- Who you are and what do you do for a living?
My name is Doug Small and I am the President & CEO of Experience Grand Rapids. Our organization is the leading marketing agent for Greater Grand Rapids. We promote our great destination to the world in hopes of driving millions of visitors to our wonderful community.
- What is your family dynamic?
I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart Kim for 35 years. I am one of fourteen children from a family whose parents have been married for 73 years. The family unit is obviously very important in our lives and Kim and I wanted to have several kids of our own. However, we were not able to have children naturally, so we decided to adopt. Alexandra Grace Small (Allie) blessed us with her birth on April 20, 2000 and both Kim and I were present with the birthmother during the birth.
- What has been the biggest challenge of being a Dad?
In many ways, the “worrisome” part. I tend to be over protective, but not in the “helicopter parent way,” rather just making sure my daughter knows right from wrong, is not put in any physical harms way or putting herself in a position to be hurt. Kim used to laugh at me when Allie was learning to walk. I put pads with tape over sharp edges in our home ?!! Did I say over-protective???!! The other thing is social media. I did not have to worry about anyone “cyber-bullying” me or any of my family members growing up. If we were bullied, we found a way to solve it. Today, kids are way too “plugged in” and believe pretty much everything their friends and social media tells them. It puts a ton of pressure on parenting, especially if you have a daughter who suffers from anxiety or depression. Our daughter was diagnosed at the age of 8 with Type One Diabetes. To this day, including the day I had a serious heart attack, this was by far the most sad, stressful and terrible day of my life. We are working with Allie to cope with it, but it has been a roller-coaster ride.
- What has been fatherhood’s biggest reward ?
Just being a dad. I couldn’t wait for the day to have a child. When Allie was born, it was the best day of our lives. The bond was instantaneous. To watch her grow and take on many of your own characteristics, while developing her own personality and passions has been very cool. Allie is our hippy girl in a lot of ways; so unlike Kim and I!! Her love for art, especially performing art, has been a pleasure to watch and experience. She has a voice as good as Adele…if only she didn’t have stage fright. While there have been many challenges along the way, life is so much better with Allie Small around us.
- What is the most memorable Dad moment you’ve had? Positive or negative – what moment of fatherhood stands out to you?
As stated previously; Allie’s birth. Kim and I dreamed of a family and Allie “kick-started” that for us. Holding her in my arms minutes after her arrival into our world was beyond my wildest dreams. Like most parents, we have had many struggles with Allie as she grew, but her love for people, especially those with challenges, animals and her open, inclusive being has been a true pleasure to witness. Not sure I have one moment that stands out, but Allie, albeit the smartest in the family, struggled with completing school work. She found it tedious and unimportant, no matter the lesson we tried to teach about her future. The day she walked across that stage to receive her high school diploma was a great sense of pride for us. If there was any negative memorable moment, it would be the aforementioned diabetes diagnosis. The call I received that morning at work and the news on the other end from my sobbing wife, will be forever etched in my mind.
- How do you balance your work/family life?
Balance is tough, in fact, I don’t like the term. I rather like to find the time that allows me to engage with my family activities (which are many), while performing to the level expected of me professionally. Sometimes I can do that with 40% work and 60% play; 30% work and 70% play; or the flipside. I have the same rule with my staff at Experience Grand Rapids. While our results are important, the quality time spent with loved ones is vital. I’ve never met a very successful and fulfilled professional, who had a horrible personal agenda. I know that is subjective, but a happy individual performs much better than one who is unhappy. I choose to put my personal first and if that would ever begin to affect my professional performance, a change is needed.
- What “Dadvice” would you give a father with daughters?
I hope this is not taken in the wrong context, but daughters are fragile. While the exterior may say “I’ve got this,” it is important to really spend time with them in quiet moments and let them know you are there for them. My daughter and I took our dinners out together very seriously and she would NOT let me cancel!! If a Dad is not doing this, they should. Some of the best bonding moments and discussions about life and direction, comes during our Daddy/Daughter dinners out. My little girl is now 18 and we still have “dates.” I told her early in her teen years, that should she find herself in trouble, either with someone that is intimidating her or in a situation she knows is not right, uncomfortable or possibly against the law, she needs to call me to come get her and know questions will be asked. Love them unconditionally. They will break your heart and test your every nerve, but in the end, the foundation you give them will serve them and you well.