I’m sure my children wonder why I sometimes fly to different cities for a few days without their mother or them. Most of the time, “it’s for work,” is all they know. Maybe they’ll see a picture their grandmother shows them while I’m away from a silly website called The Facebook, like the one my mother showed them a few days ago:
The fact that they recognized my caption of “There is still good in him; I can feel it” as a Luke Skywalker attribution gives me great joy. Great joy.
But this annual trip is different. Yes, I was “working” in that I volunteered again to be a live blogger for several of the panels. But my reasoning for going is much more important than “for work.” Most of the time when I travel for a conference, it’s to get educational credits, network, see old friends, or learn how to better perform a skill that will translate into more business. I suppose many people go to the Dad 2.0 Summit for these reasons, and I can’t say I don’t benefit from it in these categories, but the reason I go is to learn to be a better dad. Having been to multiple BlogHer, Mom 2.0, Type A Parent, and all Dad 2.0 conferences, I’d say that’s the principle difference in this gathering.
Last year after this summit, I decided to scrap a blog where I’d been writing since May 2008 to start one that didn’t make me cringe at the thought of having my name associated with it (or for my children to read it). One of the speakers talked about epic trips with his children, and I thought, “I want to do that type of stuff,” and an hour or so later, when I was talking to my new friend Jeff about my trip to Pamplona to run with the bulls, he asked me a question I’ve been thinking about ever since: “Would you ever do that again…with your son?” I didn’t have a definite answer for him, but when I came home and mentioned it to my son (5 at the time), he said, “I sure as hell would!” (or something similar, but his inflection said exactly that), and we’ve been talking about it ever since as if it’s a sure thing when he has his 18th birthday. And reading “Love Does” on the plane ride home only reinforced my desire to do lots of such trips with my children, because that was love does, and I love them.
But my takeaways from this year’s summit weren’t limited to a book on the plane or memories of 2014. The opening keynote inspired me to be a “good man” over a “real man.” I was astounded to learn that children actually have fewer mental and behavioral issues if they see both parents helping with housework (and daughters’ career aspirations will be higher). This was convicting, as my children hardly ever see me doing housework. Does anyone ever ask his wife to let him do more housework in front of his children? I’m about to.
I also became emboldened to aim higher with partnership opportunities through blogging. That may seem like it’s awfully business-oriented when I said I go to this conference for the touchy-feely stuff, but it involves a place I’ve visited a few times for media/blogging events and am trying to use it for a celebration that will otherwise exceed five figures. After a bunch of “not happening” responses, I tried again with their media outreach person and am waiting on a response. And for that, I thank the folks on the “Proactivity Makes Its Own Luck” panel.
I also came away inspired by the mentoring panel. You see, Atlanta has this new program called “veterans court.” I signed up a while back but haven’t made time to meet with my mentee yet, and a large reason why is because I’ve felt intimidated by the prospect of trying to help someone who’s older than I am and has had multiple issues with law enforcement and alcohol. Well, I’ve had multiple issues with law enforcement and alcohol, too, and I’m tired of being scared to try to help someone I’m not sure I can benefit. Because you know what’s not helpful? Not helping. I committed today to the program chair to be with my mentee Friday morning in court at his hearing.
Present in multiple panels and talks was the idea of prioritizing fatherhood, despite the fact that society pushes men to spend their time–nearly all of it–working. I remembered when my 8-year-old and 6-year-old were born. I was there with my bride on the day each was born and drove home from the hospital when we were released. And immediately afterward (as in, a few minutes later), I drove to the office. I’m so thankful I’m no longer in a professional position of billing hours and trying to make equity partner one day. As stressful and frustrating as self-employment and trying to help injured (and often lower-income) individuals can be at times, autonomy makes it worth it, and exponentially so. I can’t know for certain what my life would look like right now had I not quit that world in 2009, but I’m absolutely positive I wouldn’t have as good of a relationship with my children.
One day, my children will realize that my annual trips to the Dad 2.0 Summit benefited them in ways that were even greater than the bag of Transformers and Legos I gave them today after dinner. And for that, I’m grateful that this program continues to grow, and I can’t wait for its fifth installment in 2016.