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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

Daddying, Granddaddying, and the College Shit Show

By Allan Shedlin

With granddaughters Casey and Jesse, 2023

When the phone call came last Wednesday night I was reminded of two things:

  1. Daddying is a lifelong process.

  2. Empathy is a double-edged sword.


The call was from one of my daughters and her daughter to share that “the word” had come via email that she had been admitted to her first-choice college. Although the joyful news was transmitted to me across telephone lines, the exhale of relief and the excitement were palpable – I could actually feel them.

My three decades of work with dads and families, my experiences as a lifelong educator, and the pleasure I seem to convey being around people and listening to their stories has provided me an opportunity to hear innumerable stories from family, “bonus” family, friends, and even sometimes from strangers.


So many of the stories of late have come from families in the throes of what I have begun to refer to as “the great college admissions shit show.” I’ve had innumerable discussions that have led me to half-seriously propose that the junior year of high school and much of the senior year be eliminated entirely. The demands and stress during that period create an almost unbearable strain on young people and their families in the throes of the concomitant pressures. It is very difficult for those involved to appreciate that they are also fortunate to be able to consider such a future.

These college pressures are clearly a serious contributor to the mental health crisis for teens.


Listening to my adult daughter, who listens to her high school senior daughter, talk about how, as a fellow empath, she actually feels her daughter’s angst as she waits to hear from various colleges, reminded me of the feelings I had a generation back as my daughter waited.

As I listened to my daughter’s empathic stress, I realized that I was feeling her stress – and it made me aware of both the intergenerational capacities and burdens of empathy; its double-edged possibilities to feel both the joys and the angst. It also reminded me again that daddying is lifelong and does not evaporate when one becomes a granddad – rather it provides an additional opportunity.

These college pressures are clearly a serious contributor to the mental health crisis for teens.

The “shit show” that is the college admissions process bares careful examination with an eye on ways to minimize the undue stress it creates. In my various interviews and discussions with parents, it is not unusual for me to hear that “parenting seems more difficult than it used to be.” Although this sense has been expressed by each new generation of parents, I have come to believe that it certainly feels that way with the advent of social media, increased international hostilities, and just plain meanness.


Despite the challenges intrinsic to being empathic and the lifelong complexities of parenting, bring ‘em on and take time – no, make the time – to savor their joys.

Daddy on.




Attention all Dads/Dad figures, 1st-grade through college undergrad students, and other indie filmmakers, the D3F Call for Entries late deadline is MONDAY, MARCH 25! That means there's still time for you to join our amazing and growing lineup of Official Selections by creating and submitting your own film or video – even if it's just a 1- or 2-minute TikTok or Instagram video! We're looking for more heartfelt stories that reflect what being or having an involved dad means to you and/or your child(ren).

Visit the D3F website for more award details, submission guidelines, and Atticus Award-winning examples from previous years. Or head directly to our FilmFreeway page to submit your films, videos, and music videos celebrating the importance of having or being an involved Dad or Dad figure:


With granddaughter Casey, 2023

Allan Shedlin has devoted his life's work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, five grandchildren, as well as numerous "bonus" sons, daughters, and grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, school leadership, parenting coaching, policy development, and advising at the local, state, and national levels. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019, he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He has conducted daddying workshops in such diverse settings as Native American pueblos, veterans groups, nursery schools, penitentiaries, Head Start centers, corporate boardrooms, and various elementary schools, signifying the widespread interest in men in becoming the best possible dad. In 2022, Allan founded and co-directed the Daddying Film Festival & Forum to enable students, dads, and other indie filmmakers to use film as a vehicle to communicate the importance of fathers or father figures in each others' lives. Allan earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA, at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D and GRAND D-A-D the most important “degrees” of all.


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