Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Disequilibrium in Texas: The Dad 2.0 Summit Recap


The ride of the Muskrat
When I was getting my teaching credential, I learned about this concept called "disequilibrium."  It refers to the state achieved when a student's previous beliefs, habits, or understandings are challenged.  According to the theorist who coined this phrase, it's during this state that a student is most susceptible to learning something.  The vernacular equivalent: "being out of your comfort zone."

I went to Texas last weekend, which is something I've never done on purpose before.  It was Austin though, the cool part of the state, and the reason for my visit was to attend and speak at the first real dadblogging conference ever.

I had been away from my kids overnight exactly once since they were born, and hadn't been among large groups of males since the days when I worked on big construction sites.  So, yeah--disequilibrium.

Here's how it went down:


  • Thursday: Arrived at a resort in the "hill country" around Austin, which wasn't very hilly at all, except when compared to the rest of Texas.  But it was rugged and beautiful in its way, like something out of Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove.  Hoped the rain would clear up so I could hike or trail-ride or blast clay pigeons with shotguns.
  • Went to the gym because I knew it would be the last healthy thing I did in a long while.  Grabbed some dude to spot me. 
  • Met up with a bunch of yahoos I had hung out with that other time I stayed away from my kids overnight.  Also met a bunch of new folks, and people I had previously known only as text and pixels.  Had a few drinks, and the first of many plates of protein/carbs/bbq sauce.
  • Had some more drinks.  Schmoozed.  Hotel bar closed unexpectedly at midnight.
  • Went out in a 2-car convoy full of dadbloggers, looking for a roadhouse.
  • "I'm scared," said one blogger, as we stood on the shoulder of the highway discussing our dwindling options.  Wind drove fat hard raindrops down the back of my neck. "We're all scared," I said.  We pressed on.
  • REDACTED


  • Friday: Bounded out of bed, got inspired by keynote speeches and breakout sessions, met with the guys on my panel to hash out the details of our highly orchestrated presentation.
  • Under the guidance of our fearless leader, dropped wisdom to a full house about writing good, being a good writer, how to write better if you don't write as good as the guys on our panel, which is pretty likely that you don't know how to. As good as, anyways. 
  • Went into a fugue state for about 4 hours.  Swore to never drink Light Beer from Miller while REDACTED again.  Missed my family.  Went to the gym, I think.
  • Had a relatively civilized evening by the lobby fireplace.  Spoke passionately with some new friends concerning subjects about which my compatriots and I are passionate.

  • Saturday: Got up, not feeling terrible.  Watched rain pound puddles into the parched earth.  Agonized over which panels to attend (seriously) because all of them either featured friends, people I admired, topics I wanted to discuss or learn about, or combinations thereof.  More inspirational keynote speeches, including one by super-famous guy, Guy Kawasaki, who is famous for stuff I'm not sure I understand.
  • Bus ride into Austin!  Big fancy sponsored party with good free beer and pretty cool bands!  Outside! Mud!  And the greatest part...I met up with one of my best buddies from high school, who moved to Austin a while ago.  Haven't seen him in 20 years.
  • Carousing on 6th Street, which is much like Bourbon Street in New Orleans or the Gaslamp in San Diego.  Booze-soaked (and rain-soaked in this case) douchebaggery.  Not something I would do as a local, but pretty fun when you're in someone else's town.
  • Oh, yeah.  Watched two superstars of the mommyblogosphere ride a mechanical bull.


  • Spent many hours in the rain trying to catch a cab back to the resort in Hill Country.   Austin doesn't have many cabs, and there was another little event happening in town called South By Southwest.  There was an incident with a sandwich.

  • Sunday: Had a lovely brunch with my high school buddy and his family, plus Whit and Charlie.
Eyewear by Sam Adams

  • Countless hours waiting for a cab 
  • Some more hours waiting for a plane.
 And then, finally, home.  My wife asked me if I had fun, and if it had been worthwhile.  Yes and yes, I was pretty sure, but I didn't know exactly how to explain why.  I'm still figuring that out.  The fun part was clear enough, although it was very disorienting to be away from my family.  The worthwhile part was trickier.  I knew that there was something valuable about the experience, but it took me a while to understand what.

All the panels and speeches were informative, lively, and exciting in different measures.  I found that we talked about a lot of the things we always talk about when dadbloggers get together, and came to many of the same conclusions.  The talks about how one could theoretically possibly maybe make some money in this racket got me briefly revved up; but when I thought of the work and the time and killer instinct necessary, I deflated.

Talking about writing and parenting and writing about parenting was where I found value.  "Culture change" was a phrase that popped up a few times, and that's the arena in which I felt our efforts were most hopeful.  Whenever we're together, we convince ourselves that we're making a difference in the way fathers' roles in society are perceived; but we usually gloss over the fact that we're a self-selecting group who reinforce each other's convictions.  This time, however, there were real glimmers of hope that the world outside our sphere was paying some attention.  Big brands believed in, if not our cause, then at least our market influence, enough to sponsor the shindig.  And one notable brand who many of us felt had denigrated fathers when they thought they were celebrating us, parachuted into the conference to do some damage control.  Even though I don't hold out much hope of getting my hot little hands on the money these brands dole out to "influencers," I think their interest suggests a larger shift in the perception of dads:  specifically, that we identify as parents and take that role seriously and make decisions from that standpoint.  And perhaps that we can even be decent parents.

The most immediate after-effect of this conference, however, was how great it felt to come home.

I had felt like I needed a break from the routine.  My nerves had been getting frayed and my temper short.  I thought that four days away from home would be relaxing and recharging, but it took the first three just to get over the discomfiture of not having my family around me.  Grownups all over who expected me to have sustained grownup conversations.  Decisions to make without the usual parameters.  Hours to fill with no curfews or constraints.

When I got home near midnight, I sneaked into my kids' room (okay, closet, technically) and watched them sleep.  When Cobra started crying at 1:00 a.m., as she is wont to do lately, I rushed up to comfort her.  If she realized it was me holding her, she didn't give me any indication.  She fussed herself back to sleep in my arms, and I held her a little longer than I needed to.  Usually, I would have been muttering swear words as she screamed in my ear, but that night it was music.  


    33 comments:

    1. I like that you redacted some stuff here. Wise.

      Also, I'm glad you were appreciated (and did some appreciating yourself) when you got home!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. I watched a lot of lawyer shows when I was a kid.

        I'm still appreciating my fam, almost a week later. Amazing. Gotta get away more often.

        Delete
    2. Funny how the works. As parents we long for a break from the routine and when our wish is granted we realize the big picture. Still comes down to finding the elusive balance. Even if one has the resources for hired help, then there's the guilt of outsourcing childcare. The happy medium seems to be handing over your kids to relatives for brief periods of time if you're lucky enough to have relatives in close proximity.

      Thanks for the rDad 2.0 Summit ecap. I stumbled upon the convention details late and could not attend. Perhaps next year.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Luckily, I was able to hand the kids over to my wife! Next step is doing something with her while the kids stay with grandparents. I still have trouble imagining that.

        Yeah, man--make sure to come out next year!

        Delete
    3. It was a blast getting to hear all your music/concert/band stories at the Guy/Girl party Saturday night! Thanks for enlightening this younin' ;o) I remember my first time away from my son and it was HARD. After attending several conferences over the years, my trip to Austin was a relaxing & recharging journey but believe me, it's taken awhile to get to this point. When I got home, I also snuck into my sons room to watch him sleep and I may have tried to nudge him awake. Great re-cap! P.S. I hope we get to jam one day!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Great talking to you too! Thanks for tolerating my stories about the glory days.

        I seriously thought about nudging my kids too. I was actually happy when one of them started crying. Never thought I would say that.

        Delete
    4. I just wrote over on How To Be A Dad about how I longed for my kids during a recent snowboard trip despite looking forward to the reprive for so long beforehand. It's amazing the draw they have on us.

      Sounds like Dad 2.0 Summit was a huge success and lots of fun!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Man, how I long for a snowboard/ski trip. My parents live right near Mt. Bachelor in OR, and I'm fully planning to get the kids on the snow next year.

        Yeah--it was a great conference. Try to make it next year!

        Delete
    5. It was a great time per usual. I learned stuff, too. I thought I was too old for that.

      The Curious Case of the Sandwich in the Night. I would read that.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. I will write about that one day. It might have to be a poem.

        I think I learned something too.

        Delete
    6. Of course you redacted parts of the conference. What happens in Austin, stays there. Actually, scratch that. Belay that order. Go ahead and tell them about how you snuck away from the dad conference summer camp and canoed to the other side of the lake that first night.

      That ought to get the brands coming to you in droves...

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. WHERE'S THE REDACT BUTTON ON THIS THING???!!!

        Great to see you again, brah.

        Delete
    7. Highlight of the trip for me was the squealing little two year old that tackled me at the airport upon my return.

      It was cool to meet you too!

      Note: the little girl I referenced above was mine. Just to clarify.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Awww...I wish my kids would have been awake to tackle me. They were a little confused when they got up in the morning and saw me. It was like I had been gone for years.

        Great to meet you too!

        Delete
    8. Great recap, although I'm dying to hear about all the redacted stuff.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. At the next meeting at the top secret DadCentric HQ...

        Delete
    9. I obviously need to be more redacted during my conference going.

      Good finally meeting you and splitting the room bill with you. Wait. You did pay your half, right?

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. My half? I just ran out through the fire escape. Was that not how I was supposed to do it?

        Delete
    10. Twas great meeting you among the chaos. That 2 car convoy will live in infamy. After hearing what you guys did, I'm a little thankful I took the road less traveled.

      ReplyDelete
    11. Sniff. I'm not linked. ;-P
      It was great hanging out and talking, my friend.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Oh no! Why do we always hurt the ones we love the most?! Great to see you too.

        Delete
    12. Seriously? That fireside chat was one of the highlights. As is seeing that we both view culture change as a prime takeaway from this conference.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. It was a highlight for me too! I'm a little embarrassed at how I never get tired of that...er...topic.

        Delete
    13. I can not imagine the withdrawals my husband would go through (and the sweet, sweet taste of freedom!) if he were away for more than one night. I'm glad you had a good time!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Thanks! You should send your old man away for a few days and see how it goes.

        Delete
    14. If you're ever stuck again in an airport lounge waiting for a plane, give me a call. Wait. That didn't come out right. REDACTED.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. I will! It was great getting a chance to talk to you. A really nice bit of serendipity to round out the weekend.

        Delete
    15. Replies
      1. Damn! I knew I shoulda never included any mentions of anyone.

        If it makes you feel any better, I'm writing a poem about your eyes at this very minute.

        Delete
    16. I absolutely hate conferences in theory but have started actually quite enjoy them recently. Being a presenter of something definitely helps - you feel you have a kind of purpose or reason to be there other than just 'consuming'. I still hate networking though.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. I haven't been to enough conferences to grow to hate them, and for me "networking" just means exchanging business cards. Pretty painless.

        Delete
    17. Awesome, glad to hear you had a good time. Would you happen to know if any video of the summit is or will be available for purchase? I would have loved to have gone but don't have the resources.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. There was no video as far as I know. It would have been nice. On the other hand, being filmed for during my panel may have given caused me to freeze up.

        Hope you can make it next year!

        Delete

    Don't hold back.

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