Ah, Dads. Admittedly, in a decidedly female organization, our male counterparts don’t get a lot of, well, air time. “Spring Fling” and “Dads” seem about as well matched as Sees Candy stores and dieticians, so the two subjects rarely converge at Marin Charitable.
BUT. That doesn’t mean we don’t love and appreciate them. And support them.
One Dad in particular, Joshua Archer, started The Game Academy. He's a Marin Charitable grantee who chose not to follow the familiar Dad-path of coaching the Little League or soccer team. Instead, he decided to focus on creating opportunities for kids to feel included…through gaming and role play.
“It changed the way I look at fathering – I’ve always been a conscious Dad – we did baseball/ Little League, and all that,” he said. “Those things are great for team building, but they have a particular form that you're required to conform to. With the types of activities that we do, we can role play and experience the sport at the same time. We might end up doing a whole story a basketball game, for example.”
Through role play, the kids ‘try on’ something that in real life, might have felt daunting. They can take chances at things that maybe they felt they weren’t good. Joshua said experimentation is key; that doing things in a different character voice can protect them from a sense of failure because if it doesn’t ‘land’ with their friends, nothing is lost.
“Kids get categorized – they’re good at Math, English, and/or Science...and they'll avoid the subjects that they 'aren't good at.' Or, maybe they don't take chances at things that are hard because they don't want to lose the status of the things they ARE good at.”
They feel safe. It all supports building confidence, and connection…which are critical in building healthy, grounded kids, and ultimately adults, of course. Feeling left out at a young age can have lifetime impacts. A lucky few find strength in the exclusion, but many suffer socially, have extreme anxiety and experience difficulty at school.
“We've helped so many kids who have had trouble at school, trouble with friends, social anxiety - and they find their footing. One of the things we really teach is that your weaknesses are really your strengths. If we work together, we can solve problems in very complete and interesting ways.”
So, how’s that for community? How’s that for Dad?
“As a Dad, you always feel like you have something to impart, but it's important to remember as you are raising your kids that your kids are raising you. You always feel like you have something to pass on, but there is so much more that they're teaching you, helping you to be a better person. Without my kids, I wouldn't be as evolved as I am.”
Photo Credit: Yogendra Singh