Dads (and moms) from around the country (and Canada!) descended on beautiful New Orleans last weekend, for the third annual Dad 2.0 Summit. We gathered to talk about modern fatherhood and masculinity, about raising the bar for ourselves and empowering other dads to reach for that higher bar too. We came together to have conversations about these things as they evolve in the 21st century not just with one another, but with representatives from the media, marketing, advertising and brands who want to learn about how to reach and respect dads, and more importantly to join the conversation.
It took about 4 minutes into the kick-off before most of us were wiping tears from our eyes, as this video reminded us that these conversations are actually making a difference:
It’s hard to put into words a weekend like this, where the community built and nourished and strengthened during the evening hours, in the streets and cafes of New Orleans, were as important as the sessions, workshops, panel discussions, and opportunities to meet with representatives from brands who want to work with dads.
Last year I showed up starry-eyed, lucky to have a handful of friendly faces, but mostly intimidated to be surrounded by writers whose work I admire so much.
This year was different, in no small part thanks to Oren Milller’s (A Blogger and a Father) decision to do what no one else had thought to do yet, and start the Dad Bloggers Facebook group. It is now almost 600 members strong, and the community built online meant that I walked into Dad 2.014 feeling like I was going to the best reunion ever. I was greeted with hugs and handshakes and inside jokes about my lack of orange pants by guys who I had never met in person before but feel like I know well, through their honest writing about just trying to be a good dad.
I was honored to again this year be at Dad 2.0 with a team representing the members of the National At-Home Dad Network, and was happy to hear that our presence was really felt all weekend. While we stay-at-home dads are in many ways on the “front lines” of being the public face of dads as totally competent caregivers, our message certainly isn’t limited only to dads who take on the primary caregiver role in their home. Much of our advocacy work on behalf of dads goes hand-in-hand with that being done by the bloggers who attended, and it was great to have such solidarity with all men who just want to be better dads.
When Josh Levs took to the stage on Friday he called us what we felt like: brothers. His brothers, in fact, in the “coolest fraternity” he could imagine. Fellow dads, fighting the same good fight, with the shared knowledge that “you can’t have ‘family values’ without valuing fathers.” He shared his own story of fatherhood, including the dramatic arrivals of his children, his discovery of this movement of men trying to raise the bar, and his decision to join the fight for equality for dads.
The most inspiring moment of the weekend was, it seems unanimous, when Lorne Joffe — who writes about raising his daughter while he battles sometimes crippling anxiety and depression — read, during a Blogger Spotlight, a brutally honest piece to the enraptured crowd. The fear in his face was palpable, but his bravery was stronger than his fear, and we love him for it. He seemed genuinely shocked at the standing ovation he received, but it was well earned. By the end of the weekend I was glad to have the chance to share a meal with him and tell him how inspiring he was to me.
Another highlight moment was getting to participate in a panel discussion about men and marketing, moderated by Jeffrey Porzio from FORGE Worldwide, along with Trey Burley from Daddy Mojo, and Matt Tumminello from Target-10. I thought it was a fascinating discussion, and I was honored to be a part of it.
I could go on and on, describing these “Moments,” because there were so many.
Moments that were profound, like hearing Jason Katims talk about portraying real, honest, groundbreaking, and vulnerable dads on his shows Parenthood and Friday Night Lights.
Moments that were cultural highlights afforded by being in New Orleans, like the bucket-list-worthy opportunity to see and hear the Preservation Hall All-Star Jazz Band on their home turf.
And the food! Oh Lord, the food. From pork cheeks to gumbo, from beignets to bacon-wrapped shrimp and grits, sometimes it felt each bite was a Moment all of its own.
I suppose there’s no better way to impress how meaningful this weekend was than this: 24-hours after I arrived home to Portland, I had already registered for the Dad 2.0 Summit 2015.
I hope to see you there, and have you join me any my brothers as we continue the conversation.
In the meantime, it’s back to my full-time job as the Tickle Monster, because good golly I missed my boys.