For months you have been hearing about the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Train the Trainer Summit, held last weekend at ‘Gumburu’ on a mountain top in North Queensland. The question you might well ask is, “How did it go?”
Before I endeavour to answer, let me tell you about the agony and the ecstasy we experienced in the lead up to the Summit.
When Dads4Kids first started the process of inviting applications from men who wanted to make a difference in their nation and turn the tide of fatherlessness gripping our western world, by helping train and equip fathers, we anticipated the worst. To sum up, ‘I have met the enemy and the enemy is us’. All men say they want to make a difference, but very few actually carry through. The price of making a difference usually involves sacrifice; in this case leaving home for up to four days. North Queensland is a long way from anywhere else in Australia. Time is money and travel costs.
The good news, or the ecstasy in this case, was that Dads4Kids had 59 applications from great men who wanted to help other fathers be great fathers and become a better dad themselves in the process. You see the best way to learn is to teach others.
The agony was that Dads4Kids had to say ‘no’ to so many great fathers. We only had 30 places available. Dads4Kids stretched its capacity to 35 places, but could not include everyone. We even had applications from Kenya, Hawaii and Papua New Guinea.
I have been involved in many men’s gatherings over the years, but this fatherhood training summit surpassed them all. Maybe it was the line up of brilliant speakers we had, including men like Trevor Suitor, Phil Harback, Darren Lewis, Ian Watson and Dr Allan Meyer. Many men claimed that Allan Meyer, creator and author of the Valiant Man book and course, is the best men’s speaker in Australia. I can’t help but agree. Allan has the uncanny ability to hit you over the head with a 4X2 as he shares the truth you don’t want to hear, and keeps you laughing while he does it: a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
Maybe it was the fact that we got together as groups of men after each speaking session and shared our own hearts on the important subject of being a father and a man: the good, the bad, the ugly and the in between.
There is a proverb that says, ‘as iron sharpens iron so does the face of a man’s friend’. When men become friends and share their hearts honestly they get sharpened. We realise that we all struggle as fathers and that we are not alone in our struggles. This truth liberates us all to admit our failures and resolve to do better next time. As the poet John Donne said 400 years ago, ‘no man is an island’. When men get together to talk and share in the spirit of encouragement and positivity it can be a truly amazing experience. Ian Watson, one of the speakers at the Summit best summed this reality up by saying, ‘I have never seen a man go backwards with encouragement’. Men need each other and we all need to find a place of encouragement – that’s what this newsletter is all about.
The best way to sum up the joy of being at the Summit with a bunch of guys who are all absolutely committed to the cause of becoming a better dad is hearing the story of one of the men who attended the Summit. I have asked his permission to share this story and will call him ‘Tony’ to preserve his anonymity.
Even before the start of the summit, Tony had engaged in some pretty meaningful and frank discussion with his wife. I had asked all the attendees to the summit to ask their wife the million dollar question, ‘How can I be a better husband?’ My own wife gave me some food for thought, and I’m working on it.
Tony asked the question at a 3 hour breakfast date where both sides of the table shed a few tears. However Tony went one step further than most, and realised that he had to ask his children how he could be a better dad before he came to the fatherhood training summit and not after.
Tony gathered his family together and firstly apologised to them for being a cranky inadequate father. His 15 year old daughter agreed with the fact that he was not the best, and that he was cranky, as only 15 year old daughters are able to do. His 12 year old daughter and 9 year old son were a bit more forgiving.
Tony shared the agony and the ecstasy of his apology with the whole group of men at the summit. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place. One man’s honest words can open another man’s heart better than any can opener. These are the moments we live for.
The best news is that the time at the Dads4Kids Train the Trainer Summit is helping Tony take his family relationships with both his wife and his children to a new level, and isn’t that where we all want to go as fathers?
The simple message is that if we want some ecstasy in our family relationships we all have to suffer some agony. We have to be brutally honest with ourselves and with our families. If that means apologising to them for our bad behaviour, so be it.
I have a personal rule when it comes to my family: if I say the wrong thing publicly about or to my family, I must apologise in public. Tony made this rule his own, totally unguided by me. His honesty touched his family and healed the relationship with his eldest daughter and healed the hearts of 35 men on a mountain in the process.
Why not follow Tony’s example and ask your wife and children:
‘How can I be a better husband?’
‘How can I be a better father?’
You will be so glad you did, and so will your family.
Yours for more great dads