Dad 2.013 ended almost three weeks ago, and since then, I've been indulging myself in ways some might not describe as all that indulgent. In between the post-mortem calls with sponsors and the reading of the many gratifyingly recaps, I've been been busy remembering how to write for me rather than for my job. This involves a lot of reading, and scribbling, and making a dent in my bloated Netflix queue. (Game of Thrones. Yes.)
There has also been a lot of digging out from under. Incentivized by my sweet-ass new vacuum cleaner. (Indulgence!)
The kids and I have seen a lot of each other this week when they're off school, and the other day the 10yo saw the Dad 2.0 foamboard signs I saved from the scrap heap and asked, "Just what did you accomplish with this conference, anyway?"
I wasn't sure how to answer him. It's been enough of a chore over the past two years explaining Dad 2.0 to friends and family and potential landlords. The prospect of describing it to my tweener son, for whom just about everything has become "epically lame," was daunting. It did, however, give me a clear template for how to take stock of the last six months of my life.
I could have said something about the theme of Dad 2.013, which was "Elevated Expectations." It was inspired by a quote from Michael Chabon in Manhood for Amateurs: "The handy
thing about being a father is that the historic standard is so pitifully low.” We came to Houston for the counterintuitive purpose of rocking the boat and asking to be held in higher regard.
Putting together the first conference was a lot different, because to say people had low expectations for a disproven dad market is to imply there were any expecations at all. This year, though, we had a Title Sponsor (Dove Men+Care) and three Presenting Sponsors (Honda, ReadySetEat, and Kraft Cheese). We had a media event in MetLife Stadium. We had a weekend of our own choosing, rather than a strategic piggyback onto SxSW.
We had means, and a track record to improve upon.
That Dad 2.013 even existed stood for something important. We weren't just a one-and-done. We were back, and (22%) bigger. We had a lot of new faces, and an established, annual opportunity to galvanize them into a community that expects more from the media that portray us, the content that represents us, and the conduct that defines us.
I could have said that, after so many years as a vocational itinerant who never quite fit into the three consecutive jobs that got rid of him, I feel like I've found my place. A gig to feel good about, and makes sense with me in it, and makes we walk around with a goofy smile on my face:
Photo by Jon Armstrong.
All of which would ring irredeemably tedious in a kid's ears. Yeah, Dad. Whatever.
So instead I dialed it back a bit and went as elemental as I could: "We spent the weekend talking about how cool it is to be someone's dad."
"Cool beans," he said, unaware of just how ridiculously cool those beans are.