As I type this post, my right knee is aching, my lower back is stiff and (according to my wife) I’m in desperate need of a shower. But strangely, I’m feeling great.
All of this is a result of being a participant of the FirstAnnual Dads Matter Too! 5K Road Race. Held in Waterbury, Connecticut, this event was hosted by the Department of Children and Families' Region 5 (Waterbury, Torrington & Danbury) Fatherhood Engagement Leadership Team, (F.E.L.T) the Department of Social Services, and the City of Waterbury.
The focus of the race is to bring awareness to the often overlooked yet crucial influence that fathers have in the lives of their children. There are some people that might look at this event and say something like,"Of course dad's matter, we all know that... so what's the big deal?" There are so many men out there who are trying their best to be the best father they can, but unfortunately face many roadblocks along their journey. Among these obstacles include being unaware of their rights as a dad, tensions with their child's mother that can affect their relationship with their child and a US court system that has a tendency to be adverse towards fathers . Complications such as this can be a frustrating experience and can cause some dads to feel isolated.Fatherhood initiatives such as F.E.L.T. put a spotlight on these issues and provide guidance to those who need it the most.
In addition to the road race, there was also a children’s Fun Run as well has a 1 mile Dad’s Walk. The idea was to create a positive, entertaining, low-cost environment that fathers would be encouraged to bring their children to. And it worked! All around me, I witnessed so many loving and nurturing dads share moments with their kids. It was truly a joy to watch. According to the event brochure, all proceeds:
"... will be utilized tosustain ongoing father related events, trainings,and activities. Proceeds will allow the F.E.L.T toprovide fathers and their children withopportunities to have access to the following:movie tickets, sporting/recreational outings, andactivity bags which consist of word games,coloring books, and stuffed animals."(Source)
One of the favorite activities my 4 year old and I enjoy doing together is jogging along one of our local nature trails while I push him in the stroller. So when I found out about this race, I knew my son and I had to do it as a team. After all, what better way is there to celebrate the joys of fatherhood than to participate in an event side by side with your child?
Once we got ourselves registered, we were provided free t-shirts and I was fitted with a time keeping ankle bracelet. As we rolled up to the starting line, you could feel the positive energy surrounding the area. I started stretching and my son followed suit. This was proceeded by a collective group off “awww’s” by some of the other race participants, as thy appreciated his excitement.
Throughout the course, I would jog a good distance pushing my son up and down the hilly course. Then all I would hear is, "Daddy, can I run now?" I would eventually relent and he would hop out and start speeding down the closed streets, with me running close behind. Everyone; the volunteers, the assisting police officers and firefighters, even the passersby on the street were impressed by his efforts and started cheering him on. Some one the runners who finished actually came back and gave us great words of encouragement to urge us on. It felt like more than just a ran: the comradery was definitely inspiring.
As we finally reached the finish line, the cheering got even louder as my son ran through it on his own. I took a video of the moment, but just to forewarn you, it's pretty shaky. (Hey, YOU try to push a stroller in one hand and take a video in the other after running over 3 miles!).
After we crossed the finish line with a respectable time of 37.5 minutes (and got a chance to catch my breath), I knelt down and gave him a big hug. He was so proud of himself for finishing and the ear to ear smile on his face in that moment made the entire day worth it.
One the race was over, we were treated with some great music, food, bounce houses, face painting, a petting zoo and a whole host of other fun things to do. In addition to this, the event stayed on mission by having an impressive number of public and private booths that offered a variety of resources offering assistance that fathers can take advantage of.
I did make one critical mistake that almost backfired on me: In the heat of the moment, I told him that he won the race. Like, the entire thing. That would have been all well and good, except for the fact that he noticed that there were a bunch of trophies near the main stage, so he inquired as to why he did not receive one. I told him that the free t shirt that he received along with his "finisher" ribbon were his award. He probably would have been satisfied with that answer, but there was only one problem; He noticed with his 4 year old powers of observation, that there were a bunch of other children with the exact same shirt and ribbon. Finally backed into a corner, I did what any self respecting dad would do: I said to him, "Yeah , that's true the other kids got a t shirt and ribbon, but I bet they don't also get to go to Chuck E. Cheese afterwards!" After hearing those wards, his face lit up and shortly afterward, we were whacking moles and shooting hoops and doing the "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" with Mr. Cheese himself.
All day long, from start to finish the 1st Annual Dad’s Matter Too! 5K Road Race was a fun-filled event filled with positive energy, good people and even greater fathers. I felt humbled to be in the company of such a wonderful group who are dedicated to a powerful mission and we look forward to attending next year!