I arranged a dad photo shoot after school. It took a bit of courage to ask for it but the impact was palpable. Each child was beaming. So were the dads.
It took courage because, like many men, I feared other dads would look at me as a priss if I suggested we, you know, publicly share our love and respect for one another. Even in my progressive community, we men are fairly stoic. Mothers stand in the school parking lot for twenty minutes, gabbing and arranging plans, but men are usually in and out like foxes. I even feared that my request would come across as a boast.
Every single dad showed up. I expected a handful but I was shocked (and pleased) to see everyone. This was 2PM in the middle of a workday but we had lawyers, farmers, firefighters, pilots, park rangers and more. These are strong and caring fathers, many are good friends, but I'm not sure we had ever gotten together as a whole group. I'm glad we did.
It only took twenty minutes (and zero dollars), but the impact was significant. The grinning faces of the men was enough, the proud chests and strong arms. But what surprised me most was the impact it had on the kids. I’m also one of their teachers. Throughout the entire day, the children had come up here and there with a particular look of confidence. “My dad fights fires,” one girl repeatedly told me. “You’re strong, Joe,” said another, “but my dad could probably carry all our backpacks by himself.” That kind of pride is worth a million dollars.
One more thing happened. Photos and words were shared with family and friends, here and there on Facebook and that kind of thing. Nobody made a huge deal of it – it wasn’t newsworthy – but in our own small way we made an impact as a group of men bonding over fatherhood. In other words, we were visible. Imagine if groups of men and fathers across the country did that. We're not just workers and providers. We're sensitive, strong and caring creatures. We love our children, and the rest of the world too. Don’t forget.