The idea for the DADDY Wishes Fund (DWF) grew out of hundreds of hours of in-depth daddying interviews conducted by Allan Shedlin during the past 20+ years. Daddying is a father’s lifelong commitment to his child’s physical, emotional, social, intellectual, creative, and moral/spiritual well-being.
Listening to fathers, grandfathers, and even some great grandfathers, from 20 countries speak about their experiences as sons and fathers was intense. The daddying interviews were conducted in three countries with men from a broad range of socio-economic circumstances, religions, and ethnic groups ranging in age from 16-104 years old.
More than 90 percent of interviewees either outwardly cried or teared-up during the 1- to 2-hour sessions, demonstrating the power/strength of their experiences and feelings related to fatherhood. Shedlin created a protocol of questions to guide the discussions. One question asked when the men first thought about becoming a dad. More often than not, that question was met with an eye-roll suggesting the answer was obvious. Their answer was usually a variation on, “When my partner became pregnant.”
Shedlin’s experiences as a father, grandfather, and lifelong educator informed him that there seemed to be perhaps only two other times when fathers actually think about being a dad: at their child’s birth and during some sort of crisis – either health-related or during a disaster. The rest of the time, most parents tend to be on “automatic pilot.”
Another important finding during these daddying interviews was the soulful sadness expressed by the men. This was either communicated as a yearning for their father to have been more present in their lives or as a wish that they were more engaged in their own children’s lives. This reflected Shedlin’s own experiences as a son but was the opposite of his experiences as a dad and granddad. This led him to understand/realize that men have a choice to become the dad they want to be and that being a positively engaged dad has a variety of benefits for men as well as for their children and families.
During a time in our world when so many circumstances feel beyond our control, it seems more important to devote our attention to those things within our control – and parenting is one of them. Thus, parenting takes on greater importance and provides a unique opportunity.
The DADDY Wishes Fund was created to inspire, encourage, and judiciously prod men to think about the dad they most want to be – perhaps the one they always wished they had. It presents modest financial awards to dads, granddads, and other “fatherly” figures who demonstrate they are mindful and intentional about their daddying roles but may not always have the financial means to carry out the activities or projects that contribute to their goals.
By working with non-profit organizations that have a genuine desire to encourage vibrant father engagement, DWF provides the organizations with another tool to advance that purpose. And by requiring awardees to submit visual or audio evidence of their completed activity or ongoing project, DWF builds a resource file for other men seeking ideas they can adapt with their own children/youth.
The DWF is committed to calling attention to these activities in order to:
Optimize the fulfillment and joy that children/youth and fathers experience when they are positively engaged in each other’s lives;
Lessen the soulful sadness felt by children and dads alike when parenting is disappointing; and
Increase broad awareness of the importance of daddying. After all, there is ample research that demonstrates that kids, families, and communities are better off when dads and kids are positively engaged in each other’s lives.