I’ve never been one to make friends easily. So it was strange to me that at 5:15 in the morning I was boarding a flight and heading 525 miles from Detroit to Washington D.C. to join a group a dad bloggers at the Dad 2.0 Summit that I’d only had conversations with online.
I’ve always loved words and I’ve always wanted to be a dad. I can remember talking about having children when I was younger. So, after I became a dad I launched Inked Up Dad in 2014. Shortly after I was invited to a group of dad bloggers on Facebook by another dad named Oren Miller.
Somewhere between that point and the present, life happened. We bought a house, I got a promotion and we decided to move from Florida to Michigan. During all these events my writing took a backseat to life. I did, however, keep up with those dad bloggers and once life was settled I decided to attend my first Dad 2.0 Summit. After spending three days with over four hundred other dads, here’s what I’ve learned and why I think the Dad 2.0 Summit is more important than you think.
In the age of self-destructing messages, it’s easy for one to create an alternate persona. Although I had been reading their stories since 2014, I didn’t know what to expect once I walked through the doors of the Mandarin Oriental. I was greeted by another dad blogger, Spike Zelenka, and welcomed to the summit. While we waited for others to arrive and settle in we discussed our families, our blogs and life. All of those status updates that I’d previously liked began to fall into place. The stories fit seamlessly into the narratives that we shared and our friendship, which had been birthed in a digital group of dads, began to grow.
Honesty. It flows throughout the halls and ballrooms once the summit has taken up its residency. At times you will feel more comfortable talking to a random group of dads that you’ve stumbled upon than you’ve felt talking to your friend back home. It almost comes naturally because somewhere in its five years of life the creators of the Dad 2.0 Summit have fostered the growth of a collective of fathers that celebrates the successes of one another, provides wisdom through their struggles and failures, but most of all, never falters on their dedication to honesty. There are no perfect dads and when you spend your days and nights with these men, you come realize that’s totally okay.
Repeat after me. It’s alright to cry. See how easy that was? We’ve grown so accustomed to societal norms and the labels placed upon both moms and dads that somewhere along the way we got this notion that grown men don’t cry. If that’s your view of men and fatherhood I kindly suggest that you spend a few days at the summit.
Yes, the swag you’ve heard about is true. You’ll be treated to free items such as Dove Men+Care soaps, shampoos and shaving gels. You’ll be ushered off to a night at the museum courtesy of the awesome people at Lego and you’ll even get to fly a drone over a beautiful farm located thirty miles outside of the city. At the end of the day though, none of that amounts to what you take away from the experiences you create and the conversations you have with the other attendees.
We laughed, we cried and we hugged… and then we hugged some more. During the first annual DadSLAM dad bloggers had the opportunity to place their name into a hat and read their work for a room full of summit attendees.
Each reader was able to give a voice to their words. Words that at one time we were only able to read in our own voice. Some shared stories of anger and others of their internal struggles. At the end of it all it turned out to be one of the most satisfying and entertaining emotional roller coasters that you could ever ride on. In a way we were given the opportunity to look into a mirror. When those gentlemen decided to open up and share their stories, we could catch a glimpse of ourselves shining through.
If you don’t leave the summit with questions, then someone didn’t do their job. Sure, you’ll acquire some valuable tips, tricks and tools from some of the best in the business (strictly my opinion), but if you’re anything like me you’ll leave the summit with a newfound or refreshed calling to make a difference. We all have different ways of doing that. Some will continue to post to their blogs advocating for fathers and the expanded role they play. Others will use their expansive following to promote good, such as the group of a dozen bloggers who will trek 80 miles across England to raise money to benefit the children of parents with cancer.
The summit is life changing. Prior to attending I submitted an unpublished piece of work about my love of words. I told the reader why I felt the summit could heal me. Before the summit I was still trying to piece together what exactly a father was. Having attended I can now tell you that I no longer wonder if I am on the right track as a father to my children. Because of the opportunity to attend the Dad 2.0 Summit as a recipient of an Oren Miller Grant, I now have a renewed lust for leaving the world a better place for my children.
— City Dads Group (@CityDadsGroup) February 20, 2016
During my stay I was welcomed with open arms. I was invited by Christian Lee to be a guest on his podcast, Screaming Dads. I was also invited to and attended a meeting of the City Dads Group and subsequently welcomed as a co-organizer of the Detroit Dads Group.
At the end of the day we all had different titles on our business cards.
Influencer. Blogger. Author.
By the end of the summit none of that mattered. By the end of the summit the only thing that mattered was that we are dads. We weren’t just creating a network, we were creating friendships. Soon after, we said our goodbyes, got in one last hug and scurried off to catch a ride back to our families because at the end of the day, that’s why we’re here and that’s why the Dad 2.0 Summit is so important.