I talked to a dad a thousand miles from where I live as he was being attacked by a turkey. It’s amazing how clear and close a squawk from a bird can sound over the phone. But this is what I learned after I interviewed dad after dad: You can’t stop them from talking about being a father, even if they are fighting off a turkey.
Yes, I wrote a book of parenting advice for stay-at-home dads but that’s not the purpose of my writing this. It’s to express my utter amazement for all the fathers I spoke to during my research and to give a real-life example of the state of fatherhood.
So many articles your read talk about fathers in stoic terms. Hell, in half of them you can almost imagine a sunset and a horse. The other half of the articles we read are about how dads are not parenting right. That we are clueless when it comes to our families, or we don’t pull our weight. I can safely tell you that the popular image given to the world is complete bullshit. Not only do dads parent with the best of them, they know exactly what they are doing.
Hacks not for moms or dads – for parents
Did you know you should carry two different types of adhesive bandages in your diaper bag? Giving the child a choice helps distract them from the hurt.
How about what kind of cast iron pan you should get and what can you make in it?
Need help dealing with your anxiety?
The dads I talked to had answers to all these questions and more.
What amazed me most, though, is that they were so willing to share. Conversations that might have been two minutes long would easily turn into hours as I spoke to each dad. They just wouldn’t stop, and I was grateful for it. These guys had the same passion as I do about fatherhood.
What really blew me away was that as they spoke, as they gave me the best bits of themselves, not one of them thought they were special. The advice that had taken so many of them years to learn was given freely and with the caveat of “Oh, that one? That’s no big deal.” I heard that from a guy who was currently remodeling a home with his pre-teen son.
We like to separate parents, and categorize the advice we give as “for moms” and “for dads.” I get asked a lot when it comes to parenting: “Well, what else worked for you as a dad?” It’s a way to separate and qualify any statement I make thereafter. As if the advice I’ve learned from so many is “just for dads” or “dad is being silly, but I suppose this works.” It bugs the ever-loving shit out of me.
When I talked to all these fathers, this is what often went through my head. Having a coffee grinder in your garage so you don’t wake up a napping child when you need an afternoon java fix isn’t just great dad advice, it’s great parenting advice! And show me a vacuum that can clean up a knocked-over box of cereal mixed with flour better than the wet/dry vac. Kids are messy so getting the gear that makes life easier shouldn’t be limited by gender.
As I talked to all these dads, I concluded that when you want a hard job done right, there is no better place to go for great parenting advice than to a father covered in experience.
It takes more than a village
We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” So, in researching and writing my book I set out to not only to find that village but give a roadmap to the dads who come after me. I’ve been lost out in the world of fatherhood many times. I’ve had to stumble over rocky paths and hope what I was doing was the right thing. Along the way, I was lucky enough to find the guys in my life who made the journey easier, the one who could help carry my load and give me directions.
That’s what I wanted for the men who come after me. And I wanted to change the conversation around fatherhood. To change it from the bumbling idiot to the man who knows exactly what he is doing. Because those are the fathers I encounter on a day-to-day basis.
Each of the fathers I spoke to, from all over the country and in a few instances, all over the world, were the dads I always knew were out there. They go about their lives quietly, focused on their children. They struggle with everyday tasks and their mental health. But they also figure out how to deal with it. They are not constrained by what is expected of them by others, only by what they expect of themselves.
They are the problem-solvers of the parenting world. And after they solve a problem, they make a note of it for later reference then move on to the next problem. And there’s no way I can give them all the rewards and credit they deserve. But to put it clearly, I am in awe of them.
Yes, the saying is that it takes a village to raise a child. I have concluded that this statement is incorrect. That saying doesn’t go far enough. It does not recognize the truly amazing fathers I talked to month after month.
It takes a city to raise a child, and I count myself lucky to be among its residents.