The Many Benefits of Exuberant Lifelong Daddying
By Allan Shedlin
Grampsy and DADvocacy Consulting Group Founder
AUTHOR'S NOTE TO READER: As one of those decade-changing, major milestone birthdays approaches, I find myself more introspective than usual. Thus, I see this blog entry as a combination of personal daddying memories; learnings from 25 years of conducting in-depth, daddying interviews with dads/granddads and with kids/youth from 20 countries; and as a daddying “pep talk.”
After hearing about my work helping fathers become the dads they want to be, a New York City cardiologist shared with me his concern that he only had six months to “get it right.”
“Get what right?” I asked.
“Becoming a good dad before my son goes off to college.”
“Daddying is lifelong,” I responded.
His relief was both palpable and disorienting as it disabused him of his entrenched belief that daddying ends when your child becomes an “adult.”
Two things about this brief exchange echoed what I have learned during more than 25 years of qualitative research with dads and granddads:
Most dads want to be the best fathers they can be.
Most men are eager to share tender thoughts, feelings, and vulnerabilities about fatherhood – their own and what they experienced as sons. These feelings are transparent, just beneath their often thin emotional surface.
It continues to be substantiated by my own experiences as a dad of three adult daughters and my five grandchildren. I exult in and remain attuned to the opportunities that continue to present themselves – and which I continue to seek out and embrace to warm my heart and soul. As I’ve observed many times, being a dad/granddad is more than just who you are, it’s what you do.
Daddying takes place at the intersection of fatherhood and nurturing. It is one of life’s few opportunities to make a direct connection to one’s heart. And it’s proof that your heart has the capacity to expand just as much as it needs to embrace each additional child and grandchild. For me, its apex has been that nurturing my children and grandchildren has been nourishing to me – this is not something that is usually noted, or even thought about.
As I’ve observed many times, being a dad/granddad is more than just who you are, it’s what you do.
During my own lifelong daddying and quarter-century of granddaddying, one of the joys has been the opportunity to talk with my adult daughters about their memories of my daddying – both the good parts and the parts that could have gone better. And it has been heartening to witness how they have created their own approach to parenting. And the opportunity to luxuriate in exuberant granddaddying, and fine-tune what I have learned as a dad has been the icing on the cake.
It is a truism that no man has ever said on his deathbed that he wished he had spent more time at the office, so don’t keep the dad you most want to be waiting. Sometimes there is a roughness to the world that only a dad can smooth out.
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 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 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.