As the ominous clouds of Hurricane Sandy moved toward the Eastern Seaboard last weekend, a group of men – myself included – gathered at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium to talk about fatherhood. Arranged by the Dad 2.0 Summit, Dove Men+Care and Edelman Digital, the event featured former quarterback Doug Flutie and aimed to open a unique discussion about fatherhood.
This “Play-By-Play on Fatherhood” was meant as a way for the average dad to see that a guy like Doug Flutie – a famous football player – was also just an average dad. It was understood, at least by me, that there was to be tears and hugs. Only really because I’m a cryer and a hugger.
But then something else happened.
The “Play-By-Play on Fatherhood” came and went. Flutie did a good job, but most of the 30 fathers in attendance felt as if he was somehow holding back; maybe Flutie wasn’t prepared, maybe he wasn’t aware that dad bloggers are the sensitive type – but there were no tears. In fact, it seemed like right as we got to a point where he was showing some emotion about being the father of an autistic child – his now-20 year old son – the event was over.
And to be fair, the “no tears” isn’t 100% true. Rob Candelino, Vice President of Brand Building for Unilever (who handles Dove Men+Care) began to get a little misty while talk about his own fatherhood. So, he set the bar high in his introduction.
Don’t get me wrong. Everything was pulled-off and done incredibly. Look, a group of guys got to sit in a field-level conference room with Doug Flutie and talk about football and fatherhood. A lot of things went right. But honestly, Flutie didn’t affect me as much as the other dads on the trip.
On the way to the airport, I met up with another dad blogger, Babble Dadding‘s Whit Honea, who was also going to be in attendance. Whit and I talked about our kids on the way to the airport, then at the airport over breakfast.
Once at our hotel in New York, Whit and I met with other attendees – Dadcentric’s Jason Avant, Blurbomat’s Jon Armstrong, The Exceptional Man’s Caleb Gardner (who, for bonus points, worked at Edelman Digital), Ron Mattocks of Clark Kent’s Lunchbox, and Doug French, the organizer of the event. We even ran into another dad blogger, Craig Heimbuch, who was in New York promoting his new book on manhood and fatherhood entitled And Now We Shall Do Manly Things.
All of us met in a bar, and over beers and bourbon, we talked about our families. And sure, the World Series was on television as well, and we talked a little about sports. But most conversations on the trip were spent talking about our children – the struggles and successes we’ve had with them, and some of the fears we’re trying to overcome.
Fathers are trying to overcome the stereotype of being an island; past generations tried to be the provider, protector and disciplinarian, all without showing any weakness through emotion. That image of fatherhood is slowly fading. As women continue to make strides in the workplace, the father doesn’t need to shoulder all of the providing. And as men learn to express their emotions (and society learns to let them), discipline too is changing.
So maybe Doug Flutie was a successful quarterback; he threw us a pass during the Dad 2.0/Dove Men+Care event, and we ran with it. Fatherhood is a team sport – we need all sorts of people, playing all sorts of positions to contribute to our team. All of these other dads that interface with our dad blogger community are great resources and awesome teammates.
So to all of the awesome teammates I met (or met again) in New York, thank you. We remind each other daily that fathers are an important part of kids’ lives through our writing – hopefully inspiring others along the way.
I’m inspired daily by this team of fathers, and together, we’re ensured a victory.