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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

How Daddying Manages to Endure While Our World Remains In Flux

What I've Learned in My Hundreds of Conversations with Dads


by Allan Shedlin

Grampsy, Founder, and Director, Daddying Film Festival & Forum (D3F)

Front view of old red Ford pickup truck
Photo by Paulius Dragunas on Unsplash

I conducted my first Daddying Interview (DI) September 25, 2000, with a physician in his sanitized NYC office. On October 4, 2000, I conducted my second DI with the night-shift foreman for the diesel engine repair shop of a major New Mexico transit district. We sat together in the cab of his pick-up truck. Empty beer cans on the floor. A gun rack mounted on the rear window. The physician was a new dad, the foreman had multiple children from two marriages.


These men’s circumstances were very different. But their responses to my questions and willingness – no, their eagerness – to discuss daddying issues and concerns were very similar.

Almost 23 years later, as I get ready to conduct my 205th DI, I’m acutely aware of how much the world has changed – social climate, economic climate, political climate, and literal climate. In that time, our definitions and understanding of family, race, gender, and what it means to "be a man" also have changed.


What hasn’t changed in the 200+ daddying interviews I’ve conducted is the remarkable consistency in my dad interviewees’ responses.


As noted in earlier Daddying posts about these in-depth interviews with men between the ages of 16 and 104, from 20 countries, and a broad diversity of socioeconomic and cultural circumstances, a few fundamental truths have emerged and echoed loudly during my listening time with these fathers, grandfathers, and even a few great grandfathers:

  • Becoming a father releases both a tenderness and a depth of love that surprises men and they often didn’t know they were capable of such emotion.

  • One hundred percent of these men felt that becoming a dad had enriched their lives.

  • Interviewees often expressed a soulful sadness in terms of wishing their own fathers had been more positively involved in their lives. This sentiment was frequently compounded by a realization that they weren’t spending enough time with their own child(ren). This sadness is something I’ve called “the bookends of daddy yearning.”

  • With the large majority who became fathers within the past 50 years, a time when fathers have been more likely to be present in the delivery room, a respect for their partners has increased dramatically.

My past and ongoing work with fathers in a variety of settings from penitentiaries to The World Bank, veterans’ groups to Native American pueblos, Head Start Centers, corporate offices, schools, and even from the back of an Uber, reminds me that fathers want to be the best dads they can be. Furthermore, most fathers are committed to trying. Given the challenges we face as a species, we must recognize that neither daddying nor mommying occur in a vacuum, and we must join together to enable each other to be the best parent we can be.


Our collective future depends on it. 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 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.


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