A Lesson on Being an Emotionally Courageous Dad
The title would make it sound like I know them personally. I don’t. I “met” The Avett Brothers on a wintry day in Anchorage when I got the latest edition of Paste Magazine and played the video sampler that contained “Nothing Short of Thankful.”
My roommates and I sat entranced. It was 2006.
Fifteen years later, I’ve only made it to two of their concerts and screamed my lungs out at both. Most of my relationship with them and their music has empowered me to write my fatherhood blogs, letters to my daughters, and other writing projects. As is true with most fans, I’ve felt a kinship to them that is based on the emotions and experiences they place into their music, not who they are as people.
However, given the investment they place into their music and the stories they weave about themselves, their family, and life, I imagine we get a better glimpse than some artists of the highs and lows, joys and heartaches they’ve lived.
I can’t say I’m their biggest fan because I just watched their documentary, “May It Last” from 2017. In the chaos of raising two daughters, changing jobs, and finding my way through a pandemic, I missed some of their latest works, too.
But God works in amazingly pedestrian and serendipitous ways. Earlier in the week, a friend brought it up because he overheard me humming “I and Love and You” to my daughter. She was oblivious and annoyed at my signs of affection, but my friend asked if I had seen it. So I made it my mission to watch as soon as possible.
The day I watched the film had already been emotional. Hearing my daughter tell me that a classmate hit her on the way to school… speaking with potential funders for Fathering Together… setting plans for my tenth anniversary amid a pandemic… the day emotionally drained me, but I wanted to watch the documentary. I had made a commitment to myself to reconnect with one of my favorite bands.
As I watched the film, memories came flooding back that were connected to album releases…. “Emotionalism” came out when I moved to Seattle for grad school. “I and Love and You” carried my across country to get my first job after graduation. “The Carpenter” and “Magpie and the Dandelion” were soundtracks to early years in my marriage.
So the documentary was a bit of a homecoming that I wasn’t prepared for.
Needless to say, I cried a few times.
But when it came to the segment on Bob Crawford’s daughter and her battle with a brain tumor, I lost it. Two of my calls earlier in the day were with dads. The first was a founder of a tech start-up with whom we hope to collaborate. During our business call, he confided that he relished fatherhood because he and his wife had to go through two rounds of IVF for their two sons. He had hoped for a daughter to experience what it was like to raise a daughter but didn’t want to go through the heartache and rollercoaster of emotions that IVF plays with a couple. The second was with a long-time member of our Dads with Daughters community. He had just celebrated a birthday, then his child’s mom died of cancer, and he was still processing how to show up for his daughter without her feeling a need to care for him.
Again, I had to wonder why God had chosen this theme for me today. But I speak with fathers every day and even when our meetings aren’t about fatherhood, we always come around to it because fatherhood is the biggest moment in our lives (possibly second behind marriage…), so why wouldn’t we talk about it? Why wouldn’t we want to share our journey?
The reality is that many dads are still caught up in the idea that they can’t be emotional, or at least, they can’t show certain emotions to their children. Emotions are seen as vulnerable and signs of weakness. But in reality, emotions are a sign of strength and power. Fathers who are in control of their emotions, who aren’t afraid to name them and share them (appropriately), raise healthier and more resilient children.
I may never meet the two dads I spoke to today in person, and I probably won’t meet the Avett Brothers either. However, tonight “Slight Figure of Speech” started playing while I made dinner. I saw my girls dance and run circles around the kitchen. They called on me to join them, so I did. They howled while I attempted to keep up with the lyrics and we let ourselves be silly. It’s a far cry from “Nothing Short of Thankful.” But, the song that introduced me to the Avett Brothers sums up how I feel every day with my daughters. And I’d be a damn fool if I didn’t show them every chance I got.
Thanks Scott and Seth for the music and the memories!