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Why Aren't There More Groups for Fathers?

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Joe Kelly   Print
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A lot of dads have to be doing something else before we feel ready to start talking to each other about our kids. A jog, a card game, a yard project, a round of golf, or any number of other ďguyĒ activities can serve as safe places for us to jump in, or at least stick our toes in to test the water. For others of us, a more formal, organized setting dedicated specifically to talking about raising daughters works best.

Whenever I mention menís groups, thereís at least one guy in the audience who rolls his eyes or makes a wisecrack. Menís groups have a bad reputation with many men; theyíre considered weird, bizarre, creepy, or just plain ridiculous. There are probably menís groups that are all of those things, but that doesnít mean that every menís group is. It doesnít mean that we canít start up groups with our own rules; and itís also no excuse for staying silent about our fathering.

A big part of the problem is that there simply arenít enough menís or fathering groups out there. The smaller the number of groups, the smaller the variety, and thus the fewer chances for a dad to find a group in which heíll feel comfortable. Somebody must be responsible for this shortage, and that somebody is me and you. It looks like weíve been too afraid to take the risks and do the work to get what we need from one another.

I think we havenít formed or sustained groups because weíre afraid. It takes courage to admit we donít know everything and to ask other fathers for help. It takes leadership to keep the conversation going even when other fathers say they are too busy to participate.

A few years ago, I was part of a loosely organized book group made up of a half dozen men who I didnít know all that well. There was a business consultant, a naturalist/teacher, a psychiatrist, a city planner, and a man who manages his wifeís chiropractic office.

We discussed novels, a collection of environmental essays, a memoir about sailing to Greenland, and even a volume of poetry. These all struck me as pretty safe topics and, while no one revealed any deep, dark secrets, we really enjoyed each otherís company. When it was my turn to pick a book, I tried to push the envelope a bit by picking Will Glennonís The Collected Wisdom of Fathering (Conari Press, 2002), my favorite fathering book.

I thought the conversation got off to a slow start. It seemed as if there was more off-the-topic small talk than usual, and a couple of the guys didnít seem as enthusiastic about the book as I am. We only talked about our kids a little, and only after prodding each other with plenty of questions.

When the group broke up for the evening, I was disappointed, for Iíd hoped we might be ready to use our fathering experience to jump into a deeper level of conversation. I didnít feel as if that hope had been fulfilled.

The next day, however, I got a phone call and two e-mails from the guys thanking me for the topic and saying it was the best meeting weíd had yet. They were excited and stimulated by a conversation that I had considered halting and uncertain. Theyíve mentioned several times since how much they enjoyed the discussion. And I learned something important.

When sitting down to talk fathering with another dad, I have to set aside my expectations. What I think is irrelevant might be central for him; a conversation I find stumbling and disjointed might be the first time heís ever spoken to another father about being a dadóand those words might amount to great eloquence for him. It turns out that our book groupís halting discussion of fathering had laid a foundation for more interesting and personal talk down the road. Itís slow going, but itís progress.

                                                                                                                        - Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly is a father, author, blogger, activist, and primary media source on fathering. He has written several books including the best-seller Dads and Daughters.

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Comments
By Anthony,   From SEMO
I really enjoy the "Men's Fraternity" group. It is a very good group based on providing men answers and direction in life, marriage and fatherhood.

 
 
 
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Article List
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Why Teen Magazines Might be Bad for Your Daughter?
The Big (Capital ďTĒ) Talk
Why Aren't There More Groups for Fathers?
Listen, Listen, and Listen Some More
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The Northeast Nostalgia Tour
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About the Author - Joe Kelly

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