What I've Learned as a Dad Blogger
I used to be a religion blogger. Until this summer, I’d been blogging forBeliefnet at omeoflittlefaith.com, where I explored faith and doubt, religion and science, belief and skepticism. It correlated with a book I had written, but after being immersed in those topics for several years, I eventually grew tired of them. Mostly I was weary of the constant arguing and passionate side-taking that characterizes the religious blogging world. It can get tiresome. I burned out.
So I quit and became a dad blogger. My new blog, Dadequate, is about being a good-enough dad. Why? Because it’s something I’m passionate about — I’m pursuing it day in and day out — and because, while there are lots of great mommy blogs out there, dad blogs are less prevalent. As a dad blogger I discuss stuff that interests us as a family, from pointing to cool BMX videos to explaining how I’m trying to teach my kids to love good music. It’s fun and less serious and not “theological” at all. (I use quotes there because I think everything a Christian does reflects some element of his or her religious beliefs. It’s all theology. But despite being based at Beliefnet, Dadequate is not an outwardly theological or even religious blog. And that’s cool with me.)
Anyway, what have I learned in the process of shifting from a religious blog to a parenting blog? Two things.
1. People who read religious blogs are much more likely to leave comments. While my readership has dropped a little — which I expected — the number of comments my posts receive has fallen dramatically. Generally speaking, people comment on blog posts to share their opinion, either in support of a post or in argument against it. Why does this seem to happen more on religious blogs? The only conclusion I can draw is that people are much more opinionated about theological issues than parenting issues. Or, to hyperbolize it — probably irresponsibly, but I’m gonna do it anyway — people are more interested in making sure you get your theology right than making sure you get your parenting right. Beliefs are easier than practice. It’s easier to argue about ideas than to take action. Maybe I’m wrong about this, and clearly I’m working from a small sample size. But that’s how it looks.
2. Men, in particular, are searching for faithful Christians who are recognizably human. I can’t tell you how many times, on Facebook or in a blog comment or in a personal email, a guy has told me how refreshing it was to read something I’d written about Phineas & Ferb, or a Facebook update about my family’s love for Harry Potter, or the fact that my kids are more likely to recognize a Black-eyed Peas song than a Stephen Curtis Chapman song. “It seems like you have a real family and not one of those shiny fake Christian ones that we’re supposed to have,” one dad wrote. Honestly, this kind of response has surprised me. Whether intentional or not, there’s a lot of pressure for dads — for men — to conform to whatever image of perfect Christianity the Church is putting out there. Perhaps we’re not to be “of the world” in outlook and behavior and in the profligate way we extend grace, but we do live in the world. And it’s OK to be amazed and inspired and entertained by the good things in this world. My kids receive joy from Disney sitcoms, trampolines, and fantasy books about boy wizards. Because they love these things, I do, too. I enjoy them with my kids. And a Church that implies I should not enjoy those things is a Church that is on the verge of losing relevance.
Lots of churches are worried about the declining numbers of men in the pews, so they put on football game night events and hunting expositions and whatever else in order to attract dads. Maybe instead of pandering to these western cliches of manhood, maybe we should relax and let dads know that the best way to be a Christ-following father is to be Jesus to your kids — and that has less to do with morality and more to do with being present and active in your kids’ lives. Coach their sports teams (even if it means missing a church event). Watch cartoons with them (even if some minister somewhere frowns upon the show). Read books and listen to music together (even if they’re not on an “approved for Christians” list).
Instead of policing the culture, navigate it with your family. That’s what parents are for.
Originally posted August 10, 2011