Dance in the Storm: A tale of how Fatherhood is changing

I spent the better part of the night before I left to attend Dad 2.0 Summit filled with excitement. My son and daughter gleefully put on music and took my hands so we could dance.  Filling my soul with all the joy and laughter that it could take.  I knew that I needed it to sustain me. How could I justify flying across the country, leaving my wife and three kids (all under the age of five), to go to a conference that talks about being a good dad? My hope was that it would be found in these moments pre-flight.

With a final kiss goodbye, I slid the door closed and walked into the airport. It only took two steps for me to physically feel that my heart was not with me.  Behind me, in that minivan, the one with the three crying children and teary-eyed wife, that is where my heart was.  As excited as I was to be heading to Dad 2, I felt empty and alone as I walked through the airport. Something was lacking. Stressful as it may be to travel with kids, I missed having to chase them down. Usually I would be focused on my kids as we waited in the endless TSA line. Instead, I stood there, alone. I missed it so much, that it angered me. I felt a fiery heat rise in the void that was created when my heart was left in that van.

“Real fatherhood means love and commitment and sacrifice and a willingness to share responsibility and not walking away from one’s children.” – William Bennet

All of it, all the angst and torment, was directed at myself. Angry for getting on this plane. Torment because I missed my kids. But, woefully I moved on.  I thought of the excitement that lay before me. I was going to be surrounded by other dads talking about what they have experienced, and what they are working through, as dads. This summit is a chance to have open, honest, raw and vulnerable conversations about the thing that we all love more than life itself, being a dad. There is much laughter, joking, and even crying about some of the things that we have gone through. There is so much acceptance and support for every single dad there.  It is kind of beautiful actually.

Over the last five years I have discussed the state of fatherhood. I have written about some of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. I have written with raw and visceral emotion about every time that my daughter has had a surgery.  Pouring out the feelings and encapsulating the moments while waiting for a team of surgeons to open her skull, re-shape it, and put it back together like a jigsaw puzzle. I have expressed every question, fear, and worry as many dad’s do not.  Open and exposed for the world to see.

On the other side of things, I have written about the things that have brought so much more joy than I thought possible into my life. Taking every single milestone and event as viewed through the eyes of a proud father. My pride being a banner for the world to see, and a model for my children to learn. Never shy of showing my joy for these things. Yet again, standing on the outside of ‘normal’ fatherhood.  Unashamed of showing my feelings for my amazing kids.

The same amazing kids that I just walked away from.

The void which my heart left in its wake, quivers with sorrow as I board the plane. I miss them. My God do I miss them.  Holding onto the memories of the dance gives me peace.

Why do I do this? Looking at my stats, usually with a stiff drink in hand, I can tell that my prolific writing is not just for solace, or confirmation. My reach is far narrower than many of the people that I will meet at this conference. I wonder how many know of the endless nights that I spend working though self-doubt, and creative enlightenment in ways to expand my reach. Of the countless drafts and plans that I have worked through in an effort to better tell this amazing story of my journey through fatherhood.  Then I wonder that if they did know these things, would it matter?

In my last five years of being a dad I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by some prolific storytellers, who just happen to have kids. They write and shoot videos, often tongue-in-cheek, about their adventures into this great unknown we call parenting. They do not dance around the difficult topics. Instead, they face them head on.  They have been some of my best teachers, and dearest friends, as I have pushed myself to write more, do more, show more.

As the summit carried on, one thing resounded in the general buzz of the atmosphere.  With all the ideas and accolades, there was the same sorrowful voice about how much we missed out kids. I held fast to those memories of my kids and I dancing, without a care in the world. Those memories that I crammed into my soul before leaving.  In a flash, something begin to happen. Over the crowd I could hear the music wafting through the air, mixing with the distant sounds of my children’s laughter.

It was so surreal.  I could feel the carpet under my feet and the hands of my children in mine.  I could feel my body wanting to dance with them, as though they were there.  In this moment, it hit me. There was something that says more about the current state of fatherhood then I thought real. There is something about this dance that is now screaming as an epic moment of realization. So, I do what I have done for five years and I write.  I glide my lyrical brush across time and space to make sense of it all.  Removing layer after layer of dust to uncover something for all of us to see.

The very moment that someone becomes a dad their lives are changed forever. The act of entering fatherhood means that our lives are sent careening down a torrent path filled with the ominous unknown. The twists, turns, rises and falls are consumed with moments of fear, doubt, joy and often moments so hilarious that we can do nothing but laugh. We have to make decisions very early on that forever alter our children’s lives. Ironically is a decision that most of us make absentmindedly.

Holding onto my children’s hands as we dance in the living room, something was happening. As I replayed the moment over and over again in my head, I began to see.  This moment has something hidden deep in the steps, the motion, the dance itself.  Tightly wound like my son’s hand on a Popsicle stick, or my daughter’s on a piece of chocolate, so tight that you cannot see it, and surely it would break.

In a flash, it becomes clear.  Brilliant like the sun on a summer’s day. Bright like the full moons reflection upon a still pond. This thing buried deep with the dance all centers on a single decision that we all make at that very moment we become dads. A decision that shows the importance of fatherhood as a whole, but also how the idea of fatherhood has changed.  The simple act of dancing with my children exposes a question that many do not even know they answer.

How do we raise our children to be better people then we are?

As dads, we have the obligation, not the choice, of making a decision on how to raise our children. We can raise them in such a way that forces them to fit into a mold that, in-turn, fits into our lifestyle or point of view. We could constrain them to the perfect little thoughts and dreams that we have had for them since we found out that they were on the way. Society, and all of its morals and ideals could crash into our voices, masking reason with what society feels is right and good. Or, we can get uncomfortable with the unknown, and let our children become who they want to be.

Our decision, and my choice.

As for my wife and I, we could raise our children by any of these ideals. Instead we raise our children with the motto: live big, love bigger, and be kind, always. This means that we place value in living with honor, choosing to love, and the importance of being kind. To me it doesn’t matter who my kids might grow up to be. I just want them to grow up, slowly, and be happy with who they become. I have learned that it should not matter who they want to be. What does matter is that I exhaust all efforts for them.  That I let them explore this crazy world around them. Ensuring that they find what makes them happy. Above all else, encouraging them to go after what makes them happy.

What matters is it that I cheer them on in every possible endeavor. To do this not just from the sidelines, but right there with them. That it is more important to cast aside my ideals, and help them explode onto this world, and leave a mark that THEY are happy with, not the mark that I hope they make. To show them that inclusivity STARTS at home, at our dining room table. That love and respect is a requirement, not some gracious thing they should do.

Fatherhood In Practicality…

There’s something awesome about being a dad. You must force yourself to take a step back from it all. Look past the unknown and see the brilliance and beauty behind it. If you let yourself just being your children’s cheerleader, their champion, and their springboard, there’s so much greatness that you have the ability to witness. There will be times when things don’t go their way, and all you have to do is be there for them. They will be things that they want to do that do not even remotely fit your mold.

I’ve been watching my oldest son over the last couple of days and I see something that would terrify most. He would make one damn good ballet dancer. Looking back, not too far, I would find myself doing a plethora of things.  Spend evenings outside with him tossing the football with him in hopes of him becoming a defensive end like his father.  Enrolling him in sports, wood-shop, welding and other things to entice the engineer side that I have seen in him.  Excite him with Lego’s and building sets to have his mind shift to constructive creativity.  However, fatherhood has changed. I have gleaned so much from my dad, as well as the other dads at the Dad 2 summit.

Instead of doing those things, what is it that I do?

I dance with him.

And he loves it.

Perhaps even more than I do.

 

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always

Dear CranioDad

We just dropped you off at the airport, and already I miss you. I turned on an Amazon bluegrass station once we got home, since it always reminds me of you. This was one of the first songs that I heard, from Nickel Creek:

“You got to leave me now, you got to go alone

You got to chase a dream, one that’s all your own

Before it slips away

When you’re flyin’ high, take my heart along

I’ll be the harmony to every lonely song

That you learn to play
When you’re soarin’ through the air

I’ll be your solid ground

Take every chance you dare

I’ll still be there

When you come back down

When you come back down
I’ll keep lookin’ up, awaitin’ your return

My greatest fear will be that you will crash and burn

And I won’t feel your fire

I’ll be the other hand that always holds the line

Connectin’ in between your sweet heart and mine

I’m strung out on that wire
And I’ll be on the other end, To hear you when you call

Angel, you were born to fly, If you get too high

I’ll catch you when you fall

I’ll catch you when you fall

Your memory’s the sunshine every new day brings

I know the sky is calling

Angel, let me help you with your wings
When you’re soarin’ through the air

I’ll be your solid ground

Take every chance you dare

I’ll still be there

When you come back down

Take every chance you dare,

I’ll still be there

When you come back down

When you come back down”

Needless to say, the tears flowed quickly. I’m so excited for you, and excited with the fire that this conference fans in you to be a better dad. But it’s still never easy to be without you.

It is nearly here: Dad 2.0 Summit, building a community

“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.”- Anthony J. D’Angelo

Before I knew it, the calendar changed, and the time to pack had come.  List of stuff and things flew through my mind at a breakneck pace, and began to create a whirlwind around me.  But in a moment, it all stopped, and came resting down on the ground.  There was something missing, something that I had allowed my excitement for this journey to block my view. In that moment, it became clear what that was. Fighting the desire to fall in tears for the enormity of what I had missed, I moved forward.  I moved past all the stuff, the things, the lists and scooped my children up in my arms.  We laughed, we played, we hugged, and we kissed. And life became our chaotic sense of normal again.

Tomorrow I will be leaving to begin the first leg of my journey to the Dad 2.0 Summit.  This will be my second time having the honor of attending. It is no small shock to me that I have the same level of excitement as I did last year.  There is very much the feeling of Christmas, of family, of community. Last year I went only know a few of the dads in attendance. Furthermore, I only knew them by our on-line interactions. Coming away from the summit last year, I left with friends.

I met some of my hero’s, and proved the adage horribly wrong.  I met knew people, and received a great deal of guidance on my next steps.  There are a few that I have hung out with over the last year.  We have been able to expand on our experiences, and broaden our sense of community. There are many that I have spoken with frequently.  There have been ventures that we have entered together, and learned a lot along the way.  Ultimately, it made me a better father.  This community made me cognizant of what I am doing, and what I plan to do.

But in the hustle and bustle of getting ready to go to a social media conference, I was sacrificing time.  Time with my children, and my wife. Time that this community of dad’s has shown over and over again is of the up-most importance. It has also made me painfully aware that my children are another year older (plus we have one more, so there is that). That in a blink of an eye a year has passed.  That time is truly ever moving.

All of this being said, I am eager to meet with some of the friends that I have made since last year.  I am looking forward to the adventure that Kia has afforded us the opportunity of as we drive from Las Vegas to San Diego.

By the way, selfless plug here, you should be following the hashtags #KiaDad and #NiroDads to make sure you can see the hilariousness as well as have a chance to win some awesome prizes.

I am not looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.  To watching my family drive away as I enter the airport.  To missing even more time with my amazing kids.  At least, and this is no small thing, there is the community of dad’s awaiting to gather.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always

And so the trip preparations begin….

​Just got the suitcases down for my trip to #dad2summit. David walked in… The following conversation happened:
D: what you doing daddy?

Me: I am getting ready for my trip this week kiddo.

D: Daddy trip?

Me: yes little man. I have a trip this week on a plane. I will be gone a few days, but I will be back soon.

D: me go on plane with daddy?

Me: no little man, not this time. Just daddy.

D: (walking out of the room) I go with daddy.
About a minute goes by. I walk out of the bedroom to find David walking back down the hall twords me…
Me: All done for now little man, let’s go…

D: *big smile* let’s go! I go to airport with daddy.
🙁
Did not realize until that moment that while David was gone, he had put on his coat and shoes…..
This is going to be a hard week.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Amidst the sorrow…

Look for the good.

It has been hard to post things as of late. Our world seems to be in so much pain and chaos that my own words sound bitter to my ears. But there is much good, it surrounds us, it bathes us in light… even if we don’t see it.

One of our many jobs as parents is to help shape this world into something worthy of leaving for our kids. There are times that we really suck at that. But yesterday a group of 12 dads crossed a finish line, and made a lasting impact.

#dads4kesem was a chance to do something amazing, out of the memory of a friend. These 12 dads set out with a goal, walk Hadrian’s Wall (84 miles) to raise funds to start a new chapter of Camp Kesem in Baltimore, in memory of the visionary that started the Dad Bloggers Network. I am honored to be part of this network, I am sorrowed because I never met Oren, but I am in awe of these guys. I am even more inspired by the fact that THEY DID IT!

These dads show that there is still good. They have shown that there is a selfless streak that still runs through dads today. Regardless of how the media chooses to show fatherhood, regardless of how companies view paternity leave,or regardless of how society views parenting in general, they chose to do this for the kids that they will never meet. They chose to walk nearly 100 miles (there were some detours) to create a place for kids who are dealing with the loss of a parent due to cancer. They did it for Beth (Oren’s wife), they did it for Oren’s kids, they did it to honor a legacy, and to create new ones.

These guys leave me feeling a little better about the world. And a lot better about fatherhood. Because of this, go, check them out and tell them how awesome they are.

Check this post out!

Take a moment and check out this awesome post.  I am honored to have met DoubleTroubleDaddy at Dad 2.0, and this post does an excellent job of saying how many of us felt.  I have spoken with him a few times since #dad2summit and this is defiantly the biggest thing that he has been feeling for some time.  Besides being an awesome piece, he is an awesome guy with a fantastic blog.

So please, check it out and give him some love.

http://www.doubletroubledaddy.com/my-legacy/

 

The last day…

The passion for being a dad was visceral as we sat on the edges of our seats for all the right reasons at #dad2summit

The room was full, and the excited murmur was hanging in the air.  the boundless vibration spoke all too well to the mood of the room.  A myriad of excitement and refreshment mixed together into the sweetest cocktail that was garnished with some sadness.  All in this room drank it in, taking deep belly filling gulps that were edified by the conversations, the laughter, and the hugs. As the lights dimmed for the last time, a familiar face took his place.  For a moment that seemed like an eternity, the room feel silent.  The pride on his face had not lessened over these last few days.  From the back of the room there was a cheer and some clapping.  Like an endless zypeher the clapping increased and increased is deep voice reaching all in the room.  They all knew (most) of what to expect.  Afterall, this was the beginning of the end.

It was so difficult to realize that the final day was already here, but there was little time left to dwell on that point. We had a couple of amazing dads stand up and read blogs, one hitting so close to home that I almost had to step out, find a quiet place, and ball my eyes out.  But, more on that later.  Thanks to Meta Health we also had the chance to listen to Michael Strahan talk about what life is like in his shoes.  He was hilarious, congenial, and all around a great guy.  At the end of the day, we all crowded into the room for the closing keynote speaker, Derreck Kayongo.  Now, to be transparent, I did not think that I had ever heard of Derreck prior to the announcement that he was going to be our closing keynote.  Even then, I did little to no research prior to the event.  Call it procrastination, life having its way, or what may you… but it is the truth.  This resulted in me preparing to listen to his story, his charge, and his battle cry with little prior thought.

As soon as he started speaking, I knew that I knew something of what he has done.  I knew that I was aware of the legacy he was working towards.  I had heard about the Soap Project many times, and always revered what it was about.  For those of you that do not know, Derreck is the guy that has been convincing hotels from around the United States to donate their used soap for recycling and donation to villages in Africa. His story is deep and powerful, his charge about raising children in a world of inclusivity was demanding and heartfelt, his question and answer session was poignant and direct, his entire keynote session was amazing.  I took some time between the laughter and tears to look around.  There was not one dad that was not transfixed on this man, that was not leaning in to take in all that he was saying, or that was not as in awe as myself.  To say that he inspired the ENTIRE room of 400+ dads would be a horrible understatement.

As if this was not all enough, we closed Derreck’s keynote… in song.  In this tribal song, we were wishing peace for everyone.  Having a room full of dads, coming off of an amazing weekend, singing together about peace…many of us (myself included) were quivering out of amazement.  In fact, after the prizes and announcements there were many of us sitting in silence after some had left for the closing reception. Some were blogging, and some were sitting in utter shock as to the awesomeness that had just happened.  

This song, and weekend, has had a profound impact on me, I listen to my recording of the song daily. Eyes closed, headphones on, I lose myself for a minute of pure reflection on this very moment. It is the perfect embodiment of what this summit was about for me.  Legacy, unification, support, knowledge sharing, shaking hands and hugging, getting to know some amazing dads, all ending in a bass filled song about peace.  I am beyond excited that I have already purchased my ticket for Dad 2.017 in San Diego.  I am busy taking in all that I have learned and putting it to practice.  I am still immersed in, quite possibly, the most amazing community of dads that could possibly exist. Most of all, I am humbled.  Not only that I was afforded the opportunity to attend such an amazing event, but that you.. my dear readers… have followed along with me.  I hope that in some way, shape or form I have been able to do some justice to all that I experienced.  That I was able to make you feel as though you were there. Perhaps I have inspired you to attend next year… because if you are reading this, and you are a dad then you should know…
I AM A CRANIO DAD, I am scared out of my mind and being a dad is the best thing in the world, surrounding yourself with others that feel the same way can catapult you to some of the greatest moments you will ever experience.

We’re Knights of the Round Table…

Need some help getting the word out? So much to learn at #dad2summit

The room was set and the instructions were given. “Every 20 minutes you can change tables, move on to the next, meet someone new”. With that, the conversations started, introductions were made, and lives were changed.

No, this is not some version of speed dating. We have numerous roundtable discussions across a wide variety of topics.  I attended as many as time would allow, and garnered so much information it is a bit silly. The biggest push that I received was in the area of podcasting. I have all the equipment that I need, I have tried to record a few, but it never ends well. What I was given was the motivation to hit publish.  I have a better understanding of how to approach the fact that this is something new.  Like many things it is organic, and it will grow into something better. I also have a ton of contacts that are more than willing to help me with any of the hurdles that I will come across.

The ability to learn from some of the best when it comes to marketing, writing, podcasting, and content is something that you cannot put a price on. So many changes, and I want to do them all.  But, having the peace of mind of direction, the knowledge that it will be ok, and the contacts to help me if and when I get into a rough spot will help keep me on track, and on a steady pace of change.

And just think, ultimately, you, my dear readers, are the ones who will benefit the most!

I AM A CRANIO DAD, I am scared out of my mind and I want to give you all the content!

#DadSlam

We laughed, we cried, we bonded at #dad2summit though #dadslam

Rumor had it that this was going to be a small gathering. This was obviously not the case. Dad after dad came in, put their names in a hat, and found a seat. Lively conversations took place while the stage was set, and the names started being drawn. With each name, there was a resounding sound of acknowledgement and a single person would stand. They would walk upfront and take their place, and begin.

We are all bloggers. We write, we podcast, we vlog, and we engage. This summit is a chance for us to all meet, gather, share ideas and support one another. There is something magical about being able to HEAR the writer read their own words, knowing that as they read they are being taken back to the moment.  Everyone that I heard was amazing, I mean really amazing. The talent that was in this room was breathtaking.

This was the first year that #dadslam was held. No one was sure how many would show up, let alone want to share.  Well, there were so many that it was decided that this is going to become a part of #dad2summit. We went until just past midnight, and barely scratched the surface. There were readings that were workshopped with us, works in progress looking for reactions and insight.  There were readings that we out and out hilarious.  The laughter HAD to echo throughout the entire hotel as it was deep, loud and genuine. If we were not wiping tears from our eyes due to laughing so hard, it was because of some that were on the other end of the emotional scale. There were some that were so deep, so open, so raw when it comes to some of the painful parts of being a dad that we were all in some state of crying. Think about that for a moment, think about what society WANTS dads to be like.  Yet, there, in that room, into the long hours of the night, there we were opening our hearts, and wearing them on our sleeves like a badge of honor.

After each reading there was tons of support, not just for what the reader said, but how they said it… or that they said it at all. We eventually had to end, but long after we closed for the night, many carried on. The feeling of many who took part in #dadslam in any way was profound.  The ripples of the reading persisted through the next day, were topics of discussion, have been posted in blogs, and may continue on for quite some time.

There was no singular theme, and that is a good thing. I am honored to have been part of the 1st Annual #dadslam, that I was able to sign the board, and even though I was not selected to read, I will be looking for just the right posts to take with me next year.It is hard to pick the ‘best’ part of #dad2summit, but #dadslam is at or very near the top of the long list.

I AM A CRANIO DAD, I am scared out of my mind and I cannot express the talent and voices that were represented that night as well as I wish.

A Night at the Museum

Food + booze + Legos + museum after dark + Lego Master Builder = #dad2summit

Bus after bus pulled up in front of the stoic, stone building. The line of men seemed endless as they were herded through the doors as the clouds danced in front of the moon. The cool air was no match for the excitement in the air. As they made their way through security, the sounds of deep voices echoed off the walls, Before them hung a beautiful glass sculpture representing the star spangled banner. Candle lit tables spaced throughout the dark atrium had Legos which were quickly turned into a myriad of designs.

Ever since I was three, I have LOVED Legos. So much that when some rather shady movers took some items when we moved halfway across the United States I was (and still am) devastated by the three gallon popcorn tin of Legos that went missing.

This event so lovingly called “A Night at the Museum” was stellar.  One of the first things that I did was take a look at the display of “The Star Spangled Banner”. Filled with patriotic pride, and flooded with many memories, I had to sit down to take it all in. I am still process what it was about this that made me so emotional, and that will be in a later post if an answer is ever found. Lego worked with the Smithsonian to give us access to The National Museum of American History.

We were enticed with food and drink (of course) and were able to create some amazing things to have on display in the museums SPARK lab. Having a Master Builder there to emcee and direct a few awesome games was a huge plus. Being able to walk through (most) of the museum without worrying about what my kids are doing (or touching) and being able to take it all in was amazing.  Being able to sit and talk with the Master Builder, and BUILD with him was mind blowing. The entire night was awesome, and an experience that I will remember.

I AM A CRANIO DAD, I am scared out of my mind and I cannot believe that I was able to meet and build with a Master Builder!