Monday, December 22, 2008

More Upsides To The Downswing

If there's one thing I've learned it's that, for the most part, people don't usually do things until they are forced to. Yes, there are always some generous people who make decisions for other reasons, but when it comes down to it, business tends to be business - and forget about really caring for the individual.

Such is the way it is regarding our culture's resistance to better family/work balance. Productivity and efficiency (or at least 20th Century ideas of these things) still prevail - and yet, it's possible this recession may alter this behavior.

In today's New York Times there's an article about how some companies are avoiding layoffs by some implementing different strategies, among them: four day work weeks and flexible work schedules. In other words, companies are shifting to these policies not because they see the benefit to their workers but because they have no alternative aside from layoffs.

It's not a rosy article, but the potential upside is that perhaps some of these work policy shifts might stick even after things settle down, which would be a great step forward in our corporate culture regarding family/work balance. I'm hopeful. Only time will tell...

Friday, December 19, 2008

If History Be Our Guide....

I recently asked sociologist and fatherhood expert, Dr. Ralph LaRossa, how he felt the current recession would impact the role of fatherhood, given his vast knowledge in this particular area. Here's what he wrote:

"If history is a guide, at least two scenarios may play out. During the Great Depression, a number of men withdrew physically and/or psychologically from their families. Thus, in terms of the conduct of fatherhood, there is evidence of a decline. On the other hand, the economic crisis helped to fuel positive changes in the culture of fatherhood, with "experts" further encouraging men to play a greater role in the life of the children, and the business community pushing hard to institutionalize Father's Day. Thus, in terms of the culture of fatherhood, we see progression." (Ralph LaRossa, The Modernization of Fatherhood: A Social and Political History. University of Chicago Press, 1997.)

The Evolution of (Dino) Dad

Just when we thought that the Evolution of Dad was a recent occurrence, news from 800 million years ago arrives. Scientists now believe that a certain type of dinosaur was an involved dad. Read here for the full scoop. Special thanks to Ralph LaRossa for bringing this to our attention.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Miracles and Magic

The other day Charlie and I were watching the original Miracle On 34th Street and I found myself getting all choked-up. It's amazing how a movie that's so old can still have such power.

After the movie finished and my son had settled into his bed, I sat for a while, contemplating just why I had been so moved. I've seen this film so many countless times before and hadn't that kind of reaction to it.

But then it occurred to me: this was the first time I had seen the movie as a father. Being a father and, in essence, seeing the film through my son's young eyes, was like watching it again for the first time.

This is the true magic of really getting to know one's kids. It's hard to communicate this to people who aren't parents yet. From the outside view there is so much sacrifice involved in bringing up kids - and that is correct.

But then there's the magic.

It's all too easy as we get older, to get tired of our lives. It seems at times that a lot more magic is needed for a much diminished return, than when we were kids. The same things, year end and out, the same routines, the seasons spinning...

The antidote for all this are children. They remind us of when we were young.

So, when the very young Natalie Wood in the film says, "There is magic! I believe, I believe!" and the tears are flowing from my eyes as I sit watching, snuggled on the couch with my elder son, she's not just speaking about what she has found again but what we all can if we want to.

I wish you and your family a good holiday season. May you find the miracles and magic again if you haven't already. Peace be with you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

To James On His Second Birthday

Dear James,

It never ceases to amaze me how you and your brother are growing up so fast. You have done so many incredible things this past year. You learned to walk. You discovered your favorite color (yellow.) You learned to talk. You figured out how to get along with people.

Before you were born I believed that nurture and nature are equal in defining people. However, seeing how different you are from Charlie and knowing that we’ve given you the same amount of time, love and care, it seems evident to me that the balance is more like 80%nature to 20% nurture. You and your brother definitely arrived with your ‘bags packed.’

While your brother would still probably be allowing us to feed him, the moment you could grapple a small fork, the message was very clear: I want to do this myself. You no doubt have your mom’s independent streak. You want things your way and how you like them. It’s funny how when Charlie wants something, we can easily distract him with something else, but you are not easily distracted. It’s good to know what you want, but don’t get too rigid as you’re sometimes want to do. Life just doesn’t always work your way.

I have no doubt that when you and your brother are older, you’re going to be looking out for Charlie – or at least that’s my hope. “Don’t mess with my brother or you’re going to have to deal with me,” is something I can imagine hearing the teenage version of you saying. That’s not to say your brother is a pushover, but I can already see that you’re tougher. Not only mentally but physically as well.

You’re already quite the schmoozer. One of the moments this year that really stands out was when we were in the process of selling our Hoboken apartment and the real estate agent came over with a contract offer. We were sitting around the couch in the living room. You wanted to check out the contract and so I put the document on the other side of the ottoman, so that it would be opposite to where you were. Well, you decided to charm the agent by smiling at him, then finessing your way past to get to the contract.

And then there was the time last Spring when we were all on that water taxi at Epcot and you started flirting with an entire team of cheerleaders. (Yes, there are videos, so go look.) Between your good looks and your charms, I’m not terribly worried about your future dating life.

So, happy 2nd birthday sweet baby James. I love you so much and know that years from now I’ll look back with a big smile at the quiet mornings that we used to sit quietly and read story after story, sitting on our couch, drinking milk and OJ together. Being able to share this moment in your young life is such a gift.

With great love,


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This Boat Needs To Float

You know things are bad with the economy when one's child comes home from nursery school with a note addressing the country's financial situation. This is what Charlie had in his backpack today. I felt that it is worth sharing:

"So.. We are in a very difficult economic time (an understatement.) Hopefully, this situation will help us to come together to work for the common good of everyone (this boat needs to float!)

If your job status/economic situation has drastically changed, and we can help in any way, please let us know. Hang in there!"

This is a time of growth for our country. It is a time when we will be defined by how we treat each other when the chips are down, when things no longer seem so certain. In a time where the news seems to be increasingly more dire, a little note from Nursery school can go a long way.

This boat needs to float, indeed.

Monday, October 27, 2008

To Charlie On His Fifth Birthday

My Dear Son Charlie,

As is the yearly custom, I’m stunned once again that you are now another year older. I can’t believe that you are Five. It only seems a second ago that I could practically hold all of you in one hand.

You have matured in so many ways this past year. Your ability to conceptualize, or put ideas together in your head, is remarkable. I’ll never forget walking out of your favorite store (Radio Shack) recently and sharing my frustration that the man helping us couldn’t think creatively enough to help us figure out how to light up the pirate cannon we were making.

“Well, Daddy,” you said as we walked, “you and I don’t have any problem being creative, do we?”

Indeed we don’t, Charlie. You know, the older you get, the more I see so much of myself in you – the good and, yes, the not so great sometimes, too. Of course, you’re not exactly me and I try to remind myself of that constantly, but there really is quite a lot of similarity: the fascination with how things fit together, the passion for doing projects, the exuberance of spirit and the love for making and sharing good stories. There’s also the tunnel vision (an asset and a curse) and so much emotion flowing through your head that sometimes it’s hard to be fully aware of others around you – and yet, you’ve made some very special new friends in the last few months of being here.

It may not always be easy for you to ‘fit in’ but always know that if you look long enough, keep an open mind and a loving hand, that there is always a special place for you. There will always be people, like Isabella or Molly or Caitlin or Yael or Aiden, who will be able to see how wonderful a person you are.

No matter how old you are reading this letter, don’t forget this.

Lastly, I believe that when you are an adult and I’m, well, a tad older, we won’t just be father and son. We’ll be good friends as well. Let’s not hurry things along too much, though, okay?

In the meantime, being able to spend the time that I do with you, Charlie, is a true gift for me. It makes me feel more alive to be around you and your brother. It makes me more aware of myself. It makes me grow as a person as much as you do. Snuggling on the couch in the mornings, reading stories together, going on hikes to Ramapo Reservation, searching for coins on the beach, treks into the city to see the Molly, ‘The Red Balloon’ or the ‘Magic Window’s’ around Christmas – these are all things I know we both will always cherish.

I love you so much, Charlie, no matter what. Happy Fifth Birthday!


Friday, October 10, 2008

The Upside of a Downturn

At the children's service yesterday for Yom Kippur, the rabbi asked kids in the audience to share what their hopes might be for the new year. My elder son, Charlie, held up his hand and the microphone was brought to him.

"When we're in the store, I hope that the prices of things are less," he said, speaking like some sort of future economist.

The congregation gave a loud chortle. Little did my son realize that what he said, in regards to saving his allowance to buy silly string, was perhaps the strongest hope anyone of us can have right now.

A day before that, I had received a voice mail from an account manager at Wachovia. Before I could even call back, my phone rang again. I nervously asked what this was about. The manager awkwardly just said she was calling to 'chat' and 'get to know' me better.

When a bank calls you just wanting to 'chat' something is direly wrong.

I write about these things not because I have any business discussing the financial situation (I know as much as you probably do) but to reflect on what this means regarding fatherhood.

In the past, I've written about how historically, in economic hard times, there is more of a focus on involved fatherhood. It's one of the only fortunate offshoots of these difficult periods in the country. While it's sad that we need to be going through the tumult of this period, perhaps there will be some overall growth for fathers about the value of spending more time with their kids and it will impact a mental shift when the economy eventually does come back around.

That's my hope and the hope of the project, anyway.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Couldn't Have Said It Better Than Jeremy At Daddy Dialectic

Jeremy over at Daddy Dialectic has mentioned in the past how we seem to have a very similar world view when it comes to fatherhood and I have to concur. Please read these two great entries he's put out in the past few weeks: the first about how he feels about the current state of the world. It's extremely touching. The second is about his take on how issues of fatherhood played into the VP debate. I couldn't have expressed it better myself. Thanks, Jeremy!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Charlie And The Playground Part 2

Well, my wife and I met with Charlie's teacher and the head of his nursery school a few days ago. It was good to see that they had their hearts in the right place and my perspective has changed a bit since then.

After talking to the folks running Charlie's school I have a better appreciation for their intentions: which is to prep our son as best as possible for his entrance into next year's public school. Certainly, these teachers care and want our son to succeed in life. Their Montesoori-style school is designed to teach kids as much as possible so that they have a leg up in grade school.

That, by the way, was why Charlie missed the playground that day. Since there are two teachers to a class, one could take care of the others while the other spent some 'extra time' helping Charlie with his work. While I strongly believe that kids need to have his time in the playground as much as in-class work, the extra attention afforded to my son is appreciated. (Perhaps if it had been presented this way, I may not have felt as strongly as I had.)

While I wish our culture wasn't so results-oriented, I do see the value in this training. Charlie is able to write his own name - something he previously couldn't do. That's a good thing. What's still troubling, I suppose, is that kids these days just allowed to be kids enough or themselves enough, frankly.

"We understand that your son is never going to be your typical kid," the head of the nursery school said at a certain point, "and we're certainly not trying to make everyone into sheep, but we do want Charlie to be able to fit into society as best as he can."

The worry is that Charlie will become 'labeled' badly by the other kids and the greater concern by the school is that if Charlie doesn't bend a bit more to the rules of this school and be less 'high maintenance', he'll basically be ejected within a couple of months - a hard pill to swallow for any parent.

My wife wants to have Charlie tested and evaluated - not so much that there is something direly wrong with him -- there certainly isn't -- but if there's anything we can do in terms of giving him better tools to get along better with others, we should do it. I'm willing to go along with this within reason.

The deeper truth is that when it comes down to it, Charlie is very, very much like me. Of course, he's not exactly me and there plenty of differences between us but his thought processes certainly mirror myself in more ways than one. For example, this weekend, Charlie and I went apple picking with his great aunts and it was a special time. It was also interesting how many times my two wonderful aunts looked to each other and commented about how uncanny it was being around Charlie because he reminded them so much of me when I was his age.

Charlie is more often than not caught up in his own imagination. On Sunday night, my son wanted to shoot some fireworks into the air. This was his solution: he took a pump rocket toy and taped some thin lightsticks to its side. Then, my mom, Charlie and I went out to the field of my elementary school and shot them into the sky. This is the kind of stuff my son does with his time.

Does he sometimes miss social cues because he gets caught up in his own thoughts or have a hard time controlling his impulses? Definitely. Is he easily distractable at times when not focused? Certainly, but so what? Does he have a hard time listening to instructions, especially when he is bored or not getting enough physical activity? Absolutely!

Is there something wrong with this kid? Of course not!

I look at myself and all the trials and tribulations I had with schooling. I was kicked out of a nursery school. I was suspended for three days from Kindergarten. My visits to the principal's office by Third Grade became almost daily. In Fifth Grade my Hebrew School teacher would have told you that I would eventually go to prison for all the shennigans I put her through. I also struggled with making good friends and felt for most of my schooling that I was completely alone, whether it was riding alone on the bus to school field trips to being the last kid picked for a team in gym class. Fitting in, being accepted, these are things I still struggle with to this day.

It pains me that my elder son is showing signs of the same kind of struggles that I have had in my life; but then again, I know that I'm a fairly well-adjusted person with a loving family, good friends and know deep in my heart that my son is going to be okay as well. We'll do all that we can, as my family has done for me, to make sure he'll be okay. My God, I love my son so much. I love both boys so. I really am so lucky to have them. Thank you, God. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No Playground For Charlie

A few days ago I was picking up my elder son, Charlie, from his new nursery school. I asked the teacher, as I'm custom to do, how the day went with my son.

"It went okay. But just so you know, Charlie didn't get to go out to the playground today," she informed me.

"Why was that?" I asked, expecting that it had something to do with Charlie acting out in some manner, as he's sometimes want to do.

"Charlie didn't finish his work in time."

I have to admit that it took me a few minutes for what she said to sink in. Perhaps it was for the best because if I'd reacted immediately, I may have torn the poor woman's head straight off. What kind of a pre-school program for 4-5 year-olds penalizes their kids for not finishing their work on time??? How can you keep a very active boy inside while the rest of his peers are allowed out? Don't they understand how important playground time is for kids?

This preschool was highly recommended to us. It's a Montesoori school, so we know that the philosophy is different than the pre-school Charlie had attended in Hoboken, but if this type of Machievellian policy were presented to us up front, I don't think we would have signed our son up.

There's a point in all of us, I think, beyond mere personal anecdote. This type of belief system, that even small children must be groomed to be as productive and efficient as possible, that in some places nursery school selection is treated like applying for college, speaks once again about the cultural beliefs of our society.

Now, I'm not saying that children shouldn't be taught a degree of discipline, manners, values and given opportunities to explore and excel, but there needs to be a balance in all of this; and that's what I'm ultimately saying: our society is out of whack in its treatment of people and people suffer as a result. Whether it's children who are pushed too hard (or sometimes too little) or dads who are pushed too hard at work (or too little when it comes to family) or who feel that their only real worth is the amount of money they make, there's a real problem in all of this.

My wife and I are going to meet with our son's teacher and hash it out and we'll ultimately do what we think is best for our son, but it just saddens me how this type of societal attitude leaves no one unscathed, not even four-year-olds.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cartoonist/Children's Author Mo Willems joins The Evolution!

We're proud to announce that Mo Willems, one of the best contemporary authors of children's books, has been filmed for inclusion in the project. Among his many titles, Mo wrote "The Knuffle Bunny" and its sequel, which were inspired by his relationship with his own daughter. Mo is also a 'work-at-home' dad and his own father worked at home as well. We're really excited to have Mo in the film and look forward to sharing more details in the future.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seven Years

I can't quite believe that tomorrow will mark the 7th anniversary of 9-11. Time just keeps moving on and yet, that day remains firmly planted in my mind as if it had happened last month. My wife and I were living in the city at the time and watching the towers fall. It is something that will always remain with us. To this day, I continue to look at that empty skyline, still unable to accept what had happened.

I'm sure many of you feel the same.

While this project is certainly not about 9-11, I know that it was a catalyst for change in a lot of people's lives. If that day directly impacted your relationship with your father or your own children, if it caused you to see the greater value of spending more time with family and better balancing your life, I'd love to hear about it and possibly include it in the film.

As I've written in the past, the project is about inspiring dads to get more involved with their kids. Healing stories like these would do a lot to help the cause. Thank you.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

To Hell With At-Home Dads

This Palin story only gets more interesting as it goes along. A major McCain spokesperson on MSNBC shared that Todd Palin is in fact a Stay-At-Home Dad. Well, glad to hear someone is minding the kids. Of course, to me it's really not a big deal. But then, on the other side of the spectrum is John Hagee, a prominent McCain endorser and his opinion on dads-at-home. Enjoy his fair and balanced view below.

Makes you wonder what Hagee and others of his ilk are thinking of Sarah and Todd Palin at this point:)

SAHD Music Video That Rocks!

Rebel Dad posted these a few days back and I couldn't resist plugging it here as well. It's always great to come across this kind of creative dad work online. (Thanks, Brian)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I don't usually infuse this blog with political opinion but what I'm reading about Sarah Palin is certainly making my head spin - and it's more about what isn't being said than what is, specifically regarding fatherhood.

There's a lot of commentary this week about what kind of mom Sarah Palin is given that she a) went back to work three days after her downs syndrome - inflicted infant son was born and b) has a 17 year old daughter who is pregnant.

But what I'm wondering, reading about this candidate is: what's the deal with her husband? What's their idea of family/work balance? Aside from hers, what's his involvement with the family? The interesting thing (and doesn't this say so much about our culture) is that no one really gives a sh-t what he's up to. If you read anything in the media, the only thing mentioned of Todd Palin is that he's a four-time champ in some famous snowmobile race. What's his involvement with the family? How are these parents, who decided to bring a child with down's syndrome into the world, taking care of this kid?

I did some further research online and the info on him is scant. The most you can find is at Wikipedia. Todd evidently works full time as a manager at BP oil. There's no mention of his fatherly duties. So, if Sarah is the governor and Todd is full time at work, who's minding the kids - and what does this say about their true family values?

The point I'm trying to make is not about how I really feel about this particular family that is currently roasting in the spotlight; it is about how it's just another reflection of how our culture once again deemphasizes the family, the role of fatherhood and any notion of gender equity.

The sad truth is that Sarah Palin will likely be voted into office because, while her family seems to reside in complete dysfunction, it is a dysfunction that so many other families can relate to - but does that make her a healthy choice? Well, I think you know my opinion.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Site That Matters

It's great to read the work of fellow dads who are digging deep into the larger issues that revolve around fatherhood. Jeremy Biser, best known for his site, Discovering Dad, is one of those dudes. He's recently launched a new site as well that focuses on "Where it's cool to be a family man." Keep up the fire, Jeremy!

In Good Company

Tom Perrotta is one of my favorite authors as well the writer of one of the more intelligent depictions of an At-Home Dad in his book Little Children. So, it really made my day to read a write-up from that ruminates on the At-Home Dad phenomenon with quotes from Mr. Perotta and myself. Thank you, Melissa Massello, for some decent reporting on the topic.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Time Well Spent

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to film Ralph Benitez once again. Yesterday was my fourth filming day of Ralph and his family and there's something really special about being with them. Ralph and his clan are all about the love for family. You can feel it coming into his home in the Bronx. The care is tangible.

There is also a growing sense of sadness. Since I first met Ralph a couple of months ago, he has lost about thirty pounds. He is down to nearly a hundred pounds. I didn't mention this before, when I posted an interview sample previously, for concern about it overshadowing everything else that Ralph is, but he is in the last throes of Aids.

Ralph shared that his family is still in the denial phase of Kubler Ross' Five Stages of Death. I can understand why. Ralph is so much of their lives. Regardless of his illness he has been a moral and loving force to his family and I can't even fathom what they are going through in considering his absence.

"I don't expect to see the winter, Dana."

It's heartbreaking talking to Ralph at times and to see his wonderful wife, Vilma, cooking for him and his not having much of an appetite. To see his four-year-old granddaughter, who Ralph is primary father figure and knowing what's going to be missing in her life fairly soon.

And yet it's also a very special honor to be spending time with Ralph and his family. Yesterday, Ralph had his granddaughter read a book to him and the pride in his eyes, that she could read at her age, was deeply touching.

Yesterday, I only filmed for a little bit because Ralph wasn't feeling well at all. We just spent most of the time in his driveway, sitting and talking about the world and our childhoods and whatever else came up. Vilma came back from the market with some fish she intended to bake for supper and shared her frustration at seeing their neighbor's seven-year-old boy left unattended and neglected too much of the time. She wanted to do something about it - as they have done with so many other kids who they've encountered over the years.

"We may not have much money," Ralph says, "but we make up for it in the love we share for one another."

Ralph didn't need to explain this to me. It was evident the day I stepped into this family's life.

It was time well spent in the Bronx yesterday. I hope to return.

Memories of Water

Swimming with my nearly five-year-old son in the calm waters of the NJ shore was a real treat a few days ago. There's something special about splashing against the waves with your kid at the beach. It reminded me of swimming with my own dad so many years before.

Driving home, Charlie asked me to tell him about story about when I was a little boy - something that he asks fairly often. I told him about how my dad, a lawyer, once surprised me when I was in Third Grade, on a hot day in June, by yanking me out of school halfway through the day and taking my three-year-old sister and I to Nantasket Beach. He had brought a cooler of sandwiches, drinks and fruit for us to munch on while resting atop our beach blanket. We also brought an inner tube to float around in the cold, calm, salty water. It was a day I'll always remember.

My wife suggested I write about this to demonstrate how dads, even full time working ones, can go the extra mile to spend time with their kids. That's how my dad was and still is. He worked full time but I never really felt his absence because he was always doing things like that beach day. Family was never far from his mind. I'm blessed to have him as my dad and even more blessed to be swimming in the water with my own son.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Breaking The Silence With A Ringtone

I realize it's been a while since I last checked in. Chock it up to moving to the burbs while battling a nasty case of strep, a kitchen that doesn't work yet and two young children running rampant among the heaps of unpacked boxes. Ahh, the burbs. It's nice not to have people walking over one's head (we came from an apt in Hoboken that had only sheet rock between floors) but a bit disconcerting to be tearing open boxes when searching for something simple like a band-aid.

We're now located in Ridgewood, NJ, so if you happen to be in the area (remotely or otherwise:) please give a shout.

I just got contacted again by Mike Nobel who wrote that hilarious song "Househusband Macho" that I had posted about before. It's now a downloadable ringtone that you can get here. For you SAHD's reading this, I think anyone at the playground near you would get a serious chuckle from your phone having this ring. Anyway, check it out. It's free!

Now that my brain is starting to de-thaw from the brain freeze caused by having all my drives, etc, packed away, it's time to start digging back into the project. There's so much to do and film. The engines are revving once more.

Anyway, thanks for your patience, your interest and your love for all things dad. More updates soon...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Aftershave and Sweet Tarts: Kid's Write About Their Dads

The National Center For Fathering recently asked grade school kids what their fathers mean to them. The quotes are often humorous and sometimes touching. Special thanks to Lucy Bloom for passing it on to us.

Father of the Year Quotes 2008

Easton, 2nd Grade
“He burps, but he is a gentleman, so he says, ‘Excuse Me’ (most of the time).”

Indiana, 3rd Grade
“We pretty much always have vegetables for dinner just for him and my mom.”

Quintin, 3rd Grade
“My dad makes everybody laugh. Every morning and every night he does something funny for 3 min.”

Claire, Grade: unknown
“When my mother isn’t home, he manages ‘the ship.’”

Tashayna, 3rd Grade
“My father is the person that cures the sadness in me.”

Makayla, 3rd Grade
“He will always be stuck in my heart even when I get mad at him for things. I think that he is sweeter then SWEET TARTS!”

Luke, 3rd Grade
There is my dad, no can not buy him even if you bid $999,999,999.01!”

Zach, 3rd Grade
“But he gets kinda mad about other things and sends us to our room. He only does that to show us a little discipline. It’ll be useful in the future.”

Ena, 3rd Grade
“He means the world to me if he died, I would cry a waterfall and name it Arthur!”

Jade, 1st Grade
“He doesn’t yell at me when I get on his nerves. He tells me nicely.”

Sadie, 1st Grade
“He fixes everything. He even fixes my brother’s attitude.”

Casey, 5th Grade
“I love him to the moon and back 500 million times!”

Rachel, 5th Grade
“When my dad comes in to give me a hug at night he and I do something special. He whispers in my ear, “Your God’s best.”

Sarah, 6th Grade
“If there is someone I look up to a lot, it’s my father. I look up to him because he is the only person that I will ever be able to call my dad. Other reasons are simply that I need him in order to grow up. Without him I’m almost nothing. He is a very special person that I hope never, ever gets taken away. I simply cannot imagine life on earth without him, even though we might not always get along. So, I thank my dad for always being there to talk to and to comfort me and I thank God for giving me the greatest dad that ever lived!”

Josie, 3rd Grade
“Dad quit his job because he thought that he didn’t get to spend enough time with Mom, my brother and I. Now he has a job where he gets to spend a lot more time with us. Sometimes he even leaves notes before he goes to work.”

Mai See, 3rd Grade
“I love the way my dad loves my family.”

Molly, 3rd Grade
“I love my dad to the moon and back one million times.”

Rebecca, 5th Grade
“I miss him so much I put his aftershave on my pillow.”

Grace, 5th Grade
“He’s the only person I know (besides my teacher) who doesn’t hate fractions!”
“Most important character in my life, helping everyone and loving me! Always loving, always likable, and to everyone nice, devoted, encouraging, very awesome, unique, large and totally perfect.”

Lexi, 5th Grade
“If I’m sad or something sad happens, he will always comfort me, tell me it’s okay, or that things will always get better. If I need him, he will always be there for me, to give me his love and care.”
“I want to be like my dad in so many ways except for his bald head and mustache.”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dallas and Javier - A Year Later

I couldn't resist posting this recent still of dad subject Dallas Hayes and his son, Javier. Dallas' wife took the picture while they were all vacationing and it's great to see how much Javier has matured since I filmed him and his dad last year. To learn a little more about Dallas, go here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Clip! Fatherhood as Salvation

Sometimes the process of making this film is like a magnet for all things dad. Such is the case with finding Ralph Benitez, a Bronx native, who I happened to come across while on a camping trip at Harriman State Park a few weeks back.

We happened to be washing dishes together at a public sink near our campsites when Ralph spoke of how fatherhood had saved his life. There's so much more to Ralph and his amazing family and filming continues; but here is a brief sampling of what this special dad has to say about first becoming a father. I hope it touches you as deeply as it did me.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

More Messages about Dads From Hollywood

The obvious perspective on how the media treats dads is that fathers tend to be portrayed as bunglers or incompetent in their roles. However, what I keep coming upon, which is perhaps even more unhelpful are the stories told about absentee dads being redeemed by (typically) their grown sons. It's a message that keeps popping up again and again.

This entry was sparked by my last night viewing of Wanted in which a son must learn to become an assassin in order to avenge the death of his absentee father, who, unbeknownst to him, was one of the world's deadliest assassins. Sounds kind of like Luke and his dad, doesn't it? Or then there the last two Indiana Jones films. Or the last Die Hard film (okay, it was a daughter in that one.) A son must redeem his absentee father by becoming, in a sense, just like him.

I have to admit to you that I'm one of the biggest geeks when it comes to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, by the way. There's nothing wrong with the message that it's never too late to reconnect with one's kids. I do see the value in this storyline. However, the problem is that more often than not, this is approach so many of Hollywood's stories are taking.

The way I see it, the subtle message here is that it's okay to be an absentee father while one's kid is young because later on, when everyone's older, you can get back in touch, so don't worry about how you don't have time for your kids now.

I suppose the other reason I'm annoyed by this is the experience of recently filming a father who had been heavily into the '70's New York scene of sex, drugs and rock and roll and who found salvation in becoming an involved dad. It's incredibly moving to be interviewing this dad and his family. Literally, fatherhood saved this guy's life. I suppose it might not be as sexy as learning that one's absentee dad was an assassin but let me tell you, listening to this dad talking about his experience will bring tears to your eyes - at least that's what it did for me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why We Film

From the start the goal of making this film has been to affect change by educating and inspiring more dads to get involved with their kids. Promoting this idea while the film takes its snail-paced time to get made is something that's always on the back of my mind. Frankly, that's why I put out the teaser trailer (at least) two years before film is completed.

I've received numerous compliments on the trailer but one in particular I felt should be shared:

Yesterday, I was contacted by a teacher in Colorado who runs a course promoting fatherhood for convicts who are about to be released. She asked to be able to share the trailer in the class for this reason:

"The fathers really could benefit from watching the “stay at home Dad” in your film. They are pretty hard core and need to see that men can be nurturing to their children."

It's reassuring to know that, with only a few minutes of cut footage, some difference can be made. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Hidden Crisis of America

Thank God we hold Father's Day once a year because if it wasn't on the calendar I don't think at this point there'd be much of an emphasis on dads on any day of the year. Barack Obama's comments about the African American fatherhood crisis is greatly welcome and needed and my hope is that it's not just a one-off for Father's Day but helps enable a larger conversation about a very serious problem our society faces.

It was good to read Bob Hebert's column this morning from the NYTimes that continues the discussion. Here's some of the depressing stats he noted and they're worth repeating here:

"In 2006, for the first time in U.S. history, a majority of all births to women under 30 — 50.4 percent — were out of wedlock. Nearly 80 percent of births among black women were out of wedlock. By comparison, when John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960, just 6 percent of all births were to unmarried women under 30." (Referenced from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston)

This is a major problem for our country and the world and it needs to become something that's more than just comment for Father's Day but for the rest of the year as well.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Equally Shared Parenting at New York Times

It does the heart good to read Lisa Belkin's well researched NY Times Magazine story about equally shared parenting. Kudos to the Times for putting it out on Father's Day. I know there were a lot of cranky responses to the article - primarily that it somehow took away from Father's Day by diminishing dad's role - but I would say the opposite is true.

In a culture where our mass media more than often focuses on the wrong things, it's good to read something this in depth for a change.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Potential of Father's Day

Is there some value to Father's Day other than the Hallmark greeting card that it is presently? Is there something more to this day than just buying another tie or another golf shirt for dad?

Right now, the manner that we treat this day is emblematic of the extent to which our culture values fatherhood in general. It's all about buying stuff, isn't it? In a society where dads are primarily valued by the size of their wallet, this makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

It doesn't have to be this way.

There's great benefit in having dads be more involved with their families, for the kids, the dads, the moms and everyone else in between.

So, how can Father's Day be better redefined in this way? If I could wave my magic wand, the day would go beyond gift-buying and celebrations (although nothing wrong with these) and be more about introspection. It would be more of a day of reflection where a father would take the time to ask himself how present and involved he was for his kids and family over the past year. Perhaps he'd ask his wife and kids (assuming they were old enough) about his performance. Maybe he'd talk to his own parents about this. Perhaps he'd reflect on whether he was able to create the best possible family/work balance over the year. He could also refect upon his parenting choices as well.

These are things I'll be thinking about this Father's Day. I think if Father's Day (and Mother's Day, too, for that matter) were treated as more of a day of reflection than just of gift-guying it would give more clarity to our priorities for the rest of the year.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Just in time for Father's Day, here's the teaser trailer. You can watch it here via YouTube or go here for a higher res version. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dad - A Bittersweet Tale

It's amazing the perspective one gets talking to countless people about their relationships with their dads. What's been made abundantly clear throughout the ongoing process of making this film is how much of an impact the presence or absence of a dad has on people's lives. The unfortunate picture that keeps getting played out over and over is how many people suffer from either a neglectful or non-existent relationship with their dads. Prior to this project, I really had no clue the extent of this.

Just yesterday my family and I were in attendance at a friend's son's birthday party. We were sitting across from a six-year-old boy eating birthday cake and, without any prompting he looked at me and shared with saddened eyes how his 'dad never comes to these things.'I asked where his father was.

"Working. He's always working."

Seated across the way was just another reason-in-the-flesh about why it's so important to the fate of our society for fathers to be as involved with their kids as they can be. Maybe this kid will grow up okay. Who know? But having a dad (and mom for that matter)around would certainly improve the odds.

Finally, below is a poem that was recently submitted to us that was written by a daughter who never knew her dad at all. In the next few days leading up to Father's Day I will be emphasizing heroic dads who go above and beyond to care for their families, but sometimes the bitter needs to come before the sweet. Anyway, here is the poem....

A Gift for Dear Old Dad

Happy Father’s Day Dad, I know we’ve never met, but I’ll bet the gift I give will be the best one that you’ll get. My gift to you is SILENCE. I know it’s what you want. It’s the one thing that you need to keep your life calm and serene.

It’s a little bit expensive, but don’t worry about the cost. I’ll pay for it a little every day, when I think of you or what you had to say.

Do you remember the day that I called you on the phone? You said to me in a very nasty tone,” I am not your father, and “leave me the hell alone”. There were a few remarks about my mother that I dare not repeat. They were so hurtful; I was left unable to speak.

It took me 34 years to summon the courage to make that call, but in all of 30 seconds I felt like I’d been thrown through a wall. I went to bed, curled up in a ball.

While your wife was home pregnant with twins on the way, you were out with my mother for a night of selfish and sinful play.

I went to school with your children; you know we’re the same age. I was not allowed to tell them, and cause you any shame.

I have lived as your dirty little secret for 45 years. It has warped my self esteem; I’ve cried rivers of tears.

My mother has been dead for 41 years. She went looking for love after too many beers. Her car left the road and flipped in the air. Three children were left to the town’s peoples stares.

You will never acknowledge me. Of this I am sure. And the damage it has caused…there’s really no cure.

I saw your face for the first time today! It was in a newspaper article from far away. The paper reported that you died today. The obituary listed almost all of your kids, the name of your wife, and brief description of your life. The account said you had lived for 76 years. You would be so proud Dad, I never shed a single tear.

This closes the door to a lifelong ache. It felt like the finishing touches of the icing of your cake! Happy Father’s Day…… Your unnamed child.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

NC Dad Summit This Saturday

Just got a note about Greg Barbara, a SAHD/punk rocker, who is putting up a 'Dad Summit' at his home in Durham, NC. Here's what they'll be doing:

3pm-5pm: meet, greet and eat
5pm-7p: discuss topics such as
a.) dealing with isolation and depression
b.) blogging for money
c.) financial management and the need to spend
d.) life with a special needs child
e.) dads and daughters
7pm to whenever - solve the world's problems

Personally, I'm looking forward to hearing what comes of the 7pm agenda. The world could certainly use it. Check out Greg's website here. And if you want more info about the summit, you can contact Greg directly at

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Goodbye To May

It's funny. Usually May is what I would consider the best month of the year. The weather is terrific and people are outside more. Love is in the air. School is either ending or at least giving way to a summer break. I usually look back at May near the end of the summer and think to myself, "Was May a blur or what?"

Not so with this year.

This year, for many reasons, May felt more like February or March. Weather-wise it seemed like instead of March, April, May, we had March, March, March. There was also some sort of nasty virus floating around the NYC area that my family and I all caught. The end of the month concluded with the death of the mother of one of my dearest friends. She was only 65 years young - a woman who was so vibrant, such a life force, that the notion she is no longer around is deeply troubling. It's made me reflect on how fleeting life truly is and how quickly things can go wrong.

And then there was this morning. I got the boys out of the house to the new playground that's across the street. The sunlight was bursting through the overhanging leaves. The air was that perfect temperature that's neither hot nor cold. My boys were in high spirits as they climbed the jungle gym. Jamie, my eighteen-month-old, flew down the steep slide without a bit of fear. Later on today, an old friend who I've lost contact with, sent me an email. Things are on the up.

I know this doesn't all directly relate to the film but it's where things are at for me. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wanted: Children's Stories With Dads as Central Characters

After reading a recent blog from Daddy Dialectic about most loved children's stories, I am inspired to look into this subject in a deeper way as to how it relates to the depiction of dads. I feel that, just like the way our mass media treats dads, the stories that we read to our kids have an equally strong impact. Certainly, there's nothing wrong with great classic children's stories that are mom-centric. Some of my boys' and my favorites are focused around great moms (The Runaway Bunny, anyone?)

However, there just aren't that many good children's books out there that emphasize the role of dad. After considering the dozens of books I've read to my boys (and we do so religiously every morning) I can only think of a scant few that have strong fatherhood figures in them.

The most impressive children's lit depiction of an 'evolved' dad to date is Mo Willems' "Knuffle Bunny" books. Without making a big deal about the father in these two books, Willems paints a really great picture of an involved dad who shares the care of his daughter with his wife. The book doesn't spell out whether he's an at-home dad or not (and not that it necessarily should, either! However, do observe what he's wearing when he takes his daughter to school.) What's great about the books is that the way the father is depicted is so matter of fact. That's really the bottom line about being an involved father for me. It's not like we should be standing out as being exceptional or different, but rather, it's our job as a parent and it's normal.

The second series of books that comes to my mind are the 'Little Bear' books by Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth. These books were written in the early Nineties and are terrific for the love and care they exude between the father and son bear.

And then my mind seems to go somewhat blank on what other really good father-centric children's books are out there. I'd be interested in compiling a list of dad-related books as a resource for the Evo Dad site and would love to know what other books are out there. So, if you have some that come to your mind, please write in and share. It'd great to learn other titles and, frankly, I'd love to read them to my kids. Many thanks in advance.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Nod Back To Daddy Dialectic

Please check out Jeremy Smith's writing about the impact of moms on dads in his Daddy Dialectic blog. Very thoughtful and I'm flattered he would quote this blog at the start of it. Thanks, Jeremy, for digging deep.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Introducing Sergeant Brian Booker

Hey there!

It's been a tumultuous last few weeks. Between filming the National Fatherhood Initiative's Fatherhood Awards Gala in DC, prepping for this Father's Day, family and work commitments and then getting sick for about a week, I'm starting to come up for air.

Perhaps the most exciting thing to report is the discovery of an amazing new subject for the film. Sergeant Brian Booker, a step-dad for two kids, was given a fatherhood award at the NFI's event and we had the opportunity to interview him there. It was truly one of the most engaging interviews we've had. Sergeant Booker is incredibly candid and thoughtful and for nearly an hour we were transfixed. I will be posting a clip from this interview but in the meantime, feel free to read the letter Sergeant Booker's wife, Amy, submitted, which won him the award. It's incredibly touching. Enjoy!


I am writing in regards to the nomination of fathers for the 2008 NFI Lockheed Martin Military Fatherhood Award. I would like to nominate my husband, SSG Brian S. Booker of the 155th BSTB for the Mississippi Army National Guard. Let me take this opportunity to tell a little bit of our story. Brian received his mobilization orders in Fall of 2004 to serve a year long tour in Kuwait with the 184th CME. Never having been deployed before, we tried to prepare not only ourselves but mainly our children, Tyler (age 5 at the time) and Whitney (age 8 at the time) for what lied ahead. Brian hung maps of the world in their room showing where he would be, told them not to forget the values and morals they had been taught, introduced them to other deploying soldier’s children, told our son no matter how young he was to be the man of the house and take care of his sister and mother.

During his deployment, a lot changed for our family. The children and I found a house in my husband’s hometown that we loved. This meant we not only got to start over, have our own adventure, but also be closer to our military family, the people who knew our soldier and what we were going through more than anyone else. Brian always went above and beyond to help the Family Readiness Group complete whatever project we had at hand, one of the most memorable being voice recorded messages from the soldiers to the children in their own stuffed animals.

I have never seen such genuine love and emotion come from young children as I did the day they pushed that button and heard their fathers and loved ones talk to them from so many miles away, the tears were so meaningful. Brian always kept in touch with our children, sending cards, emails, checking on their grades, and reminding them how much they are loved and missed. He surprised our children coming home for his two week R&R, they were so elated to look up and see their dad walking towards them in the airport. It was such a nice change from days before as we had been hit with Hurricane Katrina. He did everything he could to take their minds off of what was going on, taking them on their first horseback rides, not letting go when they were scared, fishing, and playing sports. He spent one on one time with each of them reconnecting and letting them know that even though he had to go back to Kuwait he couldn’t wait to be home with them again for good.

Since arriving home from deployment in December 2005, Brian has continuously amazed me as a father. I had been dealing with our sons learning difficulties on my own during the deployment and seemed to get no help no matter where I turned. Brian not only met with teachers, principles, superintendents, but also contacted state officials in order to get the help that was needed not only for our son, but for other children who were obviously having the same difficulties. He is at school anytime he is needed, offering to do whatever he can as a parent to better the school spirit and curriculum, and helps with any extra-curricular activities the children have. He sets an example like no other for all the children around him. He offers information to any family, child, or fellow soldier in any area they may need help in. If he does not know the answer to their problem, he will let nothing stand in his way of finding resources to get the answer needed.

My children have such an amazing role model in their dad, they see him as invincible yet with humbleness. He is a loyal soldier when duty calls, and a father every minute of the day. You see, there is something I haven’t mentioned yet about our story and what truly makes me nominate Brian for this award. Most fathers would be nominated for being a great coach in the delivery room, or changing the most diapers. My husband was not there for that. My children lost their birth father to suicide in May 2004, just months before Brian deployed. It was the most devastating thing we have ever experienced. Brian was what got us through. He did not let the children miss a beat. He picked them up from the pain, wrapped his arms around them, and promised to love them and never let them go or feel that pain ever again. He showed them that life could be good again. He took on children that he never rocked as babies, fed a bottle to, watch take their first step. Yet, he is right beside them fighting for their every need, guiding them through the stages they are in, and helping to mold them into admirable and inspiring people. He loves them as though he were there from their first day. He is not a father that merely tells his children things. Brian shows them, he teaches them so that they can teach others in return. He has turned our life around, given our children reasons to smile again. They have such pride for him and the country that we serve as a family.

Brian is a father like no other, he is our soldier, and hero. I hope you too can see what I see in him as a father. We are so lucky to have him and know that he deserves an award like this for what he has done for our children.

Thank you,
Amy Booker, proud wife of SSB Brian S. Booker

Sunday, April 27, 2008

If You Believe In The Mission...

Hey there!

I don't normally use this venue for fundraising purposes, but the honest truth is that in order to really achieve the goal of getting the film released for Father's Day 2010, some extra ampage in this department is needed.

For this Father's Day I'm shooting to raise $10,000, which will help sustain production needs for a time. (The total budget is going to be considerably more.) With this goal in mind, I've created a 'ChipIn' widget:

This widget is also now placed on the official Evo Dad site and can be copied and pasted elsewhere.

If you believe in what I'm trying to achieve - that it's possible to redefine what it means to be a dad for a lot of people and to get more dads involved with their kids - then I'm asking for your financial help. I know many of you reading this are not rolling in cash but even a few bucks would help. For the price of a cab ride, a movie ticket or a Big Mac, you can make a difference with this project.

Of course, if you are inspired to want to contribute further, larger contributions are completely tax deductible here.

I don't like lots of solicitations myself, but forgive me for an occasional ask. It's really the only way to get this film done the way it deserves. Thanks so much!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Picture Is A Thousand Words INDEED!

Hey there!

There's a photo book about fathers, called Fatherhood Inc., which you should be aware about. Go here to sample some pages of it. They're really quite amazing, touching and profound. Robert Houser is one talented photographer. Kudos to him for putting this out. It's a must-read for all involved dads. Check it out!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Tell Tale Dad

While on the Path train yesterday I happened to sit next to a father with his six-year-old son. We were in the front train and the son was watching with rapt attention through the glass as the train moved forward through the tunnel.

"After we make this turn, the train's gonna speed up. See?" the dad expressed to his son as the train did exactly what he predicted.

The son's arm was against his dad's side. This was a real father-son moment. All I could do was smile and create a mental note to take my elder son on the front train next time we trekked into the city together.

What's also interesting to me about this moment is that even though I knew nothing about this father and son, aside from this interaction, it was incredibly evident how close they are. Contrast this with a father and his eight-year-old son that I happened to come across while filming a week ago. They were playing catch at a local ball field and I was excited to get some good shots of them in this iconic setting. I asked to get a portrait of this pair and it was so evident how uncomfortable they were standing next to each other and how much distance lay between them. Needless to say, it wasn't a heartwarming shot.

Kids don't lie. When they are loved, they love and when they aren't...

Anyway, it's little moments like these, good and bad, that continue to fuel the fire for this project. When all is said and done, my hope is that more dads will be on that train, explaining what's coming up around the bend to their kids. It would be a better world.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hope On The Playground

Hey, isn't it great how the weather is turning? FINALLY! My G-d, I feel like we've been stuck in an early March holding pattern with an occasional turn towards the runway of warmth only to be snatched up again by brisk winds. But now it looks like we're definitely landing. Say goodbye to trying to stuff your kids into car seats with winter coats or the extra blanket layers in the stroller or being stuck interminably inside with the kids bouncing around like pop rocks.

Anyway, given the improved climate, Charlie dragged me off to the playground late this afternoon. He demanded that we take 1) his bike 2) his baby and 3) his life-sized rubber ducky. I drew the line at the duck. The kid wasn't thrilled but he knew who was boss (yeah, right:)

There is a point to all of this. We were at the playground when another little girl came over to Charlie as he was prepping his baby doll for a drop down the slide. Her mother was in tow and she asked her mother what he was doing.

"He's training to be a daddy."

This was an evolved mom. Previously, I had actually filmed Charlie taking care of his baby with him explaining that he's training to be a daddy. It's good to see that we're not the only ones who get this notion. There's hope, yet.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Brief Update and Reminder

Hey out there!

Well, it's been a busy week for all things dad over here. We are hard at work editing the teaser trailer for the project, which will be presented a short time before Father's Day, so get psyched! It's going to be really something special and we can't wait to share it!

Also, a reminder about this weekend's Fatherhood Conference in NYC. It should an amazing conference.

Now back to the editing room...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

SEEKING: a good PR person

This is a shout out for help: We're looking for a good PR person to help with a promotional campaign we're prepping for around Father's Day this year. If you are such a person and/or know someone to recommend, I'd love to hear from you at Thanks so much in advance!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

When Moms 'Get it'

Hey there!

I don't usually quote from comments people leave when they join the project's mailing list, but the one we received this morning was so eloquent and heartfelt, it really needs to be shared. Even more importantly, it comes from a mom who 'gets it.'

As I've written before, only when moms and dads work together can change really have a chance to happen. Thanks, Cindi, for the reminder of how important this really is. It's moms like yourself who are going to make the difference.

Anyway, here's what she wrote:

I ran across Dr. Kyle Pruett’s video on the “Importance of Dads” on the web page. I can't express to you the joy I felt watching this clip. It supports what I have believed for a longtime, that men who become dads, are considered and treated by society as non-essential in their children’s lives. That the mothers are considered to be the most important person to their children, when in reality, if you look at the stats they speak volumes as to how important these men are in the day to day lives of their children. Dr. Pruett caught my attention immediately when he stated this fact. I have witnessed first hand what happens to our children when a positive male role model is absent in the lives of their children. I equate this to the fact that many young women from broken homes who were without the benefit of a father in their life repeat their fate on their children by having children too young and trying to find something of their own to love. I believe this is due to the absence of the positive male in their lives. This cycle needs to stop. Thank you, I am going to find the full video and book if I can. Oh, did I mention that I am a woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother and a grandmother. Our Dad's are very important.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Evo Dads at The Huffington Post!

Special thanks to Heather Cabot for including us in her most recent Huff Post blog. Heather is a former TV news reporter and current at home mom who also writes a ezine called The Well Mom. This is a mother who understands and appreciates the importance of getting dads more involved. Go Heather!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Any involved dads out in the Ridgewood, NJ area?

Hey out there.

Well, it's official. My family and I will be pulling up stakes this summer to move to Ridgewood, NJ. We're pretty excited about the move and if you happen to live in the area, or know other good people around those parts, it'd be great to connect. Shoot me an email at Hope to hear from ya! Thanks!

Bear Stearns and The Great American Character Flaw

In the year between college and going to graduate film school I had the interesting experience of working at Bear Stearns in Boston. It was quite the place. High-powered stockbrokers roaming the halls. The companies name encrusted in commanding bronze letters at the entrance. The smell of financial success. I started off in a mammoth room of cold callers and stockbrokers-in-training. It was before the internet really hit. Every seat was the same except for one high-back chair in the center of the room. That was Sal's chair. The other brokers looked to him as if he were a god. I can remember he had a Superman figure standing atop his desk. This was a guy who new the art of cold calling. He was the epitome of what someone could do in this room - the self made man on the rise. I wonder where he is today, what his life looks like now?

Learning about what happened to Bear Stearns last week felt kind of like having strolled about the decks of the Titanic before its fateful voyage. How could an institution this mighty and this old have gone belly-up over the last weekend? It seems unfathomable.

What, you are probably wondering, does Bear Stearns really have to do with fatherhood? Hang tight, I'll be getting to it, but there are more dots to connect.

Yesterday, I was reviewing some interview footage of Dr. Michael Kimmel and at one point he was talking about how wrapped up our culture has become over the idea of 'the self made man.' It's a truly American idea of manhood, an idea that transcended the other major male identifications: the artisan worker and the genteel landowner (two notions that originated in Europe and, while flawed in their own ways, both promote more family involvement. See Dr. Kimmel's book for more on this.) Anyway, Dr. Kimmel argues that this 'self made man' notion of masculinity has resulted in men separating themselves from the home, due in no small part that being self-made has no safety net and so men feel the constant fear of losing everything should they falter or hold back from the demands of the marketplace - which in turn makes them always working and feeds absenteeism with the family. Obviously, being 'self-made' isn't a bad thing, but the problem is that when left to its extreme, it easily becomes poisoned by all-consuming anxiety, ego and greed.

So, how does Dr. Kimmel's idea relate to Bear Stearns, fatherhood and our country in general? Before I get there, here's one more piece of the puzzle:

This morning I was reading Paul Krugman's column in the NYTimes. Krugman's article speaks about how we have forgotten the lessons learned from 1929 - that the extreme practice of deregulation has, in the long term, a terrible price. I would go even further to say that the idea of deregulation is nothing but an expression of the self made man ethos in a larger economic context. Deregulation is the belief that we rise and we fall by what we do in the marketplace, right. It speaks of how it should be up to us and us alone to win and to get as rich as possible; and that, in it's own pure form (something the current leaders of our country have been pushing so hard) there shouldn't be any controls on it because an unfettered free market where people can make business as they choose is good; and people, being ethically responsible adults, should be able to police themselves. (It makes some sense except for that silly little notion, known as greed.) So, from my vantage point, deregulation is really a manifestation of the self made man idea pushed to a larger social extreme.

The bottom line for me is that this 'self made man' idea of masculinity, which has taken over our capitalist system, which has squeezed out the larger tenets of democracy, is not just poison for fathers or families or individuals but to society as a whole - and now we are starting to pay a serious price for it.

So, RIP Bear Stearns. Sal, I hope you and your fellow mates got onto a lifeboat in time. Maybe a little shake-up is a good thing for our country.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Change In The Forecast

While I still believe that Gen Y has it in their belief system to change companies for the better in terms of Family/Work balance, it sure smells like a depression is fast approaching around the corner, which will mean fewer jobs and therefore, fewer demands by employees. We'll see.

Now, the good thing about recessions/depressions is that as (I've written previously), historically speaking, there is usually a surge of interest among men regarding getting more involved with the family. It's unfortunate that economic downturns are the most effective boot to kick dads into gear but perhaps, given how our world is changing technologically, it might have more permanent value than before. It'll be interesting, years hence, to look back on this moment, I suppose.

Evo Dad out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Like Aspirin To A Headache

Here is a sampling of our recent interview with Dr. Kyle Pruett, one of the giants in the study of fatherhood. It's pioneering father experts like Dr. Pruett who really put things into focus. Aside from being incredibly deep and thoughtful, Dr. Pruett's unceasing passion for making an impact on the role of fatherhood is contagious. I hope this brief snippet of our conversation fires you up as much as did for me.

If you want to learn more about what Dr. Pruett has to say about all things dad and don't want to wait for the film to be released (Father's Day 2010), then I heartily recommend you check out his book, Fatherneed. It's writing like this that makes the study of fatherhood so worthwhile.

Monday, March 17, 2008

NYC Fatherhood Conference April 12th

For all you dads out there who are in the NYC area here's an interesting fatherhood conference to check out:

"A Father's Shoes: Exploring the Evolving Role of Fatherhood in the 21st Century."

Glad to see we're not the only ones thinking about the evolution. Anyway, the conference is on April 12th, at the Grace Church in the Village. For more info, please click HERE and scroll down to "Fatherhood Conference."

We'll likely be there as well, interviewing people, so if you do show up, come find us and be in the film!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tidy, tidy, tidy, mess, Mess, MESS!

While mopping up my younger son's vomit off of the kitchen floor, I found myself reflecting on the events of the past twenty-four hours. No, nothing earth shattering here, just a great example about what so often happens to the best laid plans and how, as much as we like to lead neat and tidy lives, the bottom line is that being alive is just plain messy!

Take my meeting with esteemed dad expert Dr. Kyle Pruett, yesterday. I had planned every aspect of filming him down to the smallest detail. Rental car. Check. Directions. Check. Questions to ask. Check. Coordinating schedules with Evo Mom. Check. Camera equipment. Check.

So, I get to Dr. Pruett's office in New Haven on time and everything is running like gangbusters until ZZZ! The electricity in his building goes completely out. Dr. Pruett commented that this was only the second time this has happened in all the years he's been in this office. Fortunately, he was willing to carve out some more time later on, so we did finish.

This morning I was all geared up to go meet with some dedicated dads who are helping me put together a fundraiser, along with some other business, but then our wonderful sitter called in sick. My wife was off to the inspection of a new home we're in the process of purchasing, so this left no one to take care of the kids but yours truly.

Between both kids being sick and a couple of true crank-a-sauruses, there wasn't much to do but kick into high-dad gear.

Perhaps the funniest moment of the morning was between a lot of screaming and crying and vomit all over the ground, the telephone should of course ring. It was the head of Charlie's school, wondering where Charlie was.

"We're keeping him out of school out of respect for your rule about keeping kids out of school for a good 24 hours after a fever."
"I'm not sure you realize but Charlie is the lead in the school play that's happening on Monday. He's the head troll, you know."

I wasn't aware of my son's status of being the 'head troll.' He certainly hadn't mentioned it to me.

"Doesn't he have an understudy?"
"Unfortunately, he doesn't, she replied, then added, "Isn't there some way you can get him to school today?"

So much for rules, huh?

Anyway, after my wife got back later that afternoon, Charlie and I trekked out to the Liberty Science Museum and saw an Imax Film. Charlie hasn't seen many movies, let alone one that's projected onto a giant dome. At the beginning of the film, there was a dolly shot into the pyramids and Charlie turned at me, astonished.

"Dad, we're moving!"

There's nothing like connecting into the mind of a four year old, where magic is always happening.

Well, I suppose this is a little more of a tangent than normal. More substance, less head troll and vomit next time:)

Evo Dad out.

The Fuel That Propels the Project

This morning, after having spent most of yesterday away from home filming Dr. Kyle Pruett in New Haven, CT (more on this later!) my four-year-old son had all sorts of questions about why I am making this film. I explained to Charlie that the purpose of the film is to get more dads involved with their kids and this was Charlie's response:

"Daddy, I love you for making the Evolution of Dad Project."

Thank you, Charlie. And thank you for any support you've sent this way as well. It means more than you think it does.

Monday, March 10, 2008

We Are All Connected

One of the things I enjoy the most about the evolution of The Evolution of Dad are the myriad of awesome people I continually come across on a daily basis due to this site. Here's a sampler from last week.

The other night I had the great pleasure of speaking to a New Jersey couple who have a three-year-old son and an older daughter. From the outside they seem traditional enough. She is an at-home mom who does some publicity/promotional work for local organizations on the side while her husband travels into NYC everyday as a director of some big university hedge fund. What makes them unique is the dedication both have towards family. The husband shared with me last night about how, during his initial job interview, he demanded that he leave his office most days at 5pm so to make sure to get some time with his kids. From what I gather, this is a big deal in his field, especially considering his predecessor typically worked 70+ hour weeks. He was adamant in the interview about his commitment to his family and being more than just a 'weekend dad.' The other side of the equation and something I've been writing a lot about lately, is his wife, who really promotes the idea of getting her husband as involved with the family as he can be. I was so jazzed to be speaking with this couple because of how much they 'get it.'

A few days ago I had lunch with a NYC-based dad. He is the youngest in a very large family and is also a dad to three kids of his own. We were talking over pizza about his relationship with his own father, who left his family due to a divorce when he was in his teens. There was a distance between them for a long time, but in the last few years this dad decided to invite his father to share some therapy sessions with him and the results are that they have a much closer bond than ever before. I give them both a lot of credit for their willingness to reach out to each other in this way. It's just not something that happens too often. Too many people walk around with a great deal of pain and regret but don't have either the fortitude or the opportunity to heal old wounds.

The other evening I opened an email from a fellow Bowdoin alum who I haven't seen since graduating. Karen is a very energetic woman who I used to give rides back and forth from campus to Boston during fall and spring breaks. She happened upon my website and wrote in to share her enthusiasm for the project as well as how her brother-in-law is a Stay-At-Home dad. Karen is an author and the president of a company that helps people have more success at work. It's always great to hear from old friends.

There is something truly wonderful about the internet. I wouldn't have connected with any of the above people if not for it. Ten years ago, if I were making this same film, I'd have been in the dark working on it, as opposed to the constant stream of people finding me from this site. So, thanks for reading and if you haven't done so already, shoot me a note. It would great to hear from you as well. Let's keep technology working for us!

Friday, March 7, 2008

We Live In The Valley of Elah

Last night I watched the film In the Valley of Elah and have been haunted ever since. This is an important film on so many levels. The reason I'm writing about it here is more than it being a strong commentary about the Iraq war or how young men can so easily be shaped into killing machines or even about a father's search about what happened to his soldier son, when the young man goes AWOL after having returned to the States.

For me, the level that strikes me the hardest is that this is an exploration about what is so wrong about how boys are brought up overall in our culture. The focus on the military is incredibly provocative and worthy of comment but it's just too easy to dismiss to say that this is only a military issue. This is really only an extreme example of how kids are brought up these days in our culture. And what makes the film so telling to me is that if Tommy Lee Jones' character hadn't been the type of father he was, his son would be alive now. So much of this is wrapped around the relationships between fathers and sons, specifically regarding the level of emotional openness and physical interaction between them. It completely plays into the larger issues about how much of an impact dads can have or not, based on these things.

So, Evo Dad recommends In The Valley of Elah. Beyond being an important critique of American foreign policy, it's a great cautionary tale of what can happen when dads are emotionally and physically detached from their sons. Thank you, Paul Haggis.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Service and Servitude

On Saturday we took our boys to a family friend's birthday party. It was held at a facility that does catered birthdays as well as daycare on the weekdays. About halfway through the festivities I picked up Jamie to change him and found that the only place suitable to do so was in one of the daycare classrooms. As neither of our boys has been in daycare I've never actually been in such a room - and I have to say, it sort of spooked me. The cribs were placed in perfect rows, the tables with openings cut into them where the babies are placed for meals, the push cart that could hold the entire group. The smiley pictures and drawings adorning the room were, to me, a very thin veneer of the Machievellian persona of such a place.

Not a very happy picture I paint, is it? The reason I'm writing about this is to explore more about my personal reaction to the daycare place than the place itself. Who knows? Maybe it's the most wonderful place to have ones kids. Maybe the teaching staff is fantastic. The point is that it dredged up in vivid detail my own personal judgements about daycare. Deep down, my emotional response is that a place such as this is bad. That kids should not be stuck in places like this - where they are being groomed to become employees in the cold corporate culture as their parents are currently. But who am I to judge? I suppose I could say the same about nannies and sitters as well, except that my wife and I employ a fabulous sitter who takes care of our kids a few days of the week so we can do other things. My rational reaction to sitters and daycare, etc, is that if they are good and really care about the kids, then utilizing them in order to get other stuff done can be a tremendous asset.

Let me be absolutely clear about this: it would be presumptive and foolhardy to look down at a dad who works full time and because he doesn't spend as much time with his kids as I do. Everyone has different circumstances and limitations and most people, I believe, really want to do what's best for their kids.

So, with all of this said, why am I really writing about this today? Because, when it comes down to it, this is an exploration into to what extent we are in service and to what extent we are in servitude in our lives. What's the distinction between service and servitude? For me, it's an awareness or lack thereof of ones choices and actions in the context of our living in our society. I wrote at the top paragraph about my feelings about children being groomed to be employees but do I think jobs are bad? Certainly not! As I recall from studying Plato's The Republic from High School, society works when everyone learns a "techne" or some technical skill that can benefit themselves and the other members. So, I'm not condemning the idea of work. I think it's important for each and every one of us to serve society in a conscious manner. Being in service is a good thing. My hope of course is that this film will be of service. I also consider myself to be of service to my family in a myriad of ways. Service is good.

What isn't good is servitude. When people feel like they have no choice. When people are so strung out in their lives that they either don't have the time or don't have the willpower or interest enough to take a step back and look at how their lives really are and what they could do about it. The phrase 'Ratrace' comes to mind (perhaps more accentuated after watching Ratatouille over the weekend:) Let me also toss in one of my favorite quotes:

"If you don't have a plan for your life, somebody else does."

The point of all of this is for us as fathers, mothers, men and women, as individuals of value, we need not just to serve but at the same time to actively seek to improve our lives and the lives of everyone else. We must continually question what is going on, whether we are really in service or servitude and think deeply and openly about how things can be improved. Hopefully, we can find out the answers together.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Are Moms and Dads Really Ready For Change?

A few days back I was talking with a working mom who is newly pregnant. She's someone I really like and respect. Anyway, I asked her what she intended to do regarding maternity leave and she told me she expected that she would take a few weeks off from work. I then asked about her husband and it became quickly apparent that, aside from his taking a few days off, they hadn't really thought about it. I asked if she knew about the Family Medical Leave Act and also about the proven benefits of having a father involved as much as possible early on. What she said surprised me:

"You know, I don't think I'd want him around the house all the time like that."

This comes from a college educated woman who deeply loves her husband. She's also someone I would've have thought would be open to getting him more involved.

It's made me reevaluate my thinking a bit. Are people really open to change - even if the benefits to them and their family would be tremendous? Or are most people just satisfied with complaining about their unbalanced work/family lives and not willing to take that extra step to improve it?

It seems to me a pretty major truth that getting dads involved in the discussion about parental leave, flexible schedules, etc, would help further these causes. But do moms really want them in the discussion? Certainly, there are some forward thinking people who would definitely say 'Yes' but what about the majority?

My goal in making this film is to bring people together and to educate and inspire with new ways to get fathers more involved with their families - something everyone can benefit from; but what it comes down to is this: are moms and dads really interested in stepping out of their comfort zones to push this along?

I'm making The Evolution of Dad regardless. That's beside the point. But my greater goal is to help be a catalyst for change. If you agree with this intention it'd be great to hear from you. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

When Life Creeps In...

This morning my four-year-old son, Charlie, wanted to be in his room, playing by himself without the nuisance of his fifteen-month-old brother and he has that right. The only problem was that when Charlie shut the door he didn't seem to notice that Jamie's tender little fingers were in the crease.

I was a few feet away, taking the dishes out of our dishwasher when the shrieking erupted. To experience sweet little Jamie in such pain nearly killed me, the wave of emotion riding through me was so intense. There's nothing more horrible than experiencing one's own child in pain.

The good news is that Jamie's hand was only a little cut and bruised, but man was that a moment.

This has kind of been my life lately. I usually reserve this blog for the positive, the insightful and the productive, but once in a while, what the hell. Life creeps in. It certainly has for us these past few weeks.

My family and I are in the process of pulling up stakes. This has required us to ship out about a third of our stuff to make our apt look 'bigger' and to allow a constant stream of visitors into our place to take a gander. My wife, who is an interior designer as well as a disciple of all those reality TV home improvement shows, has figured out to almost scientific precision how our apartment should be presented. It's a funny reality we're selling. Hand towels we aren't allowed to use. The high chair stowed away in the closet. Everything perfect. I mean, the overall message we're trying to convey to the prospective couples, mainly city professionals, who are all thinking of moving to this apartment and starting a family is : "Hey, you too can live in this pristine apartment with kids and no mess." Yeah, right. Of course, prepping the apartment into this state of being every time someone wants to come to see it with two energized boys mucking about is a little stressful. And when we're not doing this funky routine, the rest of the time is spent house hunting for ourselves. What a nutty song and dance.

Add to this is the new wake-up schedule of our two boys. I swear they must have a secret pow-wow every night before bedtime because invariably one of them will insist on waking up at an ungodly hour in the morning while the other will sleep in. The next morning they'll reverse their schedules. It's like tag teaming daddy every morning, which is making me go to sleep earlier and earlier as a result. I've been so foggy-eyed these past several weeks, trying to focus on the project at hand is certainly a challenge.

Anyway, there's my rant. The good news is that we have a serious offer on our apartment and in this market that's a good thing. As for the project...Stay tuned. The fog is (hopefully, please God!) starting to lift.

Attention: Dads Who Home School Their Kids

For those of you dads out there who are home schooling your kids, the below note from a woman, named Ponnie Cousins, might be of interest to you:

I am currently working on an ebook to encourage and help single parents home school. I have been gathering stories and sadly to say they are all from women. My goal is to have a finished product that any single parent in the USA (male or female) can use as a viable tool to help them get started and know that they are not alone.

Having a couple of stories from dads would be a plus. A single dad would be like hitting the mother load of course, but a SAHD who is married would also be very helpful.

She can be reached at:


Friday, February 15, 2008

A Dad's Tale

One of the great rewards of making this project is to have so many fantastic people reaching out to us with their thoughts, their stories and their their determination to improve their families and the world. Below is pasted a note we recently received from a dad named Rich. We found it to be inspirational. Thanks for sharing, Rich. Here it is...

A Promise

I used to think I knew everything about myself. I figured I was a fairly simple person that knew where I was and where I was going.

Then I became a dad….not thinking or even knowing what being a dad really meant. The best memory I will most likely ever have is when I heard the doctor say “I see girl parts”. Seeing my daughter for the first time was having all my needs and wants met at the same time. When Ava was born – A switch clicked inside – and I really knew who I was…Ava’s Dad!
Minutes, hours, days, months and even a year and some months have gone by. Every day Ava teaches me things about the world and myself. My profession is a teacher… but I will never be able to teach to others like Ava teaches to me. A look, smile, cry tell me so much.

Feelings never meant so much to me. I want her to be happy, safe, smart…I want her to be everything she wants to be.
Funny thing – this normal every day person was given a tremendous gift. Not sure why I was chosen – but I know I have to nurture, teach and keep safe our precious little girl. Ava is going to grow up and do great things in life.. it is my job to make sure she has every opportunity.

When Ava was born, we figured she would go to daycare and we would return to our normal lives. My wife had 3 months for maternity leave and then I had the summer off. The plan was Ava would go into daycare when she was 5 months old. We visited many daycare or should I say “learning centers” before agreeing on one close to our home. As the day grew closer – I felt something just wasn’t right.

The day before Ava’s first day of school I went out and bought her a new outfit. It then hit me..I am sending my 5 month old baby to stay with strangers during the most important time of day. With this in my mind.. I went to work that day. I called the “learning center” to make sure Ava was doing ok on her first day. The worker informed me Ava was not at the one dropped her off. Honestly, my first feeling was relief, I figured my wife changed her mind. I called my wife to make sure … and was informed that she dropped Ava off about an hour earlier. In a panic I left work and headed to the center – on the way – as I was calling 911 – the center called and said they made a mistake.. Ava was there. I then realized that I had made the mistake. When I picked her up that day I made a single promise to her – I would devote all my energy for the rest of my life to protect and care for her.
We called on all our relatives to take week long shifts to watch Ava. The hope was my wife would be able to leave her job and stay home. Unfortunately, we are not wealthy people and my wife makes the money in the family. So, I left my teaching job and began the most important job I will ever have.

One problem was solved- Ava was no longer in day care. Another problem began – we needed more money. I decided to try and start my own business to make ends meet. After many long nights I decided to start a poop scoop business. It sounds ridiculous now, but I was desperate to make it work. I would go to a vet office and pick up dog poop. The worse part is I was doing it for free – well they would let me advertise in their offices.

The business was not working, money was running short, and my promise was slipping away. Knowing that failure was not an option I kept looking for work. Searching the internet I came across an online teaching job – interviewed and after a part-time stint – I was hired full-time! I usually work when Ava is napping in the afternoon – then stay up until 3-4am in the morning finishing my work. It sounds like a lot but I know I will want these days back when I am older.

Ava and I now spend our days together in our own crazy little world. She loves music… we dance to old records… loves to watch the record go round and round. We go to the record store and search for old “Who”, Neil Young, Tom Petty or Zeppelin records. We go to the beach, zoo, park, playgroups, theme parks, library, Gymboree, baseball, basketball, football games.. we go everywhere.

Funny thing is I feel a lot of guilt. I wish my wife was able to stay home and experience Ava. It seems more natural for the mother to stay home during the day. When we are at the playgroup or playground – and I am the only dad – I can feel out of place. The moms would probably approach my wife and Ava would have more friends.

Since I have been home with Ava I have noticed other dad’s asking a lot of questions. One dad has decided he is going to stay with his daughter. Maybe the single promise I made to Ava can grow to other dads and their daughters….

Thanks for listening.