Daddying Vows: A Worthy Remembrance of Kobe and Gianna Bryant
Updated: Jan 6, 2021
All too often, the heartfelt vows that fathers make to their children at birth seem to disappear to a secret land of single socks and lost umbrellas.
Where do they go?
After conducting thousands of hours of interviews with fathers and grandfathers from 20 different countries, it’s clear to me that this secret land also is inhabited by the silent vows so many dads make after witnessing the birth of their children, or at other moments that prompt strong emotions.
Those birth moments are ones of dense emotion when new dads are often overwhelmed by an intensity of love they’ve never felt before. Men have confided in me that these feelings are often accompanied by an awareness of the vulnerability of their newborns and a beginning recognition of the important role they have an opportunity to play in the lives of their children. Of course, at that moment, few of us have an inkling of the important role children can play in our own, ongoing development as adults. If not too overwhelmed emotionally, we may get our first sign that being a dad is not only who we are, but also what we do.
The drumbeat of memorials to Kobe and Gianna Bryant, and the other seven people – children and parents alike – who perished a month ago, may have desensitized us to the profound sadness of these precious lives lost. Vanessa Bryant described her husband as the “MVP of girl dads,” but we would all do well as parents to remember that this is a designation that can be claimed by any of us in the eyes of our sons and daughters.
Let Monday’s massive memorial in Los Angeles serve as a powerful reminder of those long-ago vows we made to be the dad of our yearning, the one we might have dreamed for if we dared. We must not allow these vows to escape into the land of single socks and lost umbrellas. Rather, let us seize this opportunity to revisit and recommit to them. Let us each step up with tenderness and exuberance and not keep the dad we want to be waiting.
Allan Shedlin has devoted his life’s work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, a “bonus” son, five grandchildren, and three “bonus” grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, policy development, and advising. 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 founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, and 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. He 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 the most important “degree” of all.