What 13 Dads Learned About Being Better Fathers (And Human Beings)

A dad conference revealed tons of wisdom. Here's what 13 dads learned about fatherhood. | instafather.com

A dad conference revealed tons of wisdom. Here's what 13 dads learned about fatherhood. | instafather.com

There's no such thing as a dad expert. But that doesn't mean dads can't improve themselves. I saw this firsthand at the Dad 2.0 Summit. It's an annual conference for men who have beards and wear flannel: fathers. Specifically, dads who write about being dads. Hundreds of guys who have made a choice to write or talk about what it's like being a modern dad — how cool is that?

It's the best experience (like sleepaway camp but instead of ghost stories it was stories about getting peed on). If you weren't in San Diego with us, I won't rehash it because that's like someone showing you vacation photos. What you should know, though, is all the valuable wisdom being tossed around like pacifiers all weekend. Seriously inspiring stuff.

What advice did I pick up? It was more of a feeling: I'm not alone as a dad. There are a lot of dudes going through the same thing, the same frustrations, the same highs and lows. I got a chance to read my recent story about battling through anger and depression - not only was it received warmly, but I heard other dads share similar stories, too.

All of it was a good reminder that we're all subpar, as men, about talking to each other about what we're going through. Even at a conference for dad bloggers — people who have made part of their life around talking about fatherhood to strangers — we all were still surprised at the stories we'd hear. 

I've been thinking about starting a private Facebook group for dads who follow Instafather so we can start a dialogue; be the solution, so to speak. Maybe this was what I needed to experience to make that happen (hit me up @instafatherandy if you have thoughts on whether I should do that!)

But I was far from the only one doing a lot of head nodding. I asked other guys what they learned. You'll find dads of all backgrounds below - stay-at-home dads, single dads, dads of twins, married dads, dads of different ethnicities. But what we all have in common is we love our kids (and swag ... we loved getting swag). See what nuggets of wisdom they got after a weekend full of inspirational speakers and long conversations about fatherhood.

Make sure to check out all of these dads' sites/social media, too! There are a lot of dads to look up to all around us. Thanks to everyone who contributed.


Listen more, talk less

I did a lot of listening in order to really take in who the speaker was. I am working on taking that strategy home with me, and really listening to my sons. Childhood is so brief, and I've realized that there's a good chance I can miss an important moment in an instance. I don't want that to happen.

- Kevin Zelenka, Doubletroubledaddy.com

Listen to and reflect on the experiences that may be different than yours, you WILL learn a lot. 

- Sean Singleton https://www.thepoplyfe.com/

Be present. Be in tune with yourself. Be Honest.

Andrew McCarthy on finding life's moments of clarity: "Oh! There I am," he'd say when he found out what he should do next. | instafather.com

"Oh. There I am."  - Andrew McCarthy (a captivating keynote speaker/the actor from St. Elmo's Fire/Weekend at Bernies and a million other things, said he would say that phrase to himself when he had a moment of clarity of who he really is and what he should do with his life). I was once lost but now I'm found – in my family, and my passions, and in large part due to this community – but the challenge for me has been to stay there. To stay centered, to embrace it, champion it, live it, sing it from the mountain top. My soul is a nomadic, wayfaring beast and I often lose sight of the fact that I've already found what I'm eternally seeking. This little silly/nothing phrase was everything for me. I'm already sketching the tattoo proofs.

- Mike Heenan http://athomedadmatters.com

Take off your mask of masculinity and be vulnerable. Everyone in the room has experienced the same or similar low that you have, and they will appreciate your vulnerability.

- Adam Gertsacov @dadapalooza http://www.dadapalooza.com

No matter how isolated you might feel, there's a community out there waiting with open arms. You just need to open yours ...  To be honest, the biggest dad wisdom I received this year is the same as a personal goal: learn to stop comparing myself to others and accept that I have a positive impact on people.

- Lorne Jaffe http://www.raisingsienna.com / @raisingsienna

You're a role model for your kids

Kids don't listen, but they observe our behavior very closely. - Adam Hall http://tenordad.com

Being a great dad means being ready and persisting

"Be at your best on command," Charles "Peanut" Tillman (a keynote speaker, former NFL player and dad whose daughter had heart replacement surgery as a baby, forcing him to best at his best on a moment's notice.)

- Tobin Walsh http://goodbaddad.com/ 

"Never, never, never quit" - Winston Churchill

- Keith Jower @dads4life

Sharing Your Story as a Dad Means Letting Go

Tell your story, find your voice and just keep writing.

- Victor Aragon @fandads

Just start! You don't have to be perfect!

- Aaron Canwell @micahandmerocks (who plays a mean ukulele btw!)

Just good advice in general

In the words of Glen Henry ... "Don't put your finger in ya butthole, it's gross"  

- Ryan Darcy http://stayathomefielddadvantage.wordpress.com

P.S. Julian Ivey-Caldwell (@GetConnectDad) and Joel Gratcyk (@DaddysGrounded) both said they learned that they need to do more video, like Facebook Live, to better connect to dads. What do you think? Should I do more video? Do you prefer video versus posts like this? Are you not reading this P.S. because it's not a video?