I attended my first and hopefully not last Dad 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, California last week. Although I arrived in San Francisco on the Monday before and spent three days exploring parts of the Bay Area including a stop at Facebook’s headquarters on the edge of San Mateo county, it wasn’t until the two days after the conference finished that I had this epiphany; it was very fitting that my first “dad summit” was in San Francisco because of a connection that I’ve had with the city that dates back 27 years ago. In the photo that I embedded it show me having run 2 miles (3.2kms) from my hotel to see the Painted Ladies that feature in the Full House opening sequence since Series 4. This was the scene of my epiphany.
Back in 1988 the television show Full House first aired in Australia after its debut in the United States the year earlier. For those unfamiliar, or for those who can’t remember, the television show was about a father and his three daughters who lost their wife and mother in a car crash when her vehicle was totalled by a drunk driver. The father, Danny Tanner enlisted two of his friends, brother-in-law Jesse and childhood best friend Joey to help him look after his three daughters; DJ (Donna Jo), Stephanie and Michelle. Although early on in the piece the two new “fathers” are portrayed as bumbling doofuses learning how to change nappies, feed a baby and generally keep the kids alive and well, the show develops with their “parenting” skills as a sidebar to the personal conflicts, hardships, victories, losses and learning curves they face each day of their lives.
What we get in the end are three men, one who becomes a father of his own sharing the good times and the bad times that are experienced when raising kids. I never once questioned the ability of these men being great dads. How could I? Back when I was 14 years old, although I had bigger dreams of being a famous rock star like Uncle Jesse, or a comedian like Uncle Joey, my more realistic dream that was always in the back of my mind was to be a great father like Danny. I often joke to myself, when faced with dramas at home with my kids, that about 20 minutes after the dramas begin I can sit on the edge of my child’s bed, and as a nylon string classical guitar plays an arpeggio of emotional chords, I can give the fatherly speech that Danny Tanner gave each of his daughters signalling the end of the dilemma. And with a kiss on the forehead, and with the turning out of the lights, that problem is now a distant memory until 7:30pm the next Friday night.
I spent my first three days in the greater Bay Area couch surfing at Mike Heenan from At-Home Dad Matters‘ house. Mike is a real-life stay-at-home-dad who looks after his two exceptionally cute daughters while his wife works at a computer software company in Silicon Valley. Mike picked me up from the airport and took me around to see some of the sights and sounds of San Francisco and the San Mateo county. Mike is a patient dad. Mike is a loving dad. Mike is a caring dad. But most of all, Mike is a modern dad. Travelling around with him driving and the kids in the back seat, it was great to see a stay-at-home-dad in action. Seeing Mike interact with his kids, calming them when the long drives started producing cabin fever in their tiny little minds, quelling their calls of hunger only minutes into the drive, and only minutes after finishing breakfast at home, you can see that this new breed of dads are just like mums; only with an extra appendage.
This post is not going be one of the many that are being written by my fellow Dad Bloggers about the summit, but you can follow the exploits of these guys along with some of the Mom Bloggers and marketing companies that attended by clicking here to see the #dad2summit links on Twitter. I am going to write some more about this myself over the coming days, week and months, but I really just wanted to get my thoughts down about how far we’ve come in the last 27 years since that show premiered. But sadly, as me and many of those other Dad Bloggers have written over the last decade or so, there have been at least five steps backwards for every two steps forward the modern father is making.
From those advertisers who still ignore dads when marketing to parents, or those that make dads still look like fools, to the television shows and movies that also show dads in a negative way (including the terrible movie Moms’ Night Out which I watched on the plane back to Sydney and will be writing about soon), we still have a long way to go in showing the world that dads are parents too. But when you look at those father friendly advertisements that were shown during this year’s Super Bowl, you can see that there are some that are changing the way they advertise to dads.
The Dad 2.0 Summit in San Francisco in 2015 was an eye opener for me. From the keynote speakers starting with Dr. Michael Kimmel PhD, some senior managers from some of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley and finishing on the last afternoon with comedian and television show presenter Jay Larson, this conference highlighted how the modern man can become the great fathers that we need to be, but we can’t do it without the changes in society lifting dads up rather than putting them down.
Next year the conference is heading to Washington DC. I am hoping that I can once again return to the United States to take part in this and hopefully, while staring down the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Monument I can have another epiphany. Maybe one that is greater than this year’s one. Maybe it won’t be one where I am thinking back 27 years in the past, but looking forward 27 years in the future to a time when my own two sons don’t have to think about whether it’s them or their female partner who will be the bread winner or who will do the childrearing. They won’t have to see dads portrayed as fools who don’t know how to change a soiled nappy.
And, there won’t be a need for summits like the Women’s Forum or Dad 2.0 Summit to exist. Society will, in the future get it right. I
hope know it will. Until then, bring on Dad 2.0 2016 in Washington DC.
And here’s to the friends that I’ve made online since July 2013 when I first joined the Dad Blogger’s Facebook group. In the last week I met over 300 out of the 1,000 plus that are in the group. I have connected with well over one hundred of these guys personally on Facebook. I enjoy reading their stories. I enjoy getting to peak into their family lives with status updates and photos about family fun. And of course a special thanks goes out to Mike and his family for letting me take over their lounge room for three days. Although we were 20.3 miles from Alamo Square where the Full House cast enjoyed a picnic and a further 1.2 miles from the house that was used as the snapshot of the Tanner family home, Mike’s home truly was a Full House for those three days I stayed with his family.
I don’t want to end this on a sad note, but I really want to share with my readers the words of Oren Miller who founded the Dad Bloggers Facebook group. Unfortunately Oren has gotten worse since being diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer last year and he was unable to attend the conference. Brent Almond from Designer Daddy took to the stage and read out a letter that Oren wrote. Please take the time to read it. I am ever in debt to Oren for what he did to build this community.