Dads Rising

November 14, 2008

support-group-1We made a little history last night with the inaugural meeting of the Alcott Dads PTG Support Group.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time in the history of America that men have assembled with the explicit intention of being more active in their school’s parent-teacher organization!

In September, I posted about my observation that fathers, by definition, don’t get involved in parent groups.  [Disclaimer:  I generally don’t stereotype, but when it comes to parent groups the gender differences are so pronounced that it can’t be avoided.  Okay, back to the post.]  This is a real shame since 1) we know our wives would appreciate some help, and 2) there is an emerging body of evidence that active participation by fathers is good for kids (and boys in particular).  Check out expert John Badalament who shared his research in our town last week.

My theory is that most dads would like to be more active in their kids’ schools, but they’re not sure where to start.  That’s why I am promoting our Support Group.  People inevitably chuckle when they hear about it, and that’s okay.  We are putting a fun, social wrapper around a serious purpose.  Here’s what we’re doing:

This idea was conceived in August while having dinner with our PTG co-president (a mom, needless to say), and she has been supportive since day one.

I floated the idea at soccer fields, birthday parties and social events with all the Alcott dads I know. Without exception, every dad was enthusiastic about participating.

I invited all those dads to come to a local bar for our “inaugural meeting” and the PTG publicized it, too.  Last night 14 people showed up and had a great time
We spent about 20 minutes doing some formal business:  Approving a mission statement, a group symbol (the beer hammer – gotta make it fun, right?), and appointing a committee to carry out our first assignment from the PTG (construction of new sandwich boards).

I created a group on SchoolPulse to provide a hub for our activities.

    All in all, people had a good time and we’re going to meet every month on the first Thursday night.  I’m guessing we’ll have 20+ at our next meeting and some world class sandwich boards to show off!

    Interested in getting a support group going in your school?  I’m happy to help however I can.

    Embrace the Chaos!

    July 21, 2008

    Today I received one of those sickeningly nostalgic emails from a distant friend.  It was all about the halcyon childhood of the baby boom generation:  Simpler times without the pervasive influence of modern media, Abercrombie & Fitch, and hyper-competitive parents.  I actually appreciated it — it rang true!

    For years I have been one of those parents that aspires to preserve the innocence of childhood.  My four kids don’t watch a lot of TV, don’t spend much time on the computer, and are generally pretty sheltered from all the bad stuff that appears in the media (I have described them as “media retarded”).  Johanna and I really do believe that kids should be able to entertain themselves, and we have made a conscious effort not to commit them to too many activities at any given time.  We used to say one activity per season (usually a sport, sometimes an instrument), but as they have gotten older, we find ourselves breaking our own rule more and more regularly.

    This spring, we had three kids in elementary school and one in pre-school.  The volume of commitments was overwhelming — three baseball teams, an orchestra, after school sports, a musical, an art class, Sunday school, a million birthday parties, and play dates on the rare day that something else wasn’t scheduled after school.  Weekends were almost comical:  “You go here with Scout, I’ll go there with Tucker and Daisy, then you’ll drop Scout with me and take Chester there, and I’ll drop off Daisy at her party… And then we’ll meet at home for lunch before the afternoon starts.”  It was all great — the kids have an absolute blast with their friends — but it was just plain exhausting for us all.  Johanna likes to quip, “We’ve been tired for about 10 years”.  We looked forward to the last day of school, the first day of summer, when things would surely slow down.  “But noooooooo…”

    Summer has been almost as crazy.  First camps for the older 3, then family vacation with sailing and tennis lessons, scheduling lunches and dinners with the cousins, and can you believe that somebody had the audacity to invite the little guy to an ice cream party at 5:00 tonight?  Crazy!

    I am not sharing this to provoke your sympathy.  We have chosen this busy life and we love every minute of it.  My point is that resistance is futile.  We are not living in the 1950s (have you seen June Cleaver in your neighborhood recently?) and face it, the world has become a very fast moving, competitive place.  Unless you have the courage to become Amish or move to Alaska, if your kids are growing up in America your life is going to be very, very busy.  So rather than complaining or wishing things were different, embrace this busy life and find ways to participate in all the good stuff your kids enjoy so much.