Leading up to it, I know that one of the most common questions I (and many of the other dads who attended) have been asked about the convention is some variation on “What do you do there? What would you talk about?”
Having never been before, I was never really sure how to answer that, but it turns out that answer is really not that complicated.
We talk about parenting! We talk about the strategies, struggles, and successes. We talk about potty training, teaching your kids about bullies, and how to get them to eat their veggies. We talk about developing good communication with your spouse, and about finding, starting, and building a local dad’s group. We talk about beer and sports and movies and George R.R. Martin and how to plan a toddler’s birthday party without going insane.
You know, parenting!
To top it off, we get to do this in a way that helps drive home not just the importance of what we do as dads, but also that we’re not alone in doing it. This sort of community support is one of the things that most at-home dads are lacking where they are, so a weekend like this to recharge and get connected with a community from across the nation is huge. HUGE.
Here are a few of the highlights for me…
Getting to meet so many awesome dads, many that I have only known previously through their blogs, Facebook, or Twitter posts, was huge. Putting actual faces and voices to names is a great way to really connect with people, as it turns out! I also got to meet a ton of guys who were complete strangers at the start and brothers in dadding by the end. What a treat.
I am incredibly proud at how Huggies stepped up as a major sponsor for the convention, and whatever small role I played in helping facilitate that. Although I was unable to arrive in time for the community service project run by Huggies, the general sense throughout the weekend was one of gratefulness that we have them “in our corner,” as it were.
Dr. Rene Hackey‘s session on Managing Power Struggles and Helping Your Kids Listen Better had so much advice that hit home with me. It’s going to be tough to apply some of it, but I feel like it’s going to be a good thing for our home, and will be worth the price of admission alone.
Dr. Brad Harrington, Executive Director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family, made a great presentation about the results of their study on at-home fathers. He was informative and actually quite funny.
The Age-Based Forum time, when I got to share and hear advice, tips, and stories about the specific challenges involved in parenting kids the age that mine are currently. I actually sat in front of a dad with two kids who are each within about a month of the ages of my own two.
We got to hear from Jeremy Hilton, 2012 Military Spouse of the Year, and the first man so honored. He has taken on an agenda that advocates for the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), which provides resources and support for US military families with special needs. I know his talk inspired a lot of the dads there, and talking with him after his session it seemed like he was even a little inspired by all of us. So, cool.
One of my personal highlights of the weekend was getting to participate in a panel discussion on dads and the media with the guys from the NYC Dads Group, Matt Peregoy, and David Worford. I felt like it was a great conversation, and I think I managed to not stick my foot in my mouth too much (my strange compulsion towards potato-related metaphors aside). We’re thinking maybe we should take our show on the road.
Several free beers, all of them cold and delicious, and good conversation as they went down.
Exploring Washington, DC and Alexandria, VA a little bit on foot (I haven’t been to the National Mall in decades now, and it was great to be able to see some of the sights) and visiting the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center (getting to see amazing aircraft like the a SR-71 Blackbird, the Enola Gay, and especially the Space Shuttle Discovery was incredible.) Doing the above with no children in tow? AMAZINGLY relaxing.
Clearly, I had a great time.
If you are an at-home dad, by any definition, I would highly encourage you to mark your calendar for next year’s convention, the weekend of September 28, 2013, in Denver, Colarado.