Calgary Herald Neighbours

DadCAMP appears every two weeks in The Calgary Herald Neighbours section. This was originally published the weekend of April 10, 2014.

[twitter]As I sat on the floor of Chinook Mall outside the LEGO Store swiping through games on my iPhone with my youngest son, the most hipster dad in the world strolled by.  He had big dark aviator sunglasses, his hair was long and unkempt, he had the thickest 70s moustache and dirty beard you’ve seen in 40 years, and … he was pushing a stroller.

That, right there, is the face of modern fatherhood, friends.  We are engaged. We are doing it. We are parents.

I belong to a group of Dad Bloggers who are fierce about changing the perception of the modern man. Phrases like “be a man” or “man up” hold an entirely different meaning to us than they did to generations previous. We are about changing the media identity from “dads as doofus” to “dads that happily do diapers, and know how to do them properly thank you very much.”

We bristle that P&G chooses to say “Thank you, Mom,” but not dad. We celebrate when Tide shows dads happily and confidently doing laundry without motherly supervision.

This spring I attended the Dad 2.0 Summit, a conference for Dads and Dad Bloggers. There I met men like I have never met in my life. Men who were passionate about fatherhood, and devoted to changing the media perception of Dads.

We did karaoke on Bourbon St, we rode bikes, went for runs, and we hugged and cried. And this is what it means to be a modern dad, I think. To not be afraid to be who you are, care about what you care about, and tell everyone that you love your kids.

It’s okay to be a stay at home dad.

It’s okay to be a gay dad.

It’s okay to ditch “the boys,” and spend time with your boys.

It’s even okay to the dad who knows all the words to Let It Go from Frozen and sings along.

At the Dad 2.0 Summit, tv producer Jason Katims gave an insightful Q&A session about the type of men and fathers he creates for his tv shows. He gave us Coach in Friday Night Lights,  Zeek in Parenthood (based on the Steve Martin movie from 1989), and his latest, About A Boy (based on the Hugh Grant flick of ’02), promises to tackle the male bond in another inspirational way.

A central theme in all of his shows is men communicating emotionally and honestly about their feelings and about being dads. Katims isn’t afraid to push the envelope forward and see where the role of modern men is headed.

“The idea of a stay at home dad was something I hadn’t seen,” says Katims when he introduced Joel in 2010. “But I knew it was something that was a relevant and important thing to talk about. I thought it would be interesting to explore not just him, but her — it was this sort of reverse of the expected thing.”

This reverse of the expected is how the reality changes the perception, and how media can shape the message.

“You put it on the screen and it’s there and people start to accept it just because it’s being talked about.” Katims continued. “And if you talk about it enough, eventually the weirdness about it goes away.”

Thank you Jason, and aviator-moustache-mall dad, for making the world of modern fatherhood a  little bit less weird.

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