I wasn’t sure if I should make my title a question or a statement. Probably to most of the people who read this, it’s obvious: of course there’s a conference for Dad Bloggers. My guess is that most of the people who will be interested in this article were either at this year’s Dad 2.0 or wanted to be. Most, but maybe not all.
Dad Bloggers live in a niche world, founded in large part by Oren Miller, who started a Facebook group that has grown to over 1000 members. It’s a nice world, that occupies a quiet piece of real estate on the internet. Rent is cheap and the people are smart, funny and annoyingly talented. The dads are all involved in their children’s lives, often defining themselves first and foremost as dads. The politics tend toward progressive, especially on social issues. Essays about marriage equality, feminism, transgender issues, gun control and other topics that set the rest of the planet on fire are liked and shared, with nary an all-capped utterance. (Well, maybe the gun control thing gets a few hackles raised.) The weather is always nice in Dad Blogger land and, when it’s not, we have a sponsor like Fisherman’s Friend to heal our wounded throats. Disclosure: this post was sponsored by no one; that was a freebie. Opinions are my own.
But we live in the real world. And when I get home from Dad 2.0 and tell people where I’ve been, they give me that odd look that says, “Really? There’s a convention for that?” Or sometimes their mouths say it. So, if you’re reading this in disbelief, if you’d heard rumors of an annual gathering of parents (mostly dads) who write about their kids (mostly without being paid), I’m here to tell you the rumors are true. There is a dad blogger conference and it is awesome.
A lot Dad 2.016 recaps will probably mention the inaugural DadSLAM, a Moth-style public reading of blog posts. My roommate John Kinnear hosted the event to high acclaim. John read a hilarious article about his kid pooping in the McDonald’s ball pit and another guy read a different hilarious story about poop. Some stories left the room in nods and tears and not all of the essays were about accidental defecation. I don’t think. I’m actually not sure, since I didn’t go. It was an after-hours event and I went down to the room where it was being held to make sure someone showed up for John. The room, packed with attendees, was stuffy and warm, and there was no booze, so I quietly left. What can I say, sometimes I’m too big an asshole to let the transcendent moments happen.
Luckily, there were other inspiring and throat-tightening moments. Well, maybe not “luckily.” More by design. Doug French, John Pacini and the entire Dad 2.0 team put on a hell of a show.
You could not have been at Dad 2.016 and not mention Beth Blauer, Oren Miller’s widow. Oren succumbed to his battle with cancer last year, but not before the Dad 2.0 scholarship was named in his honor. It can be hard to think about Oren and not think about his disease, but that’s just how his life ended not how it was lived. Beth read a letter she found after he passed away that he wrote to himself in 2010, before his diagnosis, that he planned on opening in 2020. Apparently that was a thing he did. Of course it was. Like all of Oren’s writing, it was alternately poignant, funny and contained so much him as to be unmistakable. It was bittersweet to hear him so alive. I also had the opportunity to chat with Beth during the conference. She spoke of him lovingly but also about times when he was kind of an asshole. He has been sainted in the Dad Blogger world he is still so important to, but he was a person like the rest of us. Maybe a
little lot better. He never would missed a chance to support all the bloggers at DadSLAM.
The closing Keynote speaker at Dad 2.0 was Derreck Kayongo, a former refugee from war-torn Uganda. When he was young, he literally witnessed friends and neighbors shot in cold blood by the military. He somehow came out the other end with such good humor and a warm, welcoming smile, not to mention a compelling and ultimately triumphant life story, that no one in the audience could help but be carried along with whatever the hell he said. Or sang. Yes, there is a conference for Dad Bloggers and yes, we all sang at the end of it. It was awkward and amazing. When Derreck spoke, he spoke of being new to America, staying in a hotel and stealing the hotel soap. Each bar he stole during his stay was replaced by another, which he stole, and which was, in turn, replaced again. Wracked with guilt, he confessed his crimes to the front desk clerk. He didn’t realize that everyone steals hotel soap. Not only that, but hotels throw away those half-used bars left in the shower. How many of us think, “what a waste?” Not many. How many actually do something about it? Almost none. Except he did. He started a non-profit, the Global Soap Project that recycles the used bars and turns them into new soap. Midwives in Uganda and other impoverished countries, where soap is a luxury, deliver babies without being able to wash first. Infections are rampant and the results are as inevitable as they are tragic. But one simple idea, passionately followed, is making a difference. A big difference. How could we not be inspired? How could we not sing?
At the end of the day, Dad 2.0 is about the community. It’s not about this or that particular moment, it’s about being there, sharing laughs and drinks with your friends, and getting a new pair of jeans from the girls in the ever-popular Lee Jeans booth. (Opinions are still my own, but I do love free jeans and beer!) Dad 2.0 is a weekend to step out of real life and into that weird little Dad Blogger world that, 51 weekends of the year, only exists on the internet. There is a conference for Dad Bloggers and I will be there again next year.
Thanks to the Dad 2.0 Team and all the awesome conference sponsors for an amazing weekend.
Featured image photo credit to Doug French, co-founder of Dad 2.0