I’m sitting in the Grand Ballroom at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. I’m at an empty table sitting amongst 25 or so other empty tables as the familiar hum of this Dad 2.0 Summit remains strong even on this it’s last day. The conversations I’m not eavesdropping on but I can’t avoid hearing them. They are dads talking to other dads about being dads. The topics run the gamut from the funny foibles we’ve all experienced, to the money challenges to conversations about writing about your family and all the glories and pitfalls that can entail. There are men learning that they aren’t alone in the specific challenges they may face around diseases that have effected their families and challenges that feel slightly more manageable now that they know someone who understands. There’s a LOT of dad humor and no one here that finds it anything but funny. From the hall there’s the din of conversations with sponsors teaching about products and dads learning and building relationships with brands to try to create mutually beneficial relationships.
The formal learning has been exceptional. The challenges facing parents these days may or may not be any greater than they’ve always been. But what’s undeniable is that many of the challenges are new. A simple example is social media. My kids are only 5 and 3 and I’m already scared of all that it can do to hurt them. Of all people I should be able to see it’s benefits as I’ve truly found my voice in that space. But nope, I’m a dad and since the day that my kid was born I’ve adopted a new personality trait, I’m a worrier. So be it.
Yesterday morning the keynote address was given by the novelist, children’s book author, comic book writer and all around raconteur, Brad Meltzer. I’ve strangely become a fan of his work through the podcast tour he did a few months back ahead of his most recent release. He is a genuinely thoughtful person and someone that really seems to get it. He understands that this is all a gift, all of it. His talk was on ‘Legacy’. He spoke about ways in which we will be remembered. His point, at least what I gleaned from it, was that we are how we treat people and how we treat people is how we will be remembered. It’s a message I agree with intuitively, but it’s always helpful when someone puts words to such a thing. One message he emphasized was that it’s critically important that we thank the people that have made a difference in our lives. Well, I have quite a few people that deserve a ton of thanks from me. I’m lucky, blessed, whatever you want to call it, to have had so many people that have made a truly amazing impact on my life who I’ve probably never fully thanked. I’d like to make a tiny dent in that list today. I won’t be listing the biggies, Mom and Dad, siblings and relatives, my amazing wife and my kids. I thank those folks all the time and will continue to. But sitting here it occurs to me that there are particular folks that I Have to thank who’ve played a role in my being here, confident about writing and sharing my life. People who’ve really built me up, had faith in me and pushed me to challenge myself. It’s a small list and there are so many who will be left out, but I have to start somewhere….
Sharon. Sharon was the camp director at Harriman Lodge, the summer camp for adults with disabilities that is amongst my favorite places on earth where I worked happily and ceaselessly for my entire 20’s. Sharon gave me chances and saw something in me that I suspected was there, but never knew. She identified me personally in my first year and told me she thought I had what it took to run a place like Harriman (a dream I haven’t YET realized but at this stage it’s largely been due to circumstance, and the fact that the current director is AMAZING!) Thank you, Sharon. Thank you for giving me true responsibility. Thank you for giving me the space to fail and to learn from it. Thank ou for believing in me.
Briton, et al. Briton is a writer and a dad. When I first started writing about parenthood and my experiences I was pretty happy having my stuff read by friends and complimented from time to time. I was scratching at surfaces and feeling like I was getting somewhere. But Briton decided he had faith in me and thought I could do more, better work and he was right. Eventually, and he may only be learning this now, I started feeling competitive with him. With his work. He’s brilliant and his highs are things I still strive for and am inspired by. Beyond this, he literally built my support network of fellow writers and editors. While the original landing spot for these relationships has fallen apart, the core group of my writing friends who I can rely on for everything still exists and remains strong. You’ll know who these folks are as they will all, in some way, support this piece when it goes public. They are all exceptional writers and you should read them. Thank you, Briton. You are quite the generous scribe and you have been a beacon for me and so many others on the journey.
My friends from home, all my homes. All of you. I see you on Facebook and I am overwhelmed by the constant and unceasing support. Every single time you write an encouraging commment you are adding years to my creative life. I couldn’t be luckier to have the Brockport, Elmira and Camp friends that I’ve had. Thank you all.
I’ve been resistant to being active in the ‘Dad Blogger’ community. I’ve been completely turned around by my experience these last couple of days. To have the opportunity to read some words, to be vulnerable and supported, to laugh and to cry and think, I’m incredibly lucky. Thank you Dad 2.0 Summit.