For the past 3 years I have been fortunate to be able to attend the Father’s Conference put on by a wonderful Detroit based organization known at the Partnership for Dads. I arrived at the Oakland Schools building here in Oakland County, Michigan at 8:30am. Once I checked in the first thing I saw was the sparkling white hair of friend and fellow blogger David Stanley from Dad’s Round Table. Dave Stanley was planning to attend the Dad 2.0 Summit but had to pull out due to a health issue but I was happy that he was feeling well enough to accept my invitation to the Father’s Conference. After introducing ourselves to each other we made our way to the main hall where we had breakfast and meet our fellow Michigan dads.
Right away I was swept right back in to the feeling of the previous conference and it felt as if it happened just a week before instead a year ago. Dads everywhere, walking around and talking like they have already known each other for years. And of course, some of us have. This year’s theme was “What is your legacy.” A very fitting theme based on one big thing that happened in 2013. During the welcoming address by Mojo, from the local Detroit radio station Channel 95.5 it was revealed that two big players from the Partnership for Dads had passed away. One of those was Jeff Zaslow, who passed away in 2012 and was a previous keynote speaker at the conference. Not only was Jeff an accomplished writer for the Wall Street Journal but he was a dad that spent most of him time with his girls while writing from his home. We were lucky to have his daughters there and one of them was out Keynote Speaker.
Alexandra Zaslow, who currently works for the Huffington Post, spoke about the legacy her father left behind. She spoke of the great things he said and the crazy things he did that made her a better person. I couldn’t help but tear up a few times during her speech because it made me realize what we leave behind matters. You can find her speech that she delivered to us over at the Huffington Post. The other person that passed away was a big shock to me, not only had I not heard about it but I was looking forward to seeing this man again. Every year I was at this conference he came to me to thank me for coming and made sure I was getting something out of it. Last year he asked if I was planning to go to the panel he runs and I told him I would do it “next year.” I am referring to the founder of the Partnership for Dads, Tom Fitzpatrick. We were also graced by the presence of this amazing man’s daughters who finished the keynote with very few dry eyes in the audience. On the tables they had a card that said, “What legacy do you feel you are leaving now?”
We were encouraged to write our answer and then don’t touch the card until the afternoon session. Next were the breakout sessions. I really enjoy these because they are usually very intimate and you always have a chance to talk individually with the presenters. The sessions were generally the same as last year except with either different presenters or something geared toward this year’s theme. The first session included: Fathers and Daughters: A Crisis in the American Family, Staying Engaged with your Kids As They Grow, Raising Balanced Kids in an Unbalanced World and Co-Parenting Without Conflict.
I attended “Staying Engaged with Your Kids as They Grow” this year because it was being presented my Dr. Steven Craig and his wife Dr. Ronna Smith-Craig. I attended their presentation on Co-Parenting last year and I knew this would be a good one because those two work so well together. In the discussion, they covered many topics like how to handle kid’s attention with their phones, connection with newborns and maintaining a good balance between mom and dad so that “dad” doesn’t become the “secondary parent” and end up being shut out from the child.
There was such a good diverse mix of dads. New dads, future dads, at-home dads, working dads, grandparents and even a couple dad that have adult children as well as toddlers. In the end we had so much to discuss we never made it through all the subjects but still I walked away refreshed with a new confidence that, even if I go back to work, I will be able to keep my connection with my children and stay engaged in their lives. For the second workshop I attended the “Fathers Forum” where we all sat down in a circle and talked while also offering advice to other dads. I won’t explain too much of what happened here because we were strictly forbidden to talk about what was discussed in the forum. I will say that what I was most excited about going into this conference was being able to attend this because it has always been ran by Tom Fitzpatrick. Even though he had passed away they still has the forum in his honor unfortunately not many people came so there were only 4 of us. It ended up being a very good session and only having the 4 of us made it easier to hold longer discussions then if we had 10 people.
The other workshops included: Ask The Experts: Daughter’s on Fathers (Where a panel of young women talk about their fathers and answer questions), Fathering the Boys: The Dads They Need to Become, the Men They Were Born to Become, Cultivating Honesty Integrity in Our Children in a Changing World and Coping with Parental Alienation. For the third workshop I attended, Being a Positive Role-Model for Your Kids once again presented by Dr. Steven Craig but this time alongside Blaine Fowler. Where we were shown what affects our influence can be on our children.
The other presentations offered were: Fathering Sons (Similar to the Ask the Experts panel but with young men), The 411 on Talking to Kids About Sex, Navigating the Unique Challenges of Blended Families and Staying Connected to Your Kids. The fourth session is not a normal break out session but is where the closing remarks take place. To close out the day they had Robin Wright King present a story about her father whom she writes about in her book, Papa Was a Rolling Stone: A Daughter’s Journey to Forgiveness. Robin talked about how her father was never a part of her life and how she has dealt with the pain of having and absent father. After Mrs. King gave her speech, you could tell every dad was affected by her speech. What she has gone through is the very reason we are all involved in our child lives.
During the closing remarks they told us to all look at the card we filled out at the beginning and answer the question, “Are you creating your desired legacy? If not, what would you want that to be?” They then projected on the main screens any tweet that used the hashtag #fatherscon and told everyone in the room to tweet what they want their legacy to be. So the question I now have for you all, in the comments answer these questions, what is the legacy you want to leave? And do you think you are creating it?
Wondering what mine is? For my kids to remember me as a loving and caring father and want to be one themselves. And yes, I think I am creating that legacy.