April 28

Owning a hammer isn’t enough anymore for your dad toolkit


A call to dads to expand your dad toolkit 

Last summer, I pulled out my dad toolkit and built a jungle gym for my daughters. They needed an escape from our house and space to expend their energy. I’m a mediocre carpenter, despite coming from a long line of carpenters (sorry dad and grandad!). So I sketched out a plan and after a few calls to my dad, I thought I was ready.  

Expanding your own dad toolkit

I owned a circular saw, 4 hammers, multiple screwdrivers, and a drawer of leftover nails and screws. That wasn’t enough… at least not for what my daughters and I had envisioned. So, I called my father-in-law, who soon arrived with an arsenal of tools to assist and after a long day of missteps and measuring twice before cutting once, we built my daughters their jungle gym. 

Earlier this week, my daughters were asking, “what we are going to build this summer.” They want our yard to be a ninja warrior paradise, and while I want to build their dreams, I’m not sure my skills and toolset can match their dreams. 

Dads have plans and dreams for and with their children

The more I talk with dads in our Fathering Together communities, the more I find this to be a common dilemma. Dads have grand plans and wild dreams for and with their children. They want what is best and to fulfill all the dreams, but they only have a hammer (or 4) when they also need a tablesaw, a hex screwdriver (not just a Phillips), and planer… and that’s just the beginning. 

Expanding your own dad toolkit

Last year, Fathering Together partnered with Dove’s Self-Esteem Project in our Dads with Daughters  community to help our community expand their own dad toolkit. Through a series of courses, the project gave strategies and knowledge for dads to better communicate positive body image and positive self-talk with their kids. As dads completed these courses, two common themes emerged: a lack of preparedness for these talks and a realization that we, as dads, had a lot of work to do to decrease negative self-talk about our “dad bods.” 

When asked how they would do this, many were at a loss. They weren’t confident in their communication skills or emotional management skills to handle the delicate conversations. Many dads were much more comfortable holding any number of hammers to build a jungle gym but weren’t sure about picking up the more delicate tool of honest, developmental conversations. 

As fathers, we need to get comfortable

As fathers, we need to get comfortable. When we become fathers, we aren’t signing up for a 3-hour shift between 5pm and 8pm. It’s a lifetime commitment that should infuse our every waking thought. It isn’t just fun summer projects, but late-night feedings, changing wet sheets, and holding our kids when their hearts are broken for the first time by unrequited love. 

Expanding your own dad toolkit

Many of the dads I know understand this, but still struggle. They are great at executing the plan that their partners develop. They know to pick up the kids at 3:30pm from school, or that cleaning the dishes is their chore after dinner. But fewer step up to do the meal planning and playdate scheduling. 

Let’s journey together to step up and expand our toolsets

So, from one dad to another, let’s journey together to step up and expand our dad toolkit. Let’s stand up to our fears and inadequacies. When I was eighteen, I used a chainsaw for the first time. My church youth group was clearing trees for a service project, and my youth minster handed me the chainsaw and said clear out those trees. Younger kids were watching me in awe, never realizing my fear as the machine tore through the branches and threatened to jerk out of my hands. 

Expanding your own dad toolkit

That same fear coursed through my veins when I held my first daughter. I held her energy and her delicate tiny body, but I overcame that fear and last summer watched her hold spindles for me while I screwed them into place for her jungle gym railings. We’re all strong enough and we have a community of dads to support us when we aren’t. So let’s stand up and better than the dads we ever thought we could be. 



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Dr. Christopher Lewis

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