I interview dads monthly for the National Dads Matter!™ Project that I founded many years ago and facilitate today, giving fathers and grandfathers a voice and visible presence in their local communities.
Just about every day I see a father and his kids—sometimes a dad and his very young children—and I make sure to talk to him, asking at least one question and making at least one positive comment about fatherhood and his participation in the fatherhood experience.
I think it’s vital that experienced parents, grandparents, and other members of communities take time to approach fathers and engage them in conversation. Consider following the following basic steps to get involved doing this yourself.
STEP 1: Find a dad in public. This will be easy; he’s the guy pushing, carrying, walking with, or talking to a child!
STEP 2: Talk to this dad! Ask at least one question, and make at least one positive, affirming statement about fatherhood in general, and another positive statement about this dad in particular based on something you’ve observed as he interacts with his child. Now, watch how uplifted he appears to feel. Voila, you just talked to a dad!
Talk To a Dad Scenario # 1…
You’re at the coffee shop, and in the corner is a dad standing holding his infant son who’s wearing pajamas. The mom is arranging sandwiches they just purchased from a nearby grocery store. The parents are attempting to manage all their stuff in a stroller that’s packed to the gills with diapers, food, and bottled water. The dad is pouring bottled water into powdered formula in a baby bottle. You say “Hello,” and you ask the dad, “What’s it like having to carry your son and manage all those things at the same time?”
…Then wait for his answer. You learn the family walks a lot because they have no car. You mention how lucky the child is to have a dad carrying him everywhere — giving the child a unique vantage point on the world. “Keep on being a great dad,” you might say. Perhaps the dad brings the child over to you (as happened to me recently in just such an encounter), and you shake the little fellow’s pajama-clad hand. That’s it. You just talked to a dad and affirmed his sense of fatherhood!
Talk To a Dad Scenario # 2…
You talk to a dad the way another father talked to me recently: You simply say, “Looks like you’ve got your hands full. Keep on keepin’ on!” And that’s it. This father, who was older than me (and whose children were likely grown) saw me trying to pay attention to my kids while at the same time navigating a full load of merchandise through the aisles at the hardware store while one of my kids was attempting to climb me to be carried.
That dad’s words motivated me, and I’ve been paying it forward. And now I’m asking you to do the same! : )