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.