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It’s been 20 years since the formation of the National At Home Dad Network’s annual convention. To celebrate this milestone we will be counting down to our convention in Raleigh by featuring past and present attendees, who will share why this gathering of modern fathers is so important.

It’s not every year that we turn twenty. As the 20th Annual National At-Home Dad Network’s Convention rolls around we want to celebrate our special event.

Many dads have transitioned through their role as the primary caregiver for their children and many of them have found and attended our convention to find support and meaning to help them in their journey. For the next nine weeks we will be highlighting dads who have attended the convention over many years, returning because it has been a life changing experience for them. Join us as they share exactly why this gathering is so beneficial to them, their kids, and their family.

Week 9 – Al Watts, South Elgin, IL

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1.       Who is in your house? Tell us about your spouse, kids etc.

I am married for 20 years to my beautiful wife Shirley and we have 4 children: Anna (13), Macy (11), Ben (8) and Rachel (7) as well as three goldfish: Olaf the black-nosed reindeer, Owen and Mo.

2.       How long were you, or have been a stay at home dad?

I have been a stay-at-home dad for 12-and-a-half years, from the time our oldest was 6 months old. I intend to continue this role until our last one has graduated high school.

3.       What city/ cities and year(s) did you attend the convention?

This year will be my 10th Convention. I attended 2006-07 in Kansas City, MO; 2008 in Sacramento, CA; 2009-10 Omaha, NE; 2011-12 Washington DC; and 2013-14 in Denver, CO.

4.       What is your best memory from a convention that you attended?

When I attended the 2013 Convention in Denver, it had been only 3 months since my oldest daughter had been slightly injured in a horrific accident. The horse she was riding in Yellowstone National Park slipped while riding near the lip of a canyon. Both the horse and my daughter went over the edge, the horse tumbling the 300 feet to the bottom and dying instantly; my daughter tumbling about halfway down and coming to rest about 125 feet from the top. It took over four hours for her to be extricated from the canyon. Miraculously, the horse never hit her and she only suffered minor scrapes and bruises. I had posted about the event on Facebook and received a lot of support but, when I walked in to the pre-convention Dad’s Night Out, I had only talked to a few guys in person. When my friend Greg Washington saw me walk in, he immediately ditched the conversation he was having and came up to me and asked me how I was doing, giving me a big hug. That showed me how special these guys who attend the convention are and how much we all care about each other.

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5.       Why should someone attend the convention?

You should attend the convention because you will meet guys like you who will become your friends for life. I love meeting new guys and I love the camaraderie I see them experience immediately when they enter the Convention. But, if that isn’t what you’re looking for, there are so many great sessions on parenting that are worth much more than the money you might spend. For me, though, the validation I get from other dads that proves I am, mostly, parenting well, has been the most valuable part of my experience from the 9 conventions I’ve attended.

Follow #RoadToRaleigh and #AHDCon on Twitter and Instagram and read about our featured dads every Friday until the convention as we count down to the 20th Annual NAHDN Convention

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