Tuesday, November 14, 2006
At Home Dad Convention In KC - Being There
I get up bright and early.
Too early considering I had a hotel room to myself and nary a kid demanding my attention in sight.
Then I went to the lobby for a few cups of complimentary coffee (much needed).
I spotted a few AHDs doing the same.
Shortly there after I hopped into the car of KC Dad Kevin “Kace” Christensen now dubbed a “shuttle” and made my way with a few other dads and a Japanese woman to the spot on the campus of UMKC where the convention is taking place.
The Japanese woman Renge Jibu is on assignment for some business magazine in her home country. “Japanese men do nothing at home,” she says with head tilt that is customary in her country.
People register, breakfast is consumed and introductions are made.
And soon after, the first of the day-long breakouts begins.
I attend a breakout on kids and the internet which is really informative but mostly pertains to parents of the tween’er set and kids who use email. The moderator is Dave Lux from Chicago and he has some scary shit to say like the fact that 1 out of 7 children will be sexually solicited in a year’s time or that 75 percent of children are willing to share personal info online.
I make a mental note and place this in a file for a few years down the road when my kids actually use the computer for such purposes. Right now both my kids strictly use the computer for video games and virtual puzzles but I am aware that my 6-year-old knows how to boot the sucker up and often goes online unsupervised. It wasn’t so much of an issue say a year ago, but now as a first grader and ardent speller the boy could easily find himself viewing inappropriate material whether it’s some knucklehead lighting himself on fire on YouTube or one misplaced vowel away from porn.
Taking candy from a stranger somehow seems like such a trivial thing these days. Yet it’s basically the same principle that is applied here.
After a brief break it's onto the next breakout which covers the topic of going back to work and preparing yourself for a return to the job market. Much of what is discussed pertains to recent grads more than At Home Dads but the general info regarding resumes and cover letters is a nice little refresher.
What isn’t explained (and maybe because it can’t be) is how to address the gap in work history due to being a stay-at-home-dad. One fellow is really concerned about how this will look a few years down the road and is aggressively taking courses and looking into grad school to make sure he’s got something to account for during that time besides bottles, diapers and memorizing the theme to Barney.
I believe more is achieved with the internal discussions amongst the men in the room then the career counselors but they do provide excellent questions which prompted the transfer of information between us all.
Lunch is basically the make-yer-own sandwich spread and serves its purpose to fuel up the conventioneers for another couple hours of talking heads, fluorescent lights and all things At Home Dad-esque.
My post lunch breakout is an open discussion amongst the dads that is segregated by age. I hit up the 2-5 age group even though my oldest is 6. I figure I may get some fresh insight on 3-year-olds and possible shed some myself to those about to run into the 5-to-6-year-old bracket.
Lots of interesting discussions come up: from the importance of routines to clean-up tactics.
“Routine is key,” says Steve Lundy from the KC Dads group. He uses the 3 B rule: “bath, books, bed,” he says.
Minnesota Dad Tom Vytlacil points out that while routine is key, kids are “event sensitive not time sensitive.”
With all the great ideas and good advice, I suddenly feel like I’ve been teleported to an episode of Dr. Phil what with high level of enthusiasm being used among the informative exchanges.
From there it’s off to the Kids, Nutrition & Behavior breakout.
This breakout focuses more specifically on the concept of a minimally processed, organic food diet. This being the Midwest, it comes off a bit forced trying to push this type of diet on what I perceive as the meat-and-potatoes sensibilities of the locale. Working in food service and living in the most cosmopolitan part of my state, most of this is either old news or stuff I already have implemented (buying/using local and seasonal goods, substituting soy milk for milk and keeping a minimum of the ingestion of sweets). It also can be stripped down to the age old adage "you are what you eat.” Of course if my kid eats at McDonalds all the time and drinks soda there’s going to be some nutritional – and behavioral – issues to be addressed.
That said, I still gleaned some valuable info from the session.
[Note to organizers: more coffee after lunch! Or maybe nap time!]
The last breakout of the day was about depression and isolation and the one I probably got the most out of despite the fact that it had this sort of Iron John/AA vibe to it: we are all men with this unique experience and we are not alone.
The day finished with brainstorming sessions on likes and dislikes and on getting a leg up with the planning of the 12th Annual At Home Dad convention. Capping off that was men sharing their anecdotes with the crowd.
And yes, I broke out the Breathing Penis story.
I won’t tell it again here, you had to be there for it.
Then it was back the hospitality room at the hotel for cold beer and conversation before boarding a bus for ribs and BBQ at Kansas City’s stories Arthur Bryants.