Did George Washington Ever Wear His Baby?
By Allan Shedlin
Grampsy, Daddying Film Festival & Forum (D3F) Founder and Co-Director
Actually, George Washington did not have any biological children. It’s ironic that the man known as the “father of our country,“ had no biological children of his own. He did, however, play a fatherly role to Martha’s two children from a previous marriage and he was the surrogate father to numerous nieces and nephews.
But let’s return to that image of our first President wearing a baby. Or any of the other “Founding Fathers” wearing any one of their combined 67 sons and 78 daughters when they were delegates to the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787.
It's almost comically absurd to picture that, isn’t it?
Or if we look at more recent history, it still feels difficult to imagine a President – or pretty much any elected male political leader – wearing his baby, even those who project a nurturing image.
Perhaps, that is why the image of U.S. Representative Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) drew so many headlines and caused so much attention when he wore his baby son, Hodges, on the House floor early last month. And then shortly after joined with a handful of other Representatives to form the first “Congressional Dads Caucus,” officially announced January 26 (more than three years after Congressional women established the Moms in the House Caucus).
...it is crucial to acknowledge that daddying is more important than politics if the Daddying Movement is to continue evolving in a positive direction.
Almost 15 years ago, one of the world’s leading news services distributed my commentary to its international membership. That article was titled “The Daddying Movement – A Gentle Revolution.” It described the social movement that was growing almost unnoticed. It spoke to the “confluence of factors that has led us to reexamine gender roles and expand the definition of family…while holding great promise for children and families…while redefining what it means to be masculine.”
In hindsight, I probably should have referred to it as an evolution, not revolution.
The formation of the Congressional Dads Caucus is a significant milestone in this evolution. While it is cause for our attention and excitement, as a significant step in bringing awareness to the importance of greater father involvement, it is too bad that it is being discussed in political terms. I wish fatherhood issues weren't subject to such partisanship or that reporters felt the need to make party affiliation of the members of this new “caucus” a highlight. Even the fact that this group is labeled a “caucus” makes being a "good" working dad seem like an overtly political act.
Although I fully understand and appreciate the need for and desirability of raising awareness about the importance of passing vigorous and comprehensive parental leave and child tax credit legislation, it is crucial to acknowledge that daddying is more important than politics if the Daddying Movement is to continue evolving in a positive direction.
In my 2008 daddying commentary I noted that “Slowly, relentlessly, like a snowball rolling downhill, the movement continues to pick up speed and size.” And so, like a snowball, it must be devoid of politics.
The Daddying Movement is about our children and our collective future. Like a snowball, it is neither red nor blue.
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 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.