Daddying Reflections at 200: Never Again Alone in Your Heart
Updated: Nov 16
By Allan Shedlin
Grampsy and Founder, DADvocacy Consulting Group
Last week in Santa Fe, NM, I conducted my 200th daddying interview with local dad, teacher, and artist JP Granillo. As many of you who've followed this blog and my work may know, I coined the term "daddying" in 1994 to describe the place where fatherhood and nurturing converge. It makes a distinction between the one-time act of fathering and the lifelong process of daddying. Daddying requires active involvement and a lifelong commitment to a child’s physical, emotional, social, intellectual, creative, and moral/spiritual well-being. Daddying roles may also be played by other significant people who play fatherly roles in kids’ lives, including but not limited to granddads, uncles, older brothers, teachers, coaches, and mentors.
I began interviewing men about their experiences as fathers in 1997. The original purpose for conducting these in-depth interviews was to learn how men experienced their role as parents and to share what I had learned in order to optimize the daddying experience for children and men alike.
All the men I have spoken with (ages 16 to 104 years old, from 20 countries and a broad spectrum of backgrounds and socio-economic status) were asked in-depth questions about their experience as dads and with their own fathers. My listening has been in-depth, as well.
[Daddying is] the place where fatherhood and nurturing converge. It makes a distinction between the one-time act of fathering and the lifelong process of daddying.
These interviews were preceded by three years of conducting 28 daddying focus groups with 162 children and youth from three countries. If I considered daddying a “product,” I might consider daughters and sons “consumers.” And the best way to improve a product is to talk with the consumers of “daddying” – children and youth.
During this more than quarter century of qualitative research, I’ve learned a great deal and provided an opportunity for the interviewees to think more deeply about their parental role than most had ever before thought about it.
Although I continued to hear unique stories and anecdotes, after about halfway through the 200 interviews, I was not really “learning” anything new about daddying. But what I had discovered was the importance of providing an opportunity for men to share their stories and to discover – perhaps for the first time – how important their role is and how important it is to them.
At the end of each one- to two-hour individual interview, I thank the men for their time and candid sharing. One hundred percent of the time they respond, “Thank YOU so much for listening.”
In earlier daddying blogs, and in various articles and commentaries distributed worldwide in the popular press, I’ve shared the essential daddying “lessons” learned – lessons that also are relevant to all parents and grandparents, not just dads. In commemoration of our 200th daddying interview (and counting), I'm again sharing here what most sticks with me so we don’t keep the dad we most want to be waiting. Because the upcoming holiday season finds many of us being reflective and thinking about our intentions for a new year, I'd like to ask all dads – and anyone else who may play a daddying role – to keep the following things in mind:
Once you become a dad (or someone who plays a fatherly role), you will never again be alone in your heart.
Being a dad is not just who you are, it’s what you do.
“Here is my secret, a very simple secret. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” (The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
There is a reciprocity of benefits to dads (and others who serve fatherly roles) and children alike when fathers/father figures and their children are positively involved in each other’s lives.
Almost all fathers/father figures want to be there for their children.
Daddy-up and Daddy on!
Allan Shedlin has devoted his life’s work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, and 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 inaugural Daddying Film Festival 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.