Dad 2.0 Summit: Next Year, I’m Singing

Houston Sunrise

Sunrise over Houston during the Dad 2.0 Summit, as seen from the 18th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel.

First, it was about the song. The song we all dance to as loving, engaged, parents and creative souls. The tune that wakes us in the morning before the sun or the kids are up so we can be ready for work or whatever our day holds before we make them breakfast and walk them to the bus stop. It’s the melody of the midnight crying jag. It’s the chorus of cookies and milk. The lunchbox aria.

Second … it was about karaoke. Maybe first it was about karaoke.

Dad 2.0 Summit in Houston, Texas, will probably best be remembered by those who (wisely) chose sleep deprivation instead of resting peacefully at night in the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel as the weekend when Canada made a scene. Not the scene. A scene, as in, “Holy Black Hockey Jesus, did you see that guy spin around that stripper pole while belting out Neil Diamond (or whoever)? No? Well, check out this six-second video on Vine! Ha! That guy rocks.”

Yeah. You know who I’m talking about. Chris Read, CanadianDad, proved that there is room on the dad blogging stage for the new guy. He earned his place there, one of five Spotlight Bloggers invited to read at the second Dad 2.0, with a moving tribute to his late father, as well as a willingness to put himself out there over the past year as a prominent resident of what I thought of as the Planet of the Pixelated Parents before I got to Houston on Thursday.

See, as I touched on in an earlier daily recap (and told pretty much anybody who stopped to chat with me during the weekend), my perception of my fellow attendees was shaped by the months of research and reading I did before I ever wrote word one here. I knew them as avatars and blog posts and rabble rousers or peacemakers. I knew them as pithy tweeters and witty digital conversationalists. I knew them, or their personas, as they wished me to know them.

Most of them didn’t know me at all. Which, yeah. Feb. 21 will mark one year since I “launched” this thing, whatever it has become. Even though parent blogging remains a fairly new phenomenon, especially among the growing field of dads, one year is a blink of an eye in this well-established, tight-knit community.

Going to Dad 2.0 was like crawling into my laptop screen and melding with the circuitry of the surreal. Throughout the weekend, familiar faces drifted by, like scrolling through a living Facebook photo album.

That surreal sensation was completely gone by the end of the event. I can’t begin to recount every interesting conversation or in-person connection I made in Houston. What I can do, though, is point out that there is something beyond intimate about a blogger conference for a natural introvert like me. I think what makes it so interesting in terms of making those real connections with people is that, if you do your homework (and, as a lifelong journalist, of course I did), then you meet these writers and content creators already knowing a great deal about them. There is no need for the verbal circling and sparring that takes place as you get to “know” them. As I say, you already know what they want you to know about them – because they’ve written it or talked about it on a podcast or depicted it in viral meme form.

Also, it helps that we all come from the same place emotionally and creatively. We’re parents. We love to write (or draw, or take photos, or whatever the medium of choice might be). We love to tell stories.

That’s what I’ll remember about my first Dad 2.0: the stories of the people I thought I knew, as told in their actual voices in hotel hallways, on a ballroom stage, over a game of Texas hold ‘em with fake money, in the hotel lounge, or in a bar.

I’ll remember the impressive keynote speakers, of course, and the five men who weaved sublime tales about being dads, bloggers, and Internet pros – the Three-headed Dads. And I will always, always remember the warm welcome everyone gave me when I stumbled through my Spotlight reading on that first morning. I’ll also remember the guys from Dad Labs grabbing me as I raced out of the main ballroom on my way to the restroom to ask if I had time for a live, streaming interview with Clay Nichols. In case you were wondering (which, of course you were), I had to piss like a racehorse throughout the conversation.

I’ll remember Manwich and Army of Frankensteins. Free! Booze and food. The kilt.

I’ll remember the walk from my hotel room on the 18th floor to the bank of elevators. Out the door, right turn, right turn, left turn, long hallway. Push “down.” Which one would arrive first? Where would that magic box carry me next? Who would be there when I got there? Would the people and lobby have dissolved into flowing green streams of pixelated code? Would Agent Smith be waiting at the bottom to chase me back into my rabbit hole? Would a black cat walk by … then walk by again?

Somebody, Amy from Mom Spark, I think it was, called herself the glitch in the Matrix when I floated my “climbing into the laptop screen” analogy for the first time. (Oh, you didn’t know writers tested material in conversation before committing it to the page? Why do think writers talk at all?)

Most of all? Most of all, I’ll remember the weekend as the time when the pixelated people of the Daddy Complex and Howtobeadad and Beta Dad and Honea Express and Always Home and Uncool and Black Hockey Jesus and Canadian Dad and BloggerFather and OWTK and Pet Cobra and Daddy in a Strange Land and Clark Kent’s Lunchbox and Bobblehead Dad and the Daddy Doctrines and Momo Fali and the Muskrat and Lesbian Dad and Bitchin’ Wives Club and the Captain and Laid Off Dad and Super John and so many, many, many more morphed into David, Charlie, Andy, Andy, Whit, Kevin, um … Jesus, Chris, Oren, Jeff, Jason, Jason, Ron, Jim, Chris, Momo, Michael, Polly, Amy, Creed, Doug, just plain John and on and on and on. Turns out they’re all real. And they’re almost all warm and friendly, and curious and alive, and dancing to the same tune.

Oh, yes. I’ll be back. And next year, I’m singing.

Beer

Beer. Lots of beer.

Why am I doing this?

I don’t have a plan. I have some business cards (and boy, are they nifty), and I know when I have to be on-stage Friday morning. I also know that I’m sandwiched between the mayor of Houston and the opening keynote speaker, Jeff Pulver.

But they all said I need a plan. This is my first blogger conference, the second annual Dad 2.0 Summit in Houston, Texas. I’m going because I submitted a blog post when they did a call for submissions for Spotlight Bloggers. They asked me to come, and asked me to read this post instead. I was blown away when they asked, and I consider it one of the great writing honors of my long and illustrious blogging career. Which began in earnest on Feb. 21, 2012, less than a year ago.

So, what am I doing? I’m going to read my thing, which will be over before the event even really gets started. I’m going to meet face to face some of the other Spotlight Bloggers, established dad blogging voices like Black Hockey Jesus and Whit Honea and Kevin McKeever and the pride of Canada, Chris Read.

I want to meet members of the new dad bloggers group on Facebook, including group founder and Bad Boy of Dad Blogging, Oren Miller.

I want to meet some other people, too. Writers I’ve come to admire. Funny writers. Poignant writers. Powerful writers. Men and women who know how to use the English language and social media to tell stories that matter. Stories about parenthood, certainly, but stories about life. These are writers who make me want to write better.

I want to meet them.

But I also want to meet Doug French, founder of the Dad 2.0 Summit and the guy who sent me the email telling me my work had been chosen. Doug seems pretty cool. I want to meet him.

I want to meet so many others, too. The guys from DadCentric, including the inimitable Jason Avant (the blogger, not the receiver) and Andy Hinds (the brilliant, brawling everyman behind Beta Dad blog). There are people I want to meet that I’m not even going to mention here, because I don’t want to jinx it. I don’t know if I’m invited to karoake, and I’m not going to invite myself. But apparently there will be late-night karoake. Rumor has it, anyway.

Even representatives from the event sponsors. I want to thank them, for sure. There’d be no Dad 2.0 Summit without Dove Care for Men, Honda, Turtle Wax, and many, many others. I also am fascinated with the idea that there seems to be a groundswell among corporations to move away from the buffoon-dad stereotype we’ve always seen on TV and in movies. It’s important, I think, that high-profile events like Dad 2.0 Summit bring attention to parents who shatter those stereotypes, and share their stories on the Internet.

But what am I doing? Three days away from my family? For what? Damn, I’m going to miss them. They’ll be fine without me, of course. Yet, one of the main reasons I wanted off the baseball beat back in 2006 was I wanted to be here — always — for my sons. So … irony! I write a dad blog now, which I would not write without them, and I’m about to jet off to Houston for a long weekend of boozing it up with a bunch of other mom and dad bloggers learning as much as possible about the craft and business of blogging.

Honestly, I don’t know what to expect at the Four Seasons Hotel (although I did stay there once while covering an NLCS, Astros versus Cardinals). The guys from DadCentric did a round table primer on the conference, so I guess that helps some. No, it definitely helps quite a bit.

No matter. So what if I don’t know what I’m doing, or why I’m going? I’ll enjoy finding out the why and what for in the coming days.

I’ll also be tweeting the hell out of it, in case anyone is interested in following along. Hey, and if you have any suggestions about what, exactly, I should be doing while I’m there … don’t hold back.

See you on the other side.