This week I convene once again with my tribe of dad scribes. For those unfamiliar, Dad 2.0 Summit is an annual conference gathering those of us who blog, vlog, podcast, and socially media-tize in the parenting space.
While mostly a virtual community, once a year we gather IRL to learn, share, brag, gripe, eat, drink, hug and swap jokes. As dads do. But the best part is the community. The being in it, the making of it. And the aspect that keeps us vibrant and alive — growing it.
This year is our 8th such Summit (my 6th to attend), and the 5th year awarding scholarships to several attendees. Last year I was honored to be named chairman of the Oren Miller Dad 2.0 Scholarship, and I’m doubly honored to introduce you to this year’s recipients — first time Summiters and newest members of the tribe.
Take a few minutes to read about these dads, meet their families, check out their work. They have 21 kids and 1 grandkid between them — including three sets of twins. They come from seven different states from all across the US. They’re writers, photographers, podcasters, quilters, and stand-up comedians. And a bunch of them love The Big Lebowski. As dads do.
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This blog post has been decades in the making. It was written before I saw the Aquaman movie, and will not change after I’ve seen it. Please check out my review of the film.
These are the two most common responses when someone learns Aquaman is my favorite superhero. As he’s been my go-to hero since I was a mere guppy, fielding these questions has been a frequent — and often frustrating — ordeal.
Thing is, nobody ever asks Superman fans why he’s their favorite. The same goes for Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Thor, Hulk, Black Panther, Batgirl, Green Lantern, Black Widow, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Storm, Deadpool, Daredevil and even the friggin’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
As my fandom was questioned over the years, I’ve had ample time to ponder its roots and reasons. As the wave of the character’s film-related popularity is cresting, I figured I should finally share my thoughts.
So in honor of the King of the Seven Seas — here are the top seven reasons Aquaman is my favorite superhero.
Sometimes I forget how lucky I am. For example, how many parents can say their kids are excited to go back to school? Okay, so I loved going back to school as a kid — but all my favorite activities involved air conditioning. My kid LIVES for summer, but he’s hyped for back-to-school as well.
Maybe he’s excited because he’s an only child and misses being around other kids. Or perhaps it’s that his classroom is in a newly-built wing. Or he’s just pumped to use his new Black Panther backpack.
It’s likely all those things. But it’s also a genuine love of learning. And as a parent, I can’t imagine how I could be more lucky.
A couple of weeks ago, Jon initiated this conversation.
“Daddy, this year at school I have some goals,” he began.
“Oh yeah? Like what?” I asked.
He begins to list them. “I want to be a better listener in class. I want to not talk in class unless I raise my hand or it’s my turn. I want to be a better helper. I want to stand up to bullies…”
What did you do on your summer vacation? Before we’re all too entrenched in the new school year, allow me to regale you with a harrowing tale. A tale of childhood. A tale of fun. A tale of absentmindedness and excuses and going commando. And a tale of a very, very frustrated dad.
Last summer my son attended a daytime summer camp and had an amazing time. I’ve never been much of a summer (or any type of) camper. I was/am too uptight to deal with nature or filth or a lack of personal space for long periods of time. But my kid is almost exactly the opposite. Which meant he squeezed the fun out of every moment of camp, but tended to not sweat many any of the details. Which also meant day-after-day-after-day of his shit being left behind at camp.
It boggled my mind, pushed all my Angry Dad buttons, and eventually became comically surreal. Nearly every parent I told said their kid was exactly the same, so I swore that the next summer I would document it somehow. There was some cathartic, empathetic humor to be mined.
Yet as this past school year wound down and quickly burst into summer, I found myself rushing around preparing for camp and completely forgot about my idea. It wasn’t until the first afternoon of pick-up that I remembered; when I opened my son’s backpack to put away his wet clothes and found none. On. Day. One.
I sat on the floor of my son’s room amidst a sea of books, surveying those he’d carefully selected yanked off the shelf for inclusion in a yard sale. Memories from the last eight years of nightly bedtime stories flooded my thoughts (and my eyes a little, too).
Few moments in parenting are as special as those spent reading with your kids. Yet it can be a challenge finding quality children’s books that include a positive — or any — portrayal of fathers.
Some progress has been made, but society still often works overtime against dads making emotional, creative or educational connections with their kids. Books that feature fathers can play an important part in bridging that divide. They help lay an early foundation for equally involved parents, regardless of gender. And for two dad families like mine, representation is crucial to helping our kids feel nurtured, included, and seen.
As I proceeded to cull, it came as no surprise that the “dad” books were making the “keep” pile rather tall. So as we near Father’s Day, I thought I’d share my favorite “keepers” — my favorite children’s books about dads. Each of these father-centric books carries the official Designer Daddy (and son) seal of approval, and is guaranteed to keep dad(s) showing up for story time.
With the release of Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel celebrates ten years amassing the money-makingest film franchise in history. They’ve also made some really great movies. And mixed in amongst the epic battles, amazing effects, and side-splitting one-liners there lies a wealth of character-building wisdom. One might even say gems of wisdom.
Just a little over a year into the MCU Decade, I became a father. Few things have given me more joy as a dad than introducing my son to these characters and these films… at age appropriate times, of course. 😉
So as a galactic-sized THANK YOU to Marvel and Disney, I’ve pulled together 10 of the great life lessons I’ve gleaned from the films. While my intention was to impart these nuggets to my kiddo, they’ve certainly taught me a thing or two, too.
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1. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Superheroes don’t just throw big punches, they’re also often very, very smart. Geniuses Bruce Banner, Shuri, and Tony Stark have used their knowledge of science and technology to give them an edge against that universe’s bullies. Just don’t rely too much on your smarts, or you might accidentally create a sentient robot set on destroying humanity.
Road trips were a big part of my childhood. As a military family, that meant lots of visits to grandparents and cousins each summer and Christmas. Most of these trips were taken in the family van (this was pre-minivan, folks). It was a glorious every-shade-of-brown, tricked out with a movable table, back seat that folded into a bed, and wall-to-ceiling velour. And as the oldest kid, I had the best seat — the captain’s chair behind the driver; feet propped up in the tinted windowsill; plugged into my Walkman as I watched the world whiz by.
College road trips consisted of driving the 787 miles from Waco to my parents in Colorado Springs. It was equal parts breathtaking and mind-numbing, but with the right music (and lots of Dr. Pepper), the trip went by in no time.
Nowadays our expeditions are usually to Grandma and Grandpa’s. Yet music is still an essential part of our travels — whether it’s to entertain a fidgeting second grader or keep Papa awake during I-95 traffic.
For the most part, being a gay dad is like any other parenting experience. The everyday is filled with a mixture of failure and success; laughter and tears; mealtimes, play times, poop times. And then there are those moments when I marvel at the hilarious dichotomy my life has become.
Case in point… While no one is 100% true to stereotype, our family was staying in our appointed lanes on a recent Friday night. Papa and I were catching up on RuPaul’s Drag Race as our 8-year-old basked in the glorious mayhem of a WWE match.
Jon watched on his tablet with headphones so the noise wouldn’t bother us (and so he wouldn’t hear the more adult drag queen vernacular.) This proved moot, however, as our son began announcing the play-by-play. As he called out the names of the wrestlers, two thoughts struck me:
“How many other families are simultaneously watching RuPaul and WWE?” and
“Wow, professional wrestlers and drag queens are a lot alike.”
For anyone who wasn’t a straight, white, Christian man, 2017 was a hell of a year. Yes, our Reality Star-in-Chief made a couple of appearances on the blog — how could he not? The year also saw struggles for the trans community, convos with my kid about sex, and family game night made more tolerable by booze. It wasn’t an easy year, but it certainly was eventful. These are my 10 favorite blog posts of 2017.
Papa and I certainly could have done better in keeping Jon up on his reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic this summer. Unless role-playing digital comics counts as reading, creating Roblox/Minecraft/Terraria structures out of code counts as writing, or “subtracting” swim trunks, goggles, water bottles, lunch boxes, socks, towels, and underwear during summer camp counts as math.
But what he lacked in academics, Jon made up for in feats of awesomeness. Last November, the pediatrician had tasked us with making sure our son could swim beyond doggie-paddling and ride a bike without training wheels. He now swims like a fish and rides like the wind, though both still with a healthy amount of youthful wobbliness. He also danced and dabbed his little heart out during Family Day at camp, and took on dog-walking (galloping, rather) responsibilities.
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
After setting the summer months with a beautiful weekend on the Bay, we are once again here — the first day of school. SECOND GRADE! We’ve been in our new house and Jon’s new school for a year now — so we can’t honestly call either of them “new,” though they still feel that way at times. Despite the occasional rookie parent mistake, we navigated the First Day like seasoned pros. We managed to get up and out the door in time, sans a drop of drama. I even made his lunch note the night before!