I walked over-encumbered, bags slung over both shoulders, into the lobby of the Park Central San Francisco Hotel. I’d been driving all day, and frankly, wasn’t in the mood to talk about men, fathers and families. I wasn’t ready to talk about dads in the workplace. I was ready to lay on a bed and zone out.
Then I saw fellow blogger, friend and my cohost for Nerds, Geeks, Dads, Art Eddy. I’d known him for four years and only met him face-to-face once in New York for a 2012 roundtable on fatherhood with former NFL quarterback, Doug Flutie. I remembered how great it was meeting other bloggers on that trip. How, despite the fact that a former pro quarterback stood among us, we formed circles and talked to the other bloggers – our real role models – a bunch of dads whose successes aren’t counted in touchdowns, but in hugs and kisses from our kids.
Flashforward to Friday night of the Dad 2.0 Summit, where Art Eddy, Ryan E. Hamilton, Patrick Quinn (Life of Dad), Jeff Bogle (Out With the Kids), Chris Routly (Daddy Doctrines), Lorne Jaffe (Raising Sienna) and I trounced each other in Mortal Kombat running on a laptop hooked up to the hotel room TV.
It’s fairly safe to say that my first Dad 2.0 Summit was kind of a big deal for me.
To be fair, the Dad 2.0 Summit is a big deal for a lot of other dad bloggers, and arguably, parents in general. The conference drew more than 350 fathers, mothers, academics and advertisers together to talk about the changing role of fathers in their families and careers. It seems like a small sample of the population, but we’re talking about some of the most vocal men and women on the internet.
I won’t bore you with the details, but fathers are a thing. Billions of dollars are being put into images of fatherhood in Super Bowl commercials. And year-round, the images of fathers are improving in the media; TV dads are shifting from looking like bumbling fools to being capable caretakers. But there’s always more work to do.
We heard some of what needs to be done in the words of Summit organizer Doug French, followed by Dr. Michael Kimmel, who is an author, and director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, where he’s the Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies. For what it’s worth, Kimmel’s speech was great and made me want to pick up one of his books.
But I’ve got to say, the transformative thing about the Dad 2.0 Summit is the retreat-like atmosphere. There you are, hundreds of fathers. Sure, there are moms and brands there too. But look around you and you’re sharing a table with a bunch of men who have the same successes, failures, fears and sources of pride that you have. It’s a weekend of men leaning on each other (and not just because of the occasional free drink). In years of blogging, I wasn’t able to dig as deeply as I could in a 10 minute conversation with some of these guys. We weren’t misunderstood by the lack of sarcasm in on-screen text. We weren’t jockeying for room on peoples’ newsfeeds. We weren’t trying to scream over each other on social media about who’s got the best podcasts (I mean, clearly it’s me, but whatever).
Even guys I only marginally liked online were really wonderful in-person. They were people. Not flat dad-characters on the internet. They were round, wonderful people, all with voices and personalities – both similar and different than those online.
And sure, there were some talks, panels and readings. My favorite part was hearing some of my friends read their blog posts aloud. And while I’m a crier and WILL CRY while reading written words, it’s a whole ‘nother powerful beast to hear the crack in a reader’s voice as he hits a particularly difficult passage. And it’s a wonderful moment to hear sniffs around the room, as other dads wipe their tears away.
Dad 2.0 Summit is a place where hundreds of people confirm that they are one community. And nothing could have said that better than organizers Doug French and John Pacini announcing the Oren Miller Dad 2.0 Scholarship Fund. The announcement followed a letter by Oren Miller, read by dad blogger and friend Brent Almond. Oren, who had fallen ill with lung cancer last year and couldn’t make it to Dad 2.0, unfortunately passed away one week later, on February 28. But he was honored and humbled to hear that a scholarship would bear his name.
Through the scholarship fund, people can donate money to cover the costs of bringing someone to Dad 2.0 who couldn’t otherwise afford it. This year, donations can be made at the time of the 2016 conference ticket purchase. And within 48 hours of Dad 2.015’s completion, three full scholarships were funded. How’s that for community?
For me, the “big deal” about Dad 2.0 was in the people and the moments. Sure, you exchange a couple of business cards, make a couple of deals to write sponsored content, listen to a roundtable for helpful hints in blog search engine optimization. But the in-between times were the best. I never thought I’d meet and connect with some of these fathers and mothers.
The big deal is, as it always should be, people. And I can’t wait to see them all at the Dad 2.0 Summit next year.