The Dad 2.0 Summit is a different kind of conference. Sure, it has many of the moving parts that make a conference a conference, but they all come with a twist that makes them unique. Sponsor presentations like the man who understood how divorce and being there for his daughters made him a better Dad, or the company whose creative director went undercover as a teenage girl to ferret out sexual predators online. Fathers who’d take the stage and share what it’s like to lose a wife to cancer or the things they discover as they think about their children and the lives they lead. Each time someone spoke, it peeled back another layer, leaving hundreds of Dads forever changed by the time they found their ways back home.
But then, one might argue it’s a bit masochistic. That we convened from clear across the continent to face the parts of ourselves we couldn’t share in our everyday lives, and the demons we never seem to shake. That we come out knowing more of the things that go “bump” in the night and the dangers around each corner if we lose sight of our kids for a second. Why would anyone in their right minds want to subject themselves to this?
Because we must. Because it’s all important. And because if we dads with the platforms to share messages to the people who need them most can do a little more today than we could with what we had before Dad 2.0, then why would we not?
Let me show you a little of what Dad 2.0‘s all about.
If You’ve Never Been To Dad 2, You Don’t Know Dad 2. Let’s explain Dad 2!
It’s funny how much can change in a mere couple of years.
When I first hit Dad 2.0 in 2018, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Buzz and Chris had raved about it for years, but I felt like such an outsider at the outset. All these people came together like they were the oldest of friends, handshakes and hugs everywhere I looked. I learned names quicker than I could remember them. It was intense.
But what I didn’t understand at the time was what Dad 2.0 is really about.
By 2020’s Dad 2.0, I was on the other side of the fence, far more confident and ready to engage, hugging people I hadn’t seen since the last time and getting deep in conversation with some new ones—I took every moment that Dad 2.0 offered and soaked it in.
But it was a lot to process! I came back to Toronto with a lot on my mind, and it didn’t help that only a week later, COVID-19 reared its ugly head and everything changed.
It’s taken a little time to start getting used to this new normal, but I finally figured out nine things I wanted to share about the ninth annual Dad 2.0!
So please sit back and get comfy, because, in typical Casey Palmer fashion, I’ve got a heckuva lot to say!
Nine Very Honest Insights from My Trip to the Ninth Dad 2.0!
1) Booking in extra travel time wasn’t just SMART—it was ESSENTIAL.
Though I’d planned to start D.C. with some sightseeing, fatigue from my last-minute packing and escaping a blizzard meant that Day One saw a lot more recovery than discovery.
Canadian weather don’t play, yo.
2) I’m so Canadian that I didn’t even consider the irony of going out for Mexican food in the capital of the United States of America.
There’d be several times reminding me just how Canadian I am on this trip, whether it was from metal detectors at national museums or my continued befuddlement at how their political system works. What embodied this best, though, was a solo dinner at Mi Vida on the Wharf, figuring Mexican to be the most flavourful option in a city that closed at ten.
I’d appreciate the irony a lot more later.
3) Also, on the topic of D.C., either I did it HORRIBLY wrong, or Toronto’s INFINITELY more convenient than it is.
I mean… it could be because the Mandarin Oriental is right in the middle of D.C.’s museum district. Still, things just weren’t walkable like they were back home, where I could walk to the corner store in minutes and know I could eat at two in the morning without needing to remortgage my house in the process.
Though, the burger I ordered by room service was delicious—it just cost a whole lot more than I would’ve liked.
4) Also, tempting as it is, please don’t hoard your five-star hotel toiletries unless you feel like paying five-star customer BAGGAGE FEES.
Sad as I was to see all that Atelier Cologne go when I checked in at Reagan National Airport, it was that or the beers Brock Lusch brought me from Cincinnati. Or the treats I’d trekked to get from Trader Joe’s. Plenty had to come back with me, and you’d be surprised how much liquid weight they manage to pack into such tiny tubes!
5) It’s also quite hard to appreciate what D.C. REPRESENTS to America when you’re not American YOURSELF.
What getting to D.C. early also meant is that I could walk the National Mall with Brock Lusch, Ben Killoy and Larry Interrante. And though it was a cooler day with fifty-kilometre winds (note: there are advantages to coming in from a blizzard when it comes to being prepared for the elements), we spent a couple of hours checking out the monuments—these massive testaments to American history.
One thing we take for granted in a city like Toronto, which itself has a younger population than the rest of the country (with a median age of 39.4 compared to the 41.2 for Canada), is that we live in a city that’s mostly forgotten war and the impact it has on society. Canada has 40,000 soldiers. America has 2.2 million. We’re slowly losing the people last touched by war, with the monuments to those who made the ultimate sacrifice blending into the background as our city moves on. But even though America’s relationship with its troops is a long and complicated story, the National Mall commemorates both war and politics in a very massive way.
If you ever visit the National Mall, please make sure to go with friends who are American to get the full impact of what you see before you!
6) But wait—did I say something about Trader Joe’s?
When Americans think of Canadians, they think of friendly people with universal healthcare, colourful money, and a Prime Minister who isn’t too hard on the eyes. But what they don’t realise is just how much they have that we never see, and Trader Joe’s is one of those things.
If you don’t know what Trader Joe’s is, it’s this quirky little grocery store that Canadians go ga-ga for, with food and flavours you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Cookie butter (which Sarah informed me was just Dutch speculoos—it even said so at the top of the label). Everything But the Bagel sesame seasoning. Between Trader Joe’s and Giant Foods, I came home with a delicious bounty of different foods to carry—it was worth the trek off Dad 2‘s beaten path.
7) But we ARE going to talk about the conference, right?
So there was plenty to do at Dad 2 itself, but I took a slightly different path, since being Canadian doesn’t avail you of the same experience you would as an American attendee.
For example, I was the lucky winner of a $1000 Best Buy gift card, except I quickly wasn’t, because I don’t live in the U.S. And I’m not bitter about it in the end—it’s not like I was going to use a DJI Ronin-S Gimbal or the RØDE Wireless Go to replace my broken lapel mic right away—but man, it would’ve been nice. Or the fact that LEGOLAND theme parks and Bark aren’t brands that haven’t made it north of the border just yet. Or that the Dove Men + Care video included sending messages to governors about parental leave, which we’ve already had for years. It all meant that I needed to get something from the conference other than sponsor connections.
And what that was was knowledge. Friendships. Things that wouldn’t fit in a suitcase, but could come home with me to make me a better person. That’s why I went back to Dad 2!
8) I assume ALL the Smithsonian museums are pretty great, but the National Museum of African American History and Culture is something SPECIAL.
“I wish I had more time,” is what I kept thinking as I made my way through the museum’s Heritage Hall, absorbing parts of Black Culture I never appreciated in their enormity, and as much as it wearied my soul, I knew I’d made the right choice by visiting.
Being Black in North America often reminds me of how hard the struggle is for us because of our skin colour. And while it’s true, there was a long path to get us to where we are today, and we often only hear key moments of that story without diving deep into what it all meant.
The sheer number of our African ancestors marched away from their homes and forced into a journey where only 48% of them survived. The indignities of slavery, with mothers forced to nurse their masters’ children before their own and a people stripped of even the most basic human rights. Not to mention another hundred years of segregation in the Reconstruction following the Civil War, putting Black Americans farther and farther behind while those in power profited off of the efforts of their ancestors. What the “Blacksonian” make you feel is every aspect of that experience, and makes sure that you’ll never take Black history lightly again.
One day I’ll eventually make my way back to D.C., and when I do, I want to take my entire family to visit the NMAAHC. It’d be criminal not to.
9) And finally, it can be fun to have a BREAK, but eventually, you just miss your FAMILY.
Dad 2.0 was fun, but every party has its limits. By the end of my fourth day in D.C.—and the last day of Dad 2.0—I was worn out, and retreated to my room for some alone time and a meal. As I worked on an art project I’d reveal a little later, I missed having four-year-old on my lap and having to reach around him so he could see what I was doing. I missed the endless questions my curious six-year-old would pepper me with and needing to redirect him to something else when I couldn’t take it anymore. And I even missed the banter that Sarah and I often had on what was going on and having someone who’d remind me to close up shop and just go the heck to sleep.
I’d been away from my family for just as long before, but as we all grew older and more used to being permanent fixtures in each other’s lives, it just felt stranger and stranger living life without them around.
So while I had fun and enjoyed my suite, I was ready to go home—after all, that’s where my biggest fans are!
(They just might not know it yet!)
But What I REALLY Learned From Dad 2 Was….
I guess my takeaway from Dad 2 is this—I’m not yet the master of my craft, but I’m no spring chicken, either. It’s still fun to hit conferences up and hang out with friends I haven’t seen in a while, but as the stakes get higher and I need to save more of my time and energy for the people who depend on me, it gets a lot harder to justify the resources for partying and getting my learn on across the border.
But if I was going to find any excuse to do it, Dad 2 was a great one, challenging me to become a better me than I might’ve otherwise. A better Dad. A better husband. I wanted to take everything I learned and push everything about me to its potential—that’s the kind of change that Dad 2 inspires.
That’s it for now, though—I’m back home to apply everything I learned. With thousands of blog posts, captions and marked-up pieces of paper looking for me to step up and finish what I started, there’ll be a long way to go before I call this journey a wrap.
Who knows? Maybe we’ll even cross paths someday!
But don’t just take my word for it—my man Flor from Dad Style 99 made a video recounting his experience, and you can tell how much it impressed him:
Thanks for reading, y’all—it means a lot.
Until the next, I remain,