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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

Enabling the Past to Enrich the Present

By Allan Shedlin

My girls on Cape Cod, summer 1972

The faded photo has always pictured a favorite daddying moment. By some perverse inversion, the more the years faded the photo, the more vivid the memory became.

As a gift to myself on this year’s Fathers’ Day I decided to really look at that photo taken more than a half century ago and reflect on the image and why it was so special and remains so today. Why was that a moment that has stayed with me? Why did I sense that was a moment to be remembered and savored, one that might have an enduring power?

Perhaps it was one of those moments when my role as a daddy and my training as an educator melded together during a rare vacation week that encouraged a tenderness to surface as my three young daughters ventured into the shallows of Pamet Harbor in Truro, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. And it was also, no doubt, fueled by my realization that the childhood innocence, joy, and sense of wonder would be fleeting and needed to be captured on film.

Holding my girls. Same day, same spot as above.

During the early 1970’s, cameras were not nearly as ubiquitous as smartphones are today. If I didn’t have my camera handy, I was poised to have my mind’s eye serve as a camera of sorts to record the moments I wanted to store in the photo album in my mind.

Staring at this photo, I recalled another vivid moment stored in that mental photo album. It was a snowy Christmas Eve in Connecticut, and I was carrying a load of firewood indoors to keep the fire going in our fireplace. As I spotted my three young daughters through the sliding glass door in their pajamas staring in wonder at the twinkling-colored lights bedecking our Christmas tree, I stopped in my tracks to take in that moment. Then I safely deposited the image in my mental photo album for recall and savoring in moments hence.

As the pace and intensity of our lives seems to forever quicken, I wonder how many of us take the time to create and appreciate our own mindful parenting galleries. As another summer solstice fades, I urge each of us to consider creating our own mental images as a safe harbor to provide a feeling of calm when the stormy moments buffet us, creating an opportunity for the past to enrich our present.


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 (D3F) 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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