When asked if they considered themselves involved fathers, the majority of the room raised their hands. It was a confident raising, not one mired in self doubt or lack of confidence for what that definition really meant. There were no other factors on which to base this assumption, no litmus test on whether it were true at all, just hundreds of dads confident in their assertion that being a father meant being there for their children when it mattered the most.
Our fathers, if in the same room and asked the same question might be more of a mixed reaction; our grandfathers even more convoluted. They grew up in a time when making money was the end all be all way to provide for their families, punching a clock from start time to end time to put food on the table and clothes on their backs while singing Hi Ho! along the way. It was a different time and fatherhood is now in a different place.
I started my second trip to Dad 2.0 Summit early on a Wednesday morning. My alarm was supposed to go off at 5 a.m. but it was 4:30 and I was much too excited to eke out another 30 minutes of pretend slumber. It was still dark and my kids and wife were still sleeping. I kissed them all goodbye then I rolled out into the frigidly cold morning my breath fogging up my view. My neighbor dropped me off at the airport as he headed into work.
Planes and I don't agree on many things especially head and leg room. I often have to pull a Matrix move in the lavatory just to comfortably accommodate my frame and I almost always sit directly behind someone who immediately must put their seat back one inch to fall asleep. I'm much too tall for the seat so putting my head back means I am staring up at the ceiling and leaning forward is not an option so I just kept looking forward.
Arriving in San Francisco , I was greeted by sunshine and something I haven't felt for many months, heat. I spent the afternoon early with my friend Jeff Bogle of OWTK.com and his family and met up with Darrell Milton of ModernFatherOnline.com as we headed to The Rock to do the most touristy of attractions, Alcatraz. It was my first time seeing the bay and bridge since I was eight. I was looking forward to this. The views were spectacular and the company even more so as I got to know the dad from down under even better and spent some quality bonding time with my friends.
The tour was amazing and well worth it but the views were what sold me from the moment we landed on the island. The ferry pulled away from the dock, the screws churning the water as we rounded the point away from Alcatraz. The breeze from the bay washed over me as the sun kissed my face. It was an incredibly bright afternoon sun, the kind your eyes can never get used to. Blue skies and a veil of fog dappled the skyline as if a painter and his giant brush had swirled them together with feathery strokes. The bridge looked like a grey cutout against a white paper backdrop as if I could reach out and pick it up with my own two fingers.
Wednesday night I met up with Brent Almond of Designer Daddy and had dinner with Sam Christensen of DorkDaddy. We talked about everything we were looking forward to as the Summit and filling in Sam on what to expect. Great food and great company at MaSo in the Park Central Hotel was had by all. Sam had to leave, he had a two hour commute back home so Brent and I strolled around San Francisco talking about our families and life in general before we met up with others later at The Grove for a late night snack/dinner. I had the bacon wrapped blue cheese filled dates. Yeah, those were good.
Thursday rolled around and I met up with Dad On The Run and Don Jackson of DaddyNewbie for breakfast. I was looking forward to seeing them. The last time I had seen these guys together was at the National At Home Dad Network Convention in Denver two years ago when we all climbed Red Rocks dehydrated but elated after an energizing convention. That's the thing about friends, true friends, that no matter where you left off, they pick right back up like no time has passed. With time to kill, we walked together through Chinatown and down to the waterfront before attendees started blowing up my phone announcing their arrivals.
After I checked into the Park Central and had lunch at Dave's, I took part in the PicMonkey photo walk. As people started showing up, it hit me that while I had been spending time with all of these guys building relationships online, that it was a true testament to our feeling of brotherhood to actually meet and person and clasp hands or lend a hearty hug as if this was a reunion of long lost friends.
Dad 2.0 was just that for me and many others. By the time Thursday night's reception sponsored by Dove Men + Care and Kia rolled around, I was looking forward to all the people I wanted to meet and see. I was just so overwhelmed by all of the people coming up to me and telling me how great it was to meet me in person. That can be tough for even the most outgoing of people. I'm attributing it to the fact that I'm pretty easy to spot in a crowd, like a shiny lighthouse in a sea of people.
Despite growing up a shy kid who would often hide behind my parents when spoken to, I somehow mustered up the courage to throw my hat in as a speaker this year and present on Extreme Media Training : A Survival Guide for when your post goes viral. I was definitely looking forward to sharing my story to a packed room and was proud to share the panel with Doyin Richards of Daddy Doin Work, Jessica Shyba of MommasGoneCity, Beau Coffron of Lunchbox Dad, and Morgan Shanahan of Buzzfeed and The 818. I figured that my years as a teacher would control my nerves and that I would be presenting to an audience that was mostly comprised of my friends and colleagues. I didn't even need to imagine anyone in their underwear.
I made connections with people in the Marketplace where brands like PicMonkey, Kidde, Hot Wheels, Hasbro, KIND Snacks, Lee, Best Buy, Smarty Pants Vitamins, Netgear, Artic Cove, Ryobi, and ScholarShare were there to support all of those in attendance. Cause Partners like Camp Kesem and The National At Home Dad Network reminded us that dads who want to make a change in this world, will. I attended User Experiences with PicMonkey on editing images and even made a beverage carrier with Ryobi tools while others attended RoundTable discussions on editing, internet safety for teenagers, marketing, and podcasting and others.
Our most anticipated evening especially for the Star Wars nerds came together Friday night when we visited LucasFilm sponsored by LEGO. We sat in George Lucas' private theater and watched something that is incredibly awesome but was sworn to secrecy or Stormtroopers will find me in the night.
Saturday's programming included a powerful panel about depression, a session on how to sell yourself and be more successful, and a panel on the complexities of marriage and blogging. Dad 2.0 makes it hard to choose as everything is incredibly helpful. How you experience the Summit is what you make of it. No matter what that is, it will help you move forward.
Through it all the common thread were the people in attendance. We were well fed with snacks and food but satiated by the words of our peers, the relationships growing to all new levels of understanding and friendship. Listening to Blogger Spotlights like Bill Peebles, Justin Connors, Thom Hofman, Christopher Persley, and Dave Lesser and hearing authors read their own words is powerful beyond just hearing it in my head.
Keynote speakers like Michael Kimmel reminded us why the work toward modern fatherhood is important while closing keynote, Comedian, Jay Larson reminded us why we need to laugh along the way. In every instance there were people working towards a common goal, looking forward to the direction modern fatherhood will take next.
Dad 2.0 Summit is like going away to a weekend camp. Your apprehension about making friends falls away the first night someone introduces themselves to you and you find that by Sunday you don't want it to end. The last night as dad bloggers were gathering in the lobby of the hotel I didn't want to return to my room knowing full well that the next time I would see them all in person would be in Washington D.C.
Reluctantly, I shuffled off to get some sleep and with only a minor bump in the road at 2 a.m. courtesy of Tommy Riles and managed to get some sleep before checking out early Sunday morning. I flew in another packed plane unable to sleep invigorated by the weekend yet constrained by my seat. I already can't wait for next year and as I dwell on the photos and memories, I know they can only go so far.
How we define modern fatherhood is changing. People are starting to take notice. We aim to move fatherhood forward through our words, actions, and the way we share our voice and Dad 2.0 is all of those things and more. If you didn't make it this year, make sure I see you at camp next year in Washington DC. I'm easy to spot in a crowd, I'll be the one always looking forward.