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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

This Blog Exists Because Men Are Eager to Talk About Daddying

Updated: 6 days ago

By Allan Shedlin

Gramspy and Founder, Daddying Film Festival & Forum (D3F)


During the dog days of summer 30 years ago, a female family friend approached me after a conversation with my three 20-something daughters, saying, “The way your daughters speak about you, you need to write a book about fathering!”


Being a perennial smart-ass and deflecting the humbling honor of my friend’s take-away, my response was two-fold: “It’s lucky you didn’t have that conversation with them when they were teenagers,” and “’Fathering’ isn’t a book, it’s a paragraph.”


On the spot, I coined the gerund “daddying,” which I've defined in many previous blog posts. Distinct from the one-time, biological act requiring nothing more than a lucky shot of DNA, daddying is a lifelong process requiring lifelong commitment. The irony of a female friend "planting the seed," so to speak, for what became my unrelenting focus over the next three decades, still amuses me.


As an educator who had spent his career serving the needs of children, the challenge of writing about daddying felt like it was a bit of a “two-fer.” I would still be serving children – the “consumers of daddying” – while also serving fathers and families. But where and how to begin?


Having written widely on education in the popular and professional press, I was not hesitant to write. For inspiration, I referenced my experiences as a dad, son, and grandson. And I thought about people who had played fatherly roles in my life. Then I remembered that a 4-year-old pre-kindergarten student had defined my role as school principal as “the daddy of the school.”


I set out to conduct focus groups with the consumers of daddying. Armed with a protocol of questions to structure the group discussions, I conducted 28 focus groups with 162 youth, 5-21 years old, in three countries. Confident that I had a decent outline for a book, I found an agent who suggested I begin interviewing fathers. With a similar protocol, I have now conducted hundreds of hours of in-depth daddying interviews with 205 men, 16 to 104 years-old, from 20 countries.


The book remains to be written.


I've become distracted by the need for direct service to dads because so many have described a soulful sadness about wishing their dads had been more involved in their lives and wishing they were more involved in their own children’s lives. This direct service has taken many forms – mostly conducting workshops under the heading “Becoming the dad YOU want to be.” These have occurred in Headstart Centers, prisons, Native American pueblos, schools, veteran groups, houses of worship, and corporate headquarters. Service to dads also has occurred through this blog and other writings, radio, tv, and podcast interviews. And most recently, it has taken on yet another dimension and infused with new life in the many short and feature films created by youth and adults for our annual Daddying Film Festival & Forum (D3F).


I have written widely about the qualities children and youth most often want from their dads. And I’ve written that the dads want to develop these very same qualities. As an educator and student of human development I’ve pointed out that these qualities are the very ones that children and adults need in order to flourish.

I've become distracted by the need for direct service to dads because so many have described a soulful sadness about wishing their dads had been more involved in their lives and wishing that they were more involved in their children’s lives.

When I began interviewing the fathers and grandfathers, it was for qualitative research purposes to validate my writing. And each one reminded me of the need for my work. Although the stories and anecdotes may be different, the core responses remain similar. And so, over the past few years, these interviews have been a way for me to give something back to the men who seem appreciative of the opportunity to share their daddying thoughts and feelings.


I end each interview by thanking the men for their time and willingness to share experiences and feelings. But every man has responded, “No, thank you for listening.”


Each interview lasts between one and three hours. And it often feels like my questions enable men to pull their fingers out of an emotional dike that permits feelings to flow in a way that often surprises them. During the interview, more than 90 percent of them have either cried or worked hard to hold back their tears.


There is an abiding tenderness that is triggered once men become daddies. They are appreciative of the opportunity to talk about it with those of us who take the time to listen.



 

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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Alex Trippier
Alex Trippier
6 days ago
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Wow, Allan. I found the fact that 90% of the people you interviews wept of struggled to hold back tears, so powerful. We’re talking a lot in the culture about how it’s okay for men to cry but we, as dads, already know that! Daddying really cracks you wide open!

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