Horses! Letting Go of the Reins

By | Daddy, Daughter, Development, event, Fathers and Daughters, Independence, Memories, Parenting, Personality, Quality Time, Relationships | No Comments

download (1)I see 1,200 pounds of pure muscle snorting down on 35 pounds of determined innocence. The paternal instinct to rush in and protect the little girl looking up at the spotted horse hits my spine and she isn’t even my daughter.

I fight the urge to step in (or to say anything) because I know where we are and that this “introduction” is part of the process.

Minutes later, there’s a stable full of girls ranging from age 4 – 15 leading their designated horses around obstacle courses or over large teeter-totters. Next to them are fathers looking at their little girls in a whole new way. Within the hour, young women who had never been on a horse are sitting bareback on them and beaming from ear to ear.


The Daddy Daughter Time Horses! Event at Equine Assisted Development of the Great Lakes in Alto, MI was one of those “can’t stop smiling” days (even while I was shoveling up ‘horse apples’). The well-trained horses are accustomed to meeting new faces and Deb VanderBand, the founder and leader of this organization, knows how to empower even the littlest of women.

According to the organization’s Facebook page, EAD specializes in the development and enhancement of non-verbal communication skills, assertiveness, creative thinking, problem-solving, leadership, taking responsibility, teamwork, relationships, confidence, and attitude. In the two sessions with our groups of Dads and daughters, she touched on all of them.

Sometimes it’s hard as a father to “let go of the reins” and see what your daughter can do on her own. Watching her face challenges (much larger than her), solve problems, and find the strength to face her fears can make it difficult on a Dad who wants to help and protect. This is one of those environments where letting her take the lead is encouraged and it was so cool to watch them do just that.

Throw in the miniature ponies and mules, a trip up to the hay loft, Bags the barn cat, and a chance for some of the girls to feed the horses, and a memorable day was made for all who came out. (And special props go to Nick Gonzalez who dealt with the only feisty moment of the day – Dude, you looked like a genuine cowboy/superhero.)

A full gallery is up.  Please share it with other Dads and let them know about Daddy Daughter Time!

A huge thank you to goes to our presenting sponsor – Land Rover of Grand Rapids – for helping make the day possible. Not only do they sell quality vehicles, they’ve got some pretty awesome Dads working there, too.


If you like this, maybe you’ll like some of my other favorites: My New Morning Show,  Men Suck… , The Wonder of a Weed, and the G-Talk series

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The Five Stages of Grief (Read: Bedtime)

By | Bedtime, Conversations, Daddy, Daughter, Discipline, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Independence, Memories, Parenting, Personality, Relationships, Rules, Sleeping Habits | One Comment

707px-Crying-girl1I’m pretty sure I won the “kid lotto”. Bedtime at my house, while it may take longer than it should, is far from a battle. While she will put up a halfhearted fight, my girl knows she can only push it so far and I think she actually enjoys all of the routines we have before she hits the sack.

But for some Dads, sending their kids to bed resembles a mash up of “The Exorcist” and a Benny Hill episode.

While the Kubler-Ross model was written for the five stages of grief, Liz had know that she had nailed the nighttime ritual of any parent today.

I talked it out with a couple of other Dads and found it is really simple to associate each of the stages with a young daughter. But based on their responses, I’ve also found it applies the same for the Dads – just in a different way.

For example…

Stage One: Denial

Daughter – “It’s not late.” “It’s not dark out (see:pitch black)”
Dad – “Tonight’s routine is only going to take 20 minutes and I’m watching the playoffs.”

30 minutes later…

Stage Two: Anger

Daughter – “Nooooooooooooooo! I don’t CARE if the sun has gone to bed.” (mad face, limp body, #daggers)
Dad – “I’m an idiot. Why didn’t I upgrade to the DVR so I could record the game?”

Stage Three: Bargaining

Daughter – “What if I sit still on the couch and watch football with you” or “Just one more story” or (insert ANY thing you can think of to avoid skin touching sheets).
Dad – “Somebody put this kid on Shark Tank because I’m fairly certain she could sell ice to an Eskimo.” Then…“Let’s try the couch thing.”

Somebody didn’t hold up their end of the bargain or tried to change the terms mid-deal. The firm foot of fatherhood comes down…off to bed.

Stage Four: Depression

Daughter – “But …(whimper)… I’m (sniff)… not (sniff, sniff)… tired. (gulp) I need a tissue” (If you’re lucky, if not read: boogers on sleeves)”
Dad – “But… (whimper) is that halftime analysis (sniff)… I’m hearing in the background? (moan)”

Stage Five: Acceptance

– “I love you, Daddy..zzzzz..zzz”
Dad – “I love you too, boo.” Spend the next 10 minutes watching her sleep, kissing her, and remembering what the truly valuable things in life are.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, your “pace of life” has changed (which I’ve tried to explain for you here) but the short story is you have to plan it all out. Like way out… in advance. The days of snap decisions and impromptu desires being fulfilled are over. And even the best laid plans can get blown up. As we say around here “Life happens”.

Oh, and for Pete’s sake…get a DVR. How are you living without one?


P.S. If you’re battling every night, you should check out this book. It could help.

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All In The Family – A Daughter’s Story

By | A Daughter's Story, Daddy, Dates With Dad, Daughter, Development, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Guest Blog, Independence, Parenting, Personality, Relationships | One Comment
download (2)BY TERESA L. THOME

I grew up in the same kind of environment as most other white, middle class kids – a modest home in a working-class neighborhood, three siblings, one dog, two working parents and a racist dad.  (Yes.  I just admitted that and we are going to go there.)

I grew up hearing my dad tell jokes about Polish people, the Irish and Italians. WASPs, Limeys, and Krauts… oh my!  He was an equal opportunity racist.   He even took aim at his beloved Catholics.

And there were lots of jokes about black people… too many.   He never used the “N” word, but it was abundantly clear that it was okay to make judgments about people based on the color of their skin.  By the mid 1980’s, gays were added to his list of perfectly acceptable people to joke about.

I suspect this was par for the course in my father’s upbringing.  It was not uncommon to hear my German/Dutch dad, his friends and relatives telling a racist joke at a party.  There were derogatory remarks too, but for the most part, where my dad was concerned, it was jokes.  It was meant to be funny.  And my dad was funny.  The laughter he elicited certainly blurred the line for understanding what was appropriate and what wasn’t. It blurred the line for him and for all of us.

At some point in my early thirties, I overheard my dad telling a joke disparaging Black Americans.  He was in earshot of my ten-year old, twin nephews.  It was wrong.  I gave my dad an ultimatum.  He needed to make a choice, “me or the racist jokes.”  If he wanted to teach his nephews that racism was okay, I’d have no part in it.   He was dismissive and I left with angry tears.  I called the next day to let him know, I was serious.  He responded, “Oh, I’m only joking.”  “I don’t mean anything by it.”  “I’m fat and people tell jokes about me.  I don’t care.”  As adamant as he was that he wasn’t trying to be mean, I was adamant that the intention didn’t matter.  When it was clear I wasn’t budging, he agreed to stop.

At first, the jokes ceased entirely.  Then, over the years, he’d try to slip something in to test the waters.  Every once in a while he’d land in a place that felt like good-natured ribbing.   And every once in a while, he’d step over the line.  Way over.  I’d give him a stern “Dad” and he’d stop.   As if I were the parent and he were the child.

I thought there was a part of him that really could separate the jokes from his beliefs.  On the occasion that my siblings or I dated a “person of color,” he never said a word. I also recall a vivid conversation that we had about gays in the military.  He was a Korean War veteran.  “Why do all these idiots think that just because a guy is gay, he’s gonna want them. If someone wants to fight for their country, let ‘em!”  Twenty minutes later, he’d make a joke about gay people not fit to print in this blog.

Then my own best friend came out, my dad was quick to offer up a gay joke or two to him.  My friend would laugh. My dad called him, Tinky.  He called my dad, Grandpa Bob.  My friend was, in my father’s words, “one of the family.”  My dad was an Archie Bunker with heart.

A few years after the incident involving my nephews, my mother confided in me that my father had sought counsel from a priest.  He wanted to heal the racism in his heart.  Contrary to what I was thinking, he was struggling between the jokes and his beliefs. Whether this was before or after our big conversation, I do not know.  Either way, my father never told me about this work he was doing. 

I’m grateful to have learned that he did the work.  I’m also grateful that he wasn’t the one to tell me about it.  It showed me that he understood that this was his work.  Whether or not I knew what he was doing, didn’t matter.  He wanted to make better choices for himself.  He didn’t want to hurt people.  He wanted to make them laugh.  I respect him for realizing that both were important. 



Teresa L. Thome is co-founder and Managing Partner of Fubble Entertainment. She co-writes and co-produces the Emmy® award winning web series

She and her partner are Executive Producers for LaughFest’s signature event having creatively produced shows with Betty White, Alan Zweibel, Martin Short, Kevin Nealon and Wayne Brady. Teresa also served as Executive Director for the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum for more than ten years. She has directed more than 20 theatrical productions in and around West Michigan.

She resides in Grand Rapids, MI with her husband, Fred Stella and two cats, Pickles and Simha. You can read more about Teresa here.

Teresa L. Thome ® 2013 All Rights Reserved
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Teresa L. Thome, and this blog’s owner, is strictly prohibited.

Start Petting Spiders

By | Activities, Daddy, Daughter, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Independence, Memories, Personality, Quality Time, Toddlers | No Comments


Havana Maggard, Logansport, displays her bravery by holding a Chilean Rose Tarantula at the Insect Petting Zoo. (Mark Simons/ Purdue University)

(Mark Simons/ Purdue University)

Life without fear.

I promise I’m not a “YOLO” fanatic, but I do believe that fear is at the core of most problems in the world today.

Fear of regret. Fear of failure. Fear of pain.

Most of us have an inner battle that keeps us from doing what truly makes us happy because we are afraid of one thing or another.

Most children don’t seem to have that problem.

Now before you think I’m someone who doesn’t understand the concept of learning caution from mistakes, I could delve into my previous marriage and offer up some real fear-inspiring life lessons. But that’s not what this blog is about.

And yes, I do realize that most children haven’t been “burned” by the consequences of some of their actions and the idea of not being scared of something that could potentially hurt them isn’t an altogether positive trait. That’s why they have Dads, Moms, and other grownups. We protect them.

But I saw the undeniable plus side to fearlessness this past weekend. That big “carrot on the end of the stick” that tempts us to take a chance can pay off in ways that risking a bit of failure, regret, or pain will never match.

Most of you know that when Grace is with me, I don’t squander Daddy Daughter Time. We get up, get out, and do stuff. This past visit was no different.

So when Jana and I picked her up from her mother, we already had a great day planned at Binder Park Zoo. The highlight of the day was going to be the feeding of the giraffes and as promised it did not disappoint. She wasn’t shy about an enormous creature, and it’s equally enormous tongue, coming right for her.

But the real moment came when we were almost going home. It was reptile week and a collection of herpetologists were hosting a room full of turtles, snakes, spiders, and lizards. Was Grace scared of snakes? Nope. Turtles? Of course not. But how about a huge brown tarantula crawling on Daddy’s hand?

Yep. Fearless.

I know for a fact that she’s already witnessed my ex’s aversion to anything resembling a spider (shriek!) so I was happy that Grace was brave enough to trust me to check it out.

We exited the room to see the rest of the exhibits in the building only to be prodded by her to go back to the “snake room” again.

The next day was our “Gym and Swim” day where I’ve been teaching Grace how to swim. Man, do I love these days. It was only a month or so ago when she decided that the swim vest was all she needed to just jump in the pool. But today, she didn’t like wearing it.

I asked if she wanted to use a “noodle” to hold herself up. We’d had this conversation before and it was always a “no”. But today, not only was it a “yes” but it was “Hey Dad look what I can do” as she swam from one side of the pool to the other, over and over.

The positive reinforcement she got from that had her floating on her back, doing spins, and “water dancing” with just that small bit of foam helping her do it. I had a hard time spending time above water as I just kept diving under to watch my baby girl swim.

The next day, she got her first bicycle. It’s a small “sidewalk only” job with Disney’s princesses plastered all over it. I should know by now that you can’t escape Cinderella.

We had only taken her trike out for a few times this summer as it has been rainier and cooler than usual, but she took to that bike immediately and delivered the perfect Hallmark memory for Jana and me. There was no hesitation. There were no instructions needed. The possibility of perceived joy in her brain outweighed any fear she may have felt.

And when she did tumble all she could talk about that night was getting back on it again. Well, actually only after she realized that the scrape on her knee was really small was she cool with it.

Did she swallow a little water? Yes.
Did she scrape her knee and put a hole in her favorite purple pants? Yes.

Did the exhilarating look on her face and the pleas to do it “one more time” outweigh any of those? Undoubtedly.

(I’d love to give you an example of hesitation or a consequence about the reptile room but there just wasn’t any. She was saying things like “Oooh. It’s so cuuute” about snakes.)

So what’s the takeaway?

I won’t go “pie in the sky” and tell you to live every day like it’s your last. But there is a lesson for grownups here.

If you are lucky enough to be like Grace and are surrounded by people who truly love you, have someone there to catch you if you fall, and want to experience true happiness, then what do you have to be afraid of?

Lose the life vest, kick the trike to the curb, and start petting spiders… or whatever other metaphor I can use to inspire you to follow your bliss.






Never Too Late – A Daughter’s Story

By | Conversations, Daddy, Daughter, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Guest Blog, Independence, Memories, Personality, Relationships, Teenager | One Comment
download (2)BY TERESA THOME

After all these years, I have decided I no longer need a Dad.  I need a friend.”

I wrote that, years ago, in a letter to my father. I was in my late twenties.  I had spent much of my life fighting with my Dad.  Too much.

While I knew I couldn’t repair the past, I could work to change the future.  I made a decision to write down everything I wanted to say to him, to be honest and clear, to put it on the table once and for all.

I did it for me.  What he did with the information would be his choice. 

I gathered all of my courage, asked him if he had some time to connect and I read him the letter. 

Some of my best childhood memories involved my Dad, but so did some of my worst.  It’s hard to articulate these difficult times without sounding trite.

My father teased me. 

He didn’t beat or abandon me.

He teased me.  Incessantly.   He would tease me about boys and my looks and whatever else was in the moment.  I would cry and beg him to leave me alone.  He wouldn’t stop.  I’d close my bedroom door and hide, and when I emerged, he’d start in all over again.  It was exhausting and painful. 

My father was also an “over-eater”, topping out at nearly 350 lbs.  Most of my tween years were spent hiding food from him and imploring, “If you loved me, you’d stop eating.  If you loved me, you’d stop trying to kill yourself.”  The more I shouted (and believe me, I was a skilled shouter) the less he heard and the less loved I felt. 

My father worked two jobs, restaurant and factory, for most of my formative years.  It’s hard to imagine that we even had time to fight. 

He did spend time with me and my siblings. He would take us to the zoo, museum or lake.  Together we would watch Lion’s football and listen to Tiger’s baseball.  He taught us to play poker. (I was rather proud, at age nine, to know the difference between a straight and a flush.) He bought us books.  Lots of books. 

By the time I reached my late twenties, I had done my therapy and started to grow spiritually. I was ready to get to know this man.  The man I had come to believe loved me all these years, just never knew how to express that love.  For my part, pleading for him to love me, usually came out as “I hate you” and “leave me alone”. 

As I read him the letter, he sat in his chocolate brown Lazy-boy wearing his standard uniform – a stained white T-shirt and worn out blue Dockers.  (This memory is forever etched in my mind.) While I read, he cried.

I was grateful for his tears.  I knew he was hearing me. 

He waited until I finished before he spoke.  He said softly, “I had no idea.”  I believed him.

“I’m sorry,” he added.  I believed that, too. 

We talked and talked and when the time was right, he challenged me.  “There were times I tried to reach out to you.  You shut me down.”  He was right.

I said, “I’m sorry.”  He believed me.

That day marked the beginning of a new relationship with my father.  We were both adults now.  We both had made mistakes and we were both willing to forgive those mistakes.

For several years following that incredible day, he would occasionally ask me, “How are you doing?  Are you sitting on anything?  Anything you want to say to me?”  It was mostly, “Nope.  All good!”

On one or two occasions, I did say, “Yes.  Let’s talk some more.”  Each time, I was met with an absolute willingness to connect and a safe environment in which to share my thoughts.   

It was remarkable that I happened to get the Dad that wanted to be a better person; that wanted to be a better father. And asking him to change required that I be willing to change. 

I believe that we are not alone – that there are many fathers and daughters who want a better relationship, but don’t know where to begin.  I say, just begin somewhere.   I am forever grateful that I had the courage to ask for change. I am even more grateful that I had a father who agreed that this was a relationship worth fighting for.

In my twenties, I asked my Dad to be a friend.  As it turns out, by asking for a friend, I got the Dad I always wanted. 

When he passed in June of 2012, I felt a profound love that I still hold in my heart today.  I look forward to sharing more about my pops in the upcoming blogs.  I know there is great wisdom, joy and more than a few laughs to come from looking at the life of this simple, beautiful, devout, dutiful, wounded, funny, tubby, loving man.

Teresa L. Thome is co-founder and Managing Partner of Fubble Entertainment. She co-writes and co-produces the Emmy® award winning web series

She and her partner are Executive Producers for LaughFest’s signature event having creatively produced shows with Betty White, Alan Zweibel, Martin Short, Kevin Nealon and Wayne Brady. Teresa also served as Executive Director for the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum for more than ten years. She has directed more than 20 theatrical productions in and around West Michigan.

She resides in Grand Rapids, MI with her husband, Fred Stella and two cats, Pickles and Simha. You can read more about Teresa here.

Teresa L. Thome ® 2013 All Rights Reserved
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Teresa L. Thome, and this blog’s owner, is strictly prohibited.

Dates With Dad: Daddy’s Little Girl

By | Activities, Boys & Dating, Conversations, Daddy, Dates, Dates With Dad, Daughter, Development, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Guest Blog, Independence, Memories, Parenting, Personality, Quality Time, Relationships, Shopping, Teenager | 2 Comments

<Guest blog from Maggie Kennedy.>


Daddy’s Little Girl – that’s exactly what I was.  I had my Dad wrapped around my finger as a child and I am pretty sure my brother would still say I do.

The bond I share with my Dad is one that has grown over time.  Now, looking back, I can see my Dad really took the time to build this relationship with his daughter.

Since I can remember, my Dad and I have been doing things together, just the two of us.  When I was really little my Dad would let me clip my barrettes in his hair and would let me fake shave him (without a razor of course!).  Once I got older my Dad and I went to our first Daddy-Daughter dance on Valentine’s Day.  It was my first real date! I got all dressed up, he bought me a corsage and we went to dinner before the big dance.  We danced the night away with all of my friends and their handsomely dressed Dads in the local high school gym.

As I hit middle school I found it was not “cool” to go to a Daddy-Daughter dance anymore.  So, although it was Valentine’s Day and his birthday, my Dad still took me out on fabulous dates.  We went to my very first fondue restaurant and my Dad even set up a tea party before dinner, just for me.  We did many different dates over the years including Japanese Hibachi and dinner on an actual train.

I always looked forward to our dates, but once I was in high school and had my first boyfriend I quickly dumped my Dad on Valentine’s Day.  As a 15-year-old with my first boyfriend I was ecstatic to be going on my Valentine’s Day date, not thinking twice about my Dad.  As I write this now, 10 years later, it breaks my heart to know I dumped the one man who will forever have my heart.

Moving away to college opened my eyes to not only the love I knew I had for my parents, but the friendships I had built with them.  I missed them even more being 100 miles away.  When I would come home on weekends my Dad took me on the one date he knew I couldn’t say no to… shopping.  On Sunday mornings we would go to Meijer to stock me up on groceries.  I doubt it was the ideal Sunday morning activity for my Dad, but we both knew it was time we enjoyed being with each other.

As an adult, I feel it is my time to plan the dates for my Dad.  Every year I invite him to relish in his dream of owning an RV by taking him to the Grand Rapids RV show.  Our most recent dates included indoor and outdoor shooting ranges which surprisingly I think I enjoyed as much, if not more, than my Dad.

As my Dad hit senior citizens status this year, I decided it was time to go on the ultimate date.  I asked my Dad to go to Europe with me, just us.  No boyfriend, no brother, no mom, just the two of us.  We will be touring England and Ireland in September.  It is easy to say that the same young girl, who could break her Dad with one glance of those big hazel eyes and bottom quivering lip, is now wrapped around her Dad’s finger.

As I often tell my Dad, “A son is a son until he finds a wife, but a daughter is a daughter for life.”  Not to take away from the father-son relationship he has (which I am sure is a strong bond over swearing, scratching and female body talk), but I know that I will be my Daddy’s little girl forever.


Maggie and her Dad.

Maggie and her Dad.

Maggie Kennedy, born and raised in Brighton, MI, graduated from Grand Valley State University and currently serves as a Public Relations Associate for Wondergem Consulting Inc. She is the proud mom of a beautiful (extra-large) Bernese Mountain Dog.





For more information on “Dating Your Daughter” and ideas for special Daddy / Daughter Dates, check out our MAY Feature!

Grace Makes A Splash!

By | Activities, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Independence, Memories, Parenting, Personality, Play Time, Quality Time, Relationships, Rewards, Rules, Summer Time, Swimming, Tips, Toddlers | No Comments

child-kicking-pool-1406951 (1)The metaphors are numerous: “Jumping in with both feet,” “Diving right in,” “Taking the plunge” are just a few off the top of my head.  Normally I’d be using them to talk about first-time fatherhood but this time you can take them all literally.

Grace is a swimmer.

I can’t tell you how happy I was when she finally decided it was time to let go and rely on her own little arms and legs (and floatation vest) to move around the pool “like a big girl.”  For me, it was like watching her first steps when learning to walk.

I can’t tell you how nerve racking it was to see her swallow some water and cough while learning to keep her legs under her and her head above water.

I can’t tell you how proud I was to hear her tell everyone she met for the rest of the day (starting with the Starbucks drive thru barista) that she swam all by herself.

And I can’t tell you how bittersweet it was to add yet another example to the list of things she’ll no longer need me for.  The emotional equivalent of a “death by a thousand paper cuts” is a never ending companion to parenting.

But I take great comfort in the fact that over the next few years, we are going to spend some killer times in the pool together.  Going to the pool every summer was a huge part of my childhood.  I even spent some time on the local swim team.  I cannot wait until I get the chance to launch her as high as she can fly, for her to splash down, and then swim back to me to ask me to “Do it again, Daddy!”

Now if I can just convince her that goggles are cool…