By Allan Shedlin
Grampsy and Founder, DCG and Daddying Film Festival & Forum (D3F)
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.
– Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A few months back I got my first tattoo. The timing was spontaneous, the thought was not.
I thought often during the year about all the times in my life I’ve been told not to wear my heart on my sleeve, not to be so transparent about my feelings. Sometimes those suggestions felt lovingly protective. But often they felt like admonitions, somehow threatening to the way men are supposed to behave.
My lifelong experiences as an educator working with children and youth, as well as my joys exuberantly daddying and granddaddying have taught me that showing my heartfelt feelings serve me well in making authentic connections.
The initial tattoo of an open heart was my way of going beyond wearing my heart on my sleeve, instead, forgoing the sleeve entirely and tattooing my heart directly on my arm. The spontaneity occurred during a visit with my oldest granddaughter who had just begun her career as a clinical social worker in Nashville, TN. We came up with the idea of getting matching tattoo elements.
Once the ink had settled and I was no longer startled when I noticed the tattoo while showering, it became clear to me that I somehow wanted to also represent my four other grandchildren, who are 17 to 24 years old, and similarly inscribe them in my tattoo heart. So, I invited them to choose a word or symbol that could be placed within the open heart to demonstrate our loving connection.
What I learned from their choices were a reminder of much that I had learned during my years conducting daddying focus groups with children and youth in three countries, about the desired qualities kids want in their fathers/father figures. The two most desired qualities are: 1) being there; and 2) taking them as seriously as they take themselves.
One grandchild chose a clock to represent the time we spend together. The hours on the clock point to the time of his birth. A second grandchild chose arrows pointing in opposite directions to represent the equal exchange of energy and sharing when we are together. The other two grandchildren chose a similar term of endearment with which I greet them. And all five grandchildren said they debated selecting the term “flourishing” because it’s my upbeat, signature response when they inquire about how I’m doing.
As 2024 rushes in, trailed by so much conflict and tragedy beyond our control as individuals, it will serve us well to be there for our kids and grandkids, to take them as seriously as they take themselves, and to be aware of opportunities – big and small – to flourish.
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Poster Designed by Michael Duggan
Call for Entries for the 3rd Annual Daddying Film Festival & Forum (D3F) kicked off last week! Check out the D3F website for more details, submission guidelines, and Atticus Award-winning examples from previous years. Students (1st grade through undergrads), Dads/Dad figures, and other indie filmmakers also can head directly to D3F's FilmFreeway page to submit their film/videos celebrating the importance of having or being an involved Dad or Dad figure.
Early-bird submission deadline is February 5th – Daddy on!
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 having fathers or father figures positively involved 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.