike Adamick, recently wrote “Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Experiments,” a follow-up to his best-selling book of kids’ projects. These science projects are easy to do, teach quick lessons, and were really fun. Here are some photos from our experiments. Enjoy.

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Former MLB Player Gabe Kapler on Being a Good Father (and Not Taking PEDs)

With Spring Training in full swing, I want to highlight a baseball-related fatherhood story–how one MLB player chose being a role model to his kids over the temptation of using PEDs.

I figured that ultimately I would be in a position in which I’d be forced to impart one of two lessons: “don’t do it like dad” or “follow in my footsteps.” I chose the latter. – Gabe Kapler

Gabe Kapler at Fenway Park
Gabe Kapler’s decision to eschew PEDs was made, in part, based on his concerns about being a good father and role model to his children (Photo: Wikipedia, creative commons license)

Gabe Kapler was a major league baseball player for 12 years. He was never a star, but was a frontline player for several years before becoming a role-player. In a recent article at Baseball Prospectus, Kapler wrote a fantastic, nuanced article about performance-enhancing drugs in baseball and his decision to eschew them. In his own words:

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A Fatherhood Lesson from Sam and Frodo

What can a Hobbit teach us about fatherhood? Here’s a quick lesson from my son’s favorite movie- The Lord of the Rings.

“I can’t carry it for you, Mr. Frodo. But I can carry you”

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Hey Dads! This Christmas, Give the Gift of You

Our kids may want things, but they NEED time with their fathers more. This Christmas, instead of stuff, we should give our kids the opportunities to do more fun things with us. Here are a few ideas how.

Christmas is a special time for kids, but we can also use it as a way to build in more dad-and-kid time throughout the year
Christmas is a special time for kids, but we can also use it as a way to build in more dad-and-kid time throughout the year

A while ago, I wrote a piece (the most popular FWF post of 2013) in which I asked a bunch of dads how they want their kids to remember their dads and childhoods. The clear and consistent response was that dads wanted, more than anything, to be remembered as a constant, loving presence in their kids’ lives.

Buying the things on our kids’ Christmas lists is good and all, but it doesn’t really do anything to further this goal of building a childhood full of happy Dad-and-Kid memories that they can hold onto through their lives. Using Christmas as a way to purchase things that create opportunities for time together can. Here are a few suggestions:

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My Life of Dad Podcast: Fatherhood, Work-Family, Star Wars, Football, and More

Last week, I had the pleasure of being featured on the really fun podcast series, “The Life of Dad After Show,” hosted by Art Eddy and Ryan E. Hamilton. We had a great half-hour conversation in which we discussed work-life balance, fatherhood, Star wars, halloween, baseball, football, and how I cope when my actress wife has … Read more

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