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Dad 2.0 Summit: Losing My Voice, Finding OUR Voice

Three days before I was scheduled to go the Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans, my throat started hurting. God dammit. I was going to a networking event with bloggers I read and respect, many of whom I considered friends before we’d ever met in real life, and I was losing my voice. Unbelievable. It didn’t make things easier, but maybe it forced me to talk less and listen more.

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According to the official website, “the Dad 2.0 Summit is an open conversation about the commercial power of dads online, and an opportunity to learn the tools and tactics used by influential bloggers to create high-quality content, build personal brands, and develop business ideas.”

Blah, blah, blah. Mostly I was psyched to meet the dudes I’ve been bullshitting with for the last year in a Dad Blogger Facebook group!

I also made great contacts and learned valuable lessons about monetizing my blog, not that I’ll be quitting my day job any time soon. (I’m a stay-at-home dad, so that really doesn’t even make any sense.) But that part of the conference really took a back seat to the strong pro-dad message. It wasn’t just “blah, blah, blah.”

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Formal pose now, karaoke at the Cat’s Meow later.
I’d sing, but (ehem)…no voice.

It was, as the website stated, about the “commercial power of dads,” but even that was selling the event short. It was really about the power of dads. (Sounds corny, but stick with me.) There was no singing kumbaya around the campfire or artificial emotions at this event. All tears were earned.

The conference, whose title sponsor was Dove Men + Care, opened with a video showing dads in the news as well as a montage of recent commercials from products spanning the spectrum. The ads each featured realistic dads enjoying real dad moments. (I used to make fun of my wife for crying during commercials, but since having kids I am susceptible.) Unlike in the past, the fathers in these ads were not buffoons. They also weren’t necessarily stay-at-home dads. They didn’t have to be. They were just taking care of, playing with, and worrying about their children. I saw myself in each of the dads and my children in each of the kids. I’m not the only one who got choked up.

The speech that got to me, got to everyone, and got the loudest standing ovation was from the most unlikely of speakers. Lorne Jaffe, who I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with, has suffered some debilitating and, at times, crippling panic attacks. To see him is to know he is a man uncomfortable with his surroundings. He read from one of his blog posts, contemplating whether he really likes what he likes or if these preferences have been foisted upon him. He was barely able to get the words out. He broke down several times. Though clearly ill at ease with the resounding applause he received, he finally understood that he was among friends. Lorne may be an extreme example, but he was not the only one who felt like less of an outcast just by being part of Dad 2.0.

Lorne, giving an emotional speech
Lorne giving an emotional speech

Through most of the conference, I was able to keep it together. However, I finally had to wipe a tear away and make sure no one was looking (hey, I still have a rep to maintain!) during Josh Levs’ keynote speech. He is the CNN reporter bringing an EEOC claim against Time Warner because of its antiquated and unfair paternity policy. He told the story of how his first child was born with a congenital heart defect and had to be rushed to surgery. Then he showed us a picture of the baby (now ten or so, and healthy) after the surgery, attached to machines and tubes. I could not (cannot) help but picture my children in that state. It breaks my heart and makes me realize just how lucky I am.

My blog started off as personal. It still is. But I’ve realized recently – and this idea was strongly reinforced at Dad 2.0 – that I’m not just writing about myself. I’m writing about the common experience of dads. That idea makes me more than a little uncomfortable. Expressing what others should or do think does not come naturally to me.

Who the hell am I? What do I know? Only what I’ve experienced.

The weird thing is, like Lorne, I’m beginning to understand that I am not alone. Like Josh, when I show pictures of my kids or tell our stories, other parents put themselves in my place. And that montage of ads in the video? Those were not just silly commercials for a society that buys too much stuff. Those were the images that reflect that society. Those images bolster the evolving view of what it means to be a “dad,” normalize dads as co-equal parents, and give us all ideals to work towards. Not only am I listening to this powerful message, I am part of it. And proudly so.

Plus, I got this sweet sketch of my butt! Thanks, Cottonelle. Let's talk bums.
Plus, I got this sweet sketch of my butt! Thanks, Cottonelle. (Let’s talk bums.)

 

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Published inParenting & Humor

14 Comments

  1. Sounds like a great time. Those guys sound awesome. I’d probably have more fun hanging around at a Dad summit than a Mom summit whenever I have kids. LOL

    • admin admin

      Was pretty awesome! I have no idea how the Mom convention is. (But I have a hard time believing it’s more fun.)

  2. Hard to believe I had to go all the way to New Orleans to finally meet my NJ suburban NYC Dad counterpart. Good work, Dave.

    • admin admin

      Yeah, kind of crazy Kevin. But I’m glad we met & got to hang. Let’s not wait til next year to do it again.

  3. Jane Sackheim Jane Sackheim

    Being a dad or a mom, for that matter is not a 2+2=4 formula. It's all a personal experience and a lot depends on "personalities" of the child and the parent. Also the health; some kids are born with a congenital heart disease and spend time in the hospital, others run around in the park. The common thread though is, you love them, you take care of them, and you do the best you can, no matter what the circumstances are. It is great to share the trials and tribulations among dads and moms because we learn from one another's experiences, we take some or all parts, So keep sharing, keep networking, keep writing. Your stories resonate with moms as well, and they sure are very entertaining. We need some humor in our lives.

    • admin admin

      Thanks Jane! I’ll do my best. (Though, I suspect, your favorites are the ones with lots of pics of the kids. They’re cute, right!?)

  4. Dude…awesome meeting you out there. Sorry we didn't get to hang more, but the guys said they had a blast with you. Talk more soon!

    • admin admin

      Totally! I love the Life of Dad dudes. That’s a great crew you go, there! And to think: it all started with jury duty. Perform your civic responsibilities, people. You never know what good might come.

  5. It was great meeting you at Dad 2.0 Summit. Good luck on your marathon later this year. I look forward to reading about it on your blog.

  6. Wow, this is fascinating. I'm kind of blind to dad bloggers, stuck in my mom/humor bloggers world. I recently joined the DAM (Dad and Mom) Bloggers group and am learning more and more about this movement. Really enjoyed this post and loved the video. Dads are awesome!

    • admin admin

      Thanks Kate! Yeah, I’m kind of the opposite. I didn’t really start reading too many blogs until I started writing one. So I got into the dad blogs of the guys I got to know through the Dad Blogger group. Starting to get to know some mom bloggers through the DAM group, and you gals are damn funny!

  7. […] Dads Group member Dave Lesser of Amateur Idiot, Professional Dad: “The speech that got to me, got to everyone, and got the loudest standing ovation was from the […]

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