Research shows that many men are struggling and not sure how to get support. So I asked our friends from the Dadville podcast to come on and talk about how to encourage the guys in your life!
What a joy to host this insightful and fun duo! Jon McLaughlin and Dave Barnes are best known for their careers as musicians and song writers, but on their off-time, they encourage and inspire us on their popular parenting podcast, Dadville. You’ll find so much wisdom in this conversation, including:
1. How to find joy in the dream vs. the destination
2. Guys and vulnerability
3. The true goal of parenting
4. Why we all have to face our own blind spots
5. A beautiful picture of letting go of control with our kids
Do you have questions about friendship for Dr. Alison? Leave them here.
Thanks to our sponsors:
Go to www.organifi.com/bestofyou today and use code BESTOFYOU for 20% off your order today.
Visit hiyahealth.com/BESTOFYOU and get your kids the full-body nourishment they need to grow into healthy adults.
Go to AquaTru.com and enter code BESTOFYOU at checkout to get 20% OFF any AquaTru purifier! AquaTru comes with a 30-day Money-Back Guarantee so if you don’t like it just send it back for a refund, minus shipping.
If you've been searching for a better alternative to traditional healthcare and want to take your health to new heights, visit www.WildHealth.com/Premium to apply for membership.
Music by Andy Luiten
"Art is never finished, only abandoned." –Leonardo da Vinci
“Whenever we come together to share strengths it breeds competition; whenever we come together sharing our weaknesses, it breeds community.” –Anonymous
The Timehop app
Alison’s episode on the Dadville Podcast
Related Podcast Episodes
Episode 32: Productivity and the Never Ending To Do List: How to Stop Hustling & Embrace the Joy of Enough
Episode 28: The Pain of Performing For Others and How to Claw Your Way Out with Toni Collier
Therapy Adjacent Series:
Episode 63: Spiritual Direction, the Power of Listening, & How to Attune to Yourself and to Others
Episode 64: Women’s Health—Menopause, Hormones, Depression and How to Advocate for Yourself Through Your Body’s Changes
TBOY EPISODE 65
ALISON: I really loved the conversation that we had when I was on your podcast. The thing that I'm most interested in, and I think my audience will be really interested in, is this friendship dynamic–how you guys are so open about how you're growing as men through being dads.
Also, this way that you've connected to each other. There's so much research right now that shows that men struggle in making friendships. They don't know how to do it. We're seeing this with young boys too. How do we help men connect in ways where it makes sense to you? That’s intuitive.
And I love it that you guys are really doing it. You're so open and transparent about what's been hard about even being in therapy from time to time. And then you have this clear connection to each other.
So I want to get there, but I would love personally to hear a little bit more about your background as musicians. Tell me a little bit about your journey.
DAVE: Take it away, Jon.
JON: Take it away, Dave.
DAVE: See, that's how humble we are. We're constantly trying to make way for each other. So Jon's story is, which he'll tell you, he grew up basically playing piano since his fingers could move, which is one of the reasons he's so good at piano. But I got to do it kind of later.
I played drums growing up, but when I went to college at Middle Tennessee State University here, I kind of got into songwriting and singing and really loved that. And it was a totally out of nowhere God thing. I mean, there's no way to explain what I do for a living other than God's very dynamic and catastrophically wonderful intervention in my life to change the inertia of my direction, where I was going.
Not in any dramatic way. I mean music, singing, and songwriting was not anywhere on my radar at all. And so when I was there, I started playing and really enjoyed it and singing and stuff. And then moved here and pretty much started immediately. I worked for another producer for a while and kind of did a record with him. And then, since then I've done it full time. And so that's 20, whatever it is, 22 years now.
Nashville is the place to do that if you're going to do it because it's got the ecosystem and, you can, you can do it here because there's a way to do it. And so I think that's some of why I continue to keep getting to do it.
But, and, I think the longer you do it, you sort of find other things to supplant a little bit of it, like I write songs for other people now too. And we have the podcast. There's just, it's like doing music in 2023 is a wildly different thing than doing it in 1985.
JON: It means that you don't do music full time.
DAVE: Yeah. Well, I should say, and Jon can speak to this too, but, if you really do want to have a family, if you want to be home and sort of have any kind of home life, you really do have to sort of figure out other things to do to sort of help that so you're not gone all the time.
But, I love it. I mean, I wouldn't do anything else. Ever, ever, ever. It's the best.
JON: Yeah, like Dave said, which I do want to point out that Dave's kind words are very kind, but it's also a way of him saying like, “Oh, you guys have been doing this your whole life? Grammy nomination? Oh,I started doing this.”
ALISON: Right. You got a head start.
JON: But yeah, I grew up in a really musical family in Indiana. And the family is all still back in Indiana. I'm the only one down here in Nashville. And Dave is actually a huge part of me and my family being down here. We moved down here about nine years ago, but I grew up in Indiana playing classical piano from the, I mean, I don't have any memories of not having piano lessons,
DAVE: That's amazing.
JON: And extremely grateful for it because I have no other skills, and so I don't know what else I would do. I'm glad that podcasting is a thing, because then it's like, well, I guess I could do that. As long as Dave's with me, I think I could do a podcast.
DAVE: We listen to people talk well, is what that means.
JON: That is exactly what we do. We have smart people like you on, and you help us get from week to week. So yeah, I moved down here with my family to kind of, dabble in the “writing for other people” thing as well.
Once my oldest daughter came along, up until that point, I had only written and toured for myself. And I had this panic moment when Luca was born, I was like, I can never leave the house again. I'm never, well, I can't leave now. Like Amy, my wife was always on the road for seven years. She came out on the road with my band. So it was a huge shift. And Dave was starting to write for other people around that time and having massive success.
And so I moved down here and kind of dabbled in that it did not work out for me to write for other people. I know nothing about country music at all. And so I still tour and write for myself and I do this podcast with my neighbor Dave.
ALISON: I hear from both of you that you've had to make some hard decisions along the way. There's these dreams–big dreams, big talent and some success. Tell me a little bit about how you've arrived at some of those, the maturity, I guess, that is required to both hold on to dreams and steward talents that God has given you.
And also make these hard decisions around your family and being a dad and being a good friend to each other. How does that, how does that play out for you? What are some of the milestones where you saw some of those decisions staring at you in the face and had some come to Jesus moments?
JON: Yeah, I mean, as you're talking what comes to my mind, and what comes to my mind often especially living in Nashville and doing what we do, is you have to make–I don't know how to say it exactly–but you have to decide to enjoy the life that God has given you. Because there are a thousand different ways to see your life as a failure, and sometimes it feels like there's one little tightrope of a way that you can enjoy it.
And it's there, but you have to decide to enjoy it. I mean, not to throw labels under the bus, but there is a way that they can, and artists as well, can turn successes into failures, where you do something, it hits, you're on the chart, and you were like, oh, we weren't even, we were just, the goal was here, and we've exceeded that, well now, let's move the goal to here, because all these people are. We're in the top 20 now, and then, well, let's get to the next goal.
I mean, Dave has had many number ones. He had this massive song with this artist that Dave, you posted the other day, which I thought was a great post because, and he wrote this really well written caption underneath it that was celebrating the song that had this massive success.
And it got to number two. That is an insanely massive success.
There's a way that the labels and there's a mindset you can have where you can be like, yeah, we thought it was going to be number one, and we didn't quite get there. And you're like, wait a minute, this is a huge success story here that we should be celebrating.
And it's easy. Again, in this town with all this activity, with all this creativity and talent, it's really easy to take that mindset of like, well, I've got this, but it is nowhere near that or that or that. So in order to survive, you kind of have to choose to own the enjoyment of your own life and your own talent.
DAVE: Yeah, it's, it's true. That's well-said Jon. And thanks for saying that. I think music is to me (Jon has heard me say this 5,000 times), but music to me—
JON: Change it up. Change the wording up.
DAVE: Okay. Music is a lot like roller skating and I've never gone here, but let's see what–oh, you've heard that one.
I think it's a lot like professional sports in that it really is kind of a young man's game/young woman's game. And so, it runs on dream juice, it's like, it's all about what the next thing is and where you're taking it and where it's going. It's not so much about maintenance, it's about what the next thing is and what gets hard.
And you asked such a good question, Alison. It's like, what gets hard as you get older and your priorities change is that it really doesn't help your business the minute you have kids and you get married. You have kids and you have this home life.
Your dreams start to divert, and all of a sudden this engine that has run on this juice suddenly, your family is the new engine that runs on that juice. And so you're looking at this thing at the side, kind of going like, “Man, what are we gonna put in that now”?
And so it's really tricky. It's a weird occupation that way because it's like, I laugh with a lot of my friends because novelty is king in our industry. And so you spike fast, you come out and you catch, and all of a sudden you shoot, you're at the top of that chart and then you're kind of like somewhat descending the rest of your career. And you'll stay and you'll plateau. But like, I laugh with my friends because we'll go get coffee, and they got the CFO job, CEO job…
ALISON: They climb.
DAVE: …they're climbing, and I'm kind of waving on the way down a little bit. Thankfully, it doesn't mean you can't have a career, it doesn't mean that you can't be successful and still enjoy it, because Jon and I both do. I mean, I've probably never enjoyed it more, which is great.
I don't feel like we've ever been better at it, if you think about the 10,000 hours principle, but at the same time, it's a tricky job because you kind of realize a lot of your friends are now hitting their peak and you kind of do that in your twenties when you're us, because that's when it is the most valuable, it's the most interesting, it's the newest, you got to go see him live. He's awesome.
And then, the 10th time you've seen somebody live, it's still great, but some of that magic has changed into nostalgia, which is totally fine, but you really have to have maturity about it to your point, Alison.
It's like you kind of have to know how to, and like Jon is saying, to think about it, to not walk off stage and go, “Man, when I played here three times ago, there were three times more people”, but instead go, “Man, there's still people coming to my shows that really enjoy it, and I still can do this for a living, you know”?
ALISON: It takes some soul work. You guys have made choices and we all have to do this work. Whatever your job is, somebody's always got a bigger boat, whatever the thing is in your life.
But for you guys, you didn't have to make the choices you made, you've made decisions to keep your souls intact in some sort of way, shape or form that you didn't have to make, and I guess I'm curious, what do you attribute that to?
I love your image of the tightrope. To kind of stay on it, continue to love what you do, but not fall off either side–the side of giving up everything, losing your soul, but to stay on top, killing yourselves and all your relationships, and I think the other side of that tight rope might be giving up all together on these beautiful talents.
JON: Yeah, I mean, I think that some of the things that have kept me going are, like Dave, I absolutely love creating music and performing music. I love it. I would do it. I mean when people ask like, what would you do if money were no object? You have a billion dollars in the bank.
What would you do? I don't know. I would get more massages, but I don't think anything In my life would change, you know what I mean? I would like to get the house painted. I don't know.
So like, that is huge. I mean there is what I'm doing, and what Dave and I are doing, there is like a soul and our souls are involved, so it's easier to not be quite so drawn to the results of something.
And I'm not saying that I'm above that. I have a new song coming out here soon. I'm like, I want it to do well. I want it to get on some playlists. I want people to hear it. So that's still there, but there is a very real element of “the work is already done”. I created this song that could do nothing.
I could even not release it and I still have a huge box checked internally of like, I created this thing. There's this beautiful relationship with the art itself. Not to sound cheesy there.
ALISON: I love that. Because the irony of what you guys are saying is I think it could be Daniel Day Lewis who will still have that feeling of “it could be better”. That tension that you're describing is probably endemic in any creativity or work.
So the illusion is, if I got to that number one or if I got to that, whatever, I'll finally feel good, but the reality is you get there and there's something else.
And so what you're saying is so beautiful–that the work is constantly remembering: “I created this beautiful piece of art.”
DAVE: That's it.
JON: Well, and that's another thing that is huge. I think it is a huge gift that I have seen time and time and time again–that sort of myth of like, you get to the top of the mountain and you've made it and there is no “made it”.
There's nothing up there. You can get to number one but there's always again there's always some way that you can spin it. If you're doing it for the wrong reasons, there's some way that it won't give you what you are looking for.
If you're needing success in your job to give you something, it's not going to give it to you.
DAVE: It's ladders that lead to more ladders.
ALISON: It's so true. Yeah, and I think, again, it's such a subtle nuanced thing where there's ambition, there's drive, there's talent that are not bad things and you want to do well, of course.
I think sometimes in the Christian community especially, it can be too easy to have sort of a pseudo-humility or to kind of repress that all together. I see this in women. I'm sure it's there for men. You guys tell me. You want to do well, but you don't want to find your identity in it, because that is a house of cards that is never going to last. And I kind of hear that ongoing work for both of you.
DAVE: Well, I think the thing you have to realize at some point, all of us, and it doesn't matter, industry or gender, we are co-creators. Like, we are the church, we are the bride to Jesus, and that means that God initiates relationship with us. He initiates. So much of our relationship, it's two ways, it's like God being with us and us being with God.
And I think when we think about creation and jobs especially, and really anything, we have to get to this place. And it's such a struggle for me where it's like we have to let go. We have to create and then stop. We have to work and then stop. We have to, because one of the parts of faith that's so paramount is realizing that I have done what I feel called to do and I can't do anything more than that. And it is God's from now on.
From this point, we push the boat out and we wave and we go back to our family. And I think it's really hard when we attach too much identity to what we create. We forget that there's a faith element at play that we do the best we can with our part of that creation, but it ends. It's a finite thing.
I quoted this last week, I should look this up, but one of the famous painters said, “No great art is finished. It's abandoned”. And I think that's true with a lot of kinds of work.
We all kind of feel like, man, if you could give me 10 more minutes, I can get these numbers right. Or whatever, I don't think it's specific to creation or creative careers. But, I think it's easier to understand where you feel like, God, let me fix that part right there, the bridge, we could get that a little more…and at some point it's like, it doesn't matter.
You really have to trust that I've done my best, I'm abandoning. It's probably a better metaphor, honestly. It's like, I'm abandoning this work to God so he can finish it and fulfill it. And some of that stuff never gets finished and you get really sad. You realize like, man, that didn't achieve what I wanted it to.
And then some does. But I mean, I think the eternal perspective, if you can have that perspective and lay over our current experiences, it's game changing because you reprioritize everything. You realize that kids are the real work. Our family's the real work. Our church is the real work. Our relationships are the real work. The work is wonderful.
Like our jobs are wonderful, but they're going to burn. Like it's all going to burn. It's not going to heaven with us. Now what God can use it for in our lives to shape us and mold us to become better people is very valuable.
And some of it has really profound work in the world. I mean, I believe Jon, our music, and your books. These things do matter. They have eternal weight, but not near what we think they do.
And I think the sadness I see, and one of the things that I think compels me so much with Dadville is to sit with other men and hear them going, “I think that too. I love my work. I want to do well, but gosh, the real work for me is with my kids”.
Jon and I laugh all the time. One of our great qualifiers as dads is like, we want our kids to want to come home when they're 25 and hang out with us for a weekend. Like that's a win. Like we have done it. And to me, if you're not careful, you're going to have a lot of awards on your wall and kids who don't want to come home.
Is that really what you want? So I think when you lay the eternal perspective on top of that, and you go backwards to forwards, you realize like, oh man, to get there, I need to make some different decisions.
Because that means probably less awards on my wall, but kids who are like, man, we're coming home next week, dad. And you're like, “Yes!”. And so they can end up staying in that room that was going to have the awards anyway. So it all works out.
ALISON: I love that. Tell me a little bit about parenting. Tell me about, first of all, the ages of your kids roughly.
JON: So Dave and I, our kids are exactly stair stepped. Dave has three and I have two in the middle. Mine are 10 and almost eight. And Dave, yours are 11, seven and…
DAVE: They're 11, nine, and six about to be seven
ALISON: How has becoming a parent, becoming a dad, brought out some of your own growth and your own healing? ‘Cause that's a pretty deep thing, what you said, like I realized, “here's what I actually want. I've now got to reverse engineer my life to get there”. So how did that bring up stuff inside of you then to ensure that happens?
DAVE: Can we end here and just, it's been a great podcast. I've really enjoyed it. I've really, really enjoyed it.
JON: You know, one of the first episodes we did was with this guy named Steven James and he was our first expert that we had on the podcast and I have quoted that episode so many times. I mean, it was years ago and it was such a pivotal moment for me as a parent.
Because there was this one scenario that I was talking about, I've said it a million times, but where I was worried about Luca, my oldest, it was like she was going to school for the first time, kindergarten starting, the parents are having a meeting, the kids are all outside playing, and I could not focus on anything that was happening in the meeting. I was looking out the window, looking at things like, is she playing with other kids, is anybody being mean to her, is she being left out.
And she was kind of playing by herself the whole time and I'm like, I really want her to make a friend. Like these kids are playing together. Why isn't Luca over there? You know? And he's like, dude, that, this is 1000% your problem. Luca is fine. She was playing with a leaf. She was fine.
So that was kind of my first lesson in that. I mean, it was one of those moments where like, he sort of pointed this one thing out to me and it's like when you see an ant on the ground and then all of a sudden you see like another ant and then a thousand ants it was like, oh I can see how I'm doing this ten times a day with the things that I'm worried about it really sort of like trimmed away a lot of what I thought were my legitimate concerns with my daughters and really made me see like, okay, some of these are actually them and let's keep those all these other ones, you really need to work on those for yourself.
And it made me realize how important it is to operate, and this goes for anything, but as a parent, as a husband, as a friend, as a coworker, I mean, how important it is to, as much as we can, operate out of security and health.
Start there. As a parent, how much of my behavior during the day, like at the end of the day when I lay my head on the pillow, how much of the way I handled any given situations was because of me and what I was going through and the baggage in my head and what I was bringing into the room, versus what the situation actually called for. It's made me, it's kind of forced me to realize those elements that are at play.
DAVE: Which I'd been telling him for years!
JON: Years, years in song, and I never listened.
DAVE: Yeah, I mean, I'll say two things quickly. I think one, it's given me a lot of grace for my parents. One of the things that I think is really easy as you grow up and mature is to get to that age where you suddenly see that your parents didn't do everything right.
And for some people that's 15. For me it was kind of like late, late teens into twenties. And it's easy to kind of go scorched earth with that, kind of come home and be like, let me tell you everything you didn't do right.
And boy, when you get engaged and married, that quadruples because you have somebody else going, “Hey, so fun fact about your mom or your dad…”. But I think when you have kids, you suddenly realize, “Oh man, this is hard. This is really hard”.
There's a guide in that we have the Bible, there's a guide in great books, but there's not a guide guide. There's no definitive answer to every problem you're gonna have. And I think for me, that was a huge moment to realize like, man, everybody's kind of doing the best they can, whatever that looks like. And that's going to change according to what they were given as kids and their parents. But that was helpful.
And then I think the other thing, kind of what Jon and I talk a lot about, it's like this idea that you can only take your kids as far as you've gone yourself spiritually and emotionally. And so it's compelling to continue to do your own work so that you can keep trying to lead your kids that way, as opposed to truncating that.
And then when they're 25, past your maturity, and they come home and go like, man, dad's like a 10 year old when he gets mad, or he can't talk about this one thing cause he just? I think we've seen on Dadville so much where really wise people say like, “Hey, I gotta keep keep doing my work.”
JON: Mm hmm.
ALISON: Yeah. We talked a little bit about when I came onto your podcast, and you guys have said it so well, the goal of parenting isn't perfection. It's what you're saying. It's to keep that connection ongoing and that's where the rubber hits the road is really when your kids are adults.
Do they want to still come to you? Is there a safe place for them to come to you and say, “Actually when you did that, that wasn't great”?
And you can take that because that's what keeps connection alive. That's what keeps connection alive. It's not that your goal is that your kids won't ever have a problem with you or ever come to you and say, hey. It's that you will be safe enough so that when they do, you've done enough work and all humility to say, you know what, you might have a point there.
DAVE: And so we say it again, I almost wish people would hit the 15 seconds back and hear what you said twice, Alison, because what kind of deluded people do we think we are, that we are going to parent in a way that our kids at 30 sit down with us at Outback Steakhouse over at Bloomin Inn and go, “You know what guys? You stuck it. You stuck the landing. I have come out unscathed. I have only amazing things”.
And I think we all laugh at that, but I think if we're really, really honest, I can dysfunctionally operate in a way like I'm trying to have the perfect card here. Jon does such a good job talking about this, but this idea that it’s not what we're shooting for. We're really trying to keep communication lines open and to be real and authentic and the rupture and repair idea that for what we do to rupture, we come back to repair.
If I'm not careful, I'm in my sinful fallen brain going, man, I want to ace this, I'll take an A-”. it's a terrible way to go about life because it assumes way too much control. And the sense that there is such a thing as sort of doing it right.
JON: Right. Yeah, and I get terrified when I'm in this headspace. I have to let go of the myth that I'm gonna nail this, that I'm gonna hit some sort of parenting bullseye. It doesn't exist. But, when that day comes and they do come back home and they sit down with Amy and I and they're like, “Okay, here are some of the things that were hard”, I want to know what they are. I want to be one step ahead. Because they're going to come in and they're going to say the thing that I'm going to be like, “No, no, I nailed that”!
DAVE: I was at every single game, ask your mom!
ALISON: I love that.
DAVE: I say this every now and then, especially when you meet your spouse, that there's this analogy I always use. There's a tableau in your house that you've seen a hundred times walking out the door.
You know that tableau. It's the Barnes tableau. Then you bring your spouse and they look up at it and they're like, “Is that a woman eating that bear?” And you're like, “That's the woman that eats a bear. That's Deborah”. And they're like, “That's disturbing”.
You're like, “When I say it out loud, that is really disturbing”. And then you sort of work your way through this tableau and you have this part and it's like, that's some weird family stuff. And you're like, now that you are here, it does feel weird.
And to Jon's point, I don't want to be like, “Honey, that's the bear eating woman. Why are you mad about this”? But I can go, “We do have a bear-eating woman on our table”. We need to be okay with that.
ALISON: Yeah. It's like the shame that comes from being caught at something we didn't have a chance to pre-condition ourselves to acclimate to. It's vulnerable.
DAVE: That is it. So then the question is how do you not get surprised in the community? It's people that can be in your life that look at you and go, “Hey Dave, like you have this quirk and I love you and we love you and we're committed to this relationship, but you kind of do this when this happens”. And you're like, “Oh shoot”. And they're like, “It's okay, we're here”.
But when you've had that conversation 15 years before your daughter sits down and has that conversation with you, you're able to go like, “You're right, honey. Like that's actually one of my blind spots. And I know that because I'm in a group of people that love me enough to go like, Hey, you kind of have this blind spot”.
‘Cause if you don't have that community, that is going to be a really hard conversation, a really hard conversation. And I think if you look at the history of mankind, especially America over the last 75 years, you think about the greatest generation and the generations that follow, they're coming back from World War I and II and rightfully so, they want to be left alone with all the trauma that's happened.
But what that hands down generation to generation is this mentality of “Hey, we are individuals. We take care of ourselves. That's none of your business”. We have seen, and our parents' generation has seen when you try to sit and have this conversation with your parents, it does not go well. Because “Who are you to tell me how I failed? Do you know who failed me? My dad, who left when I was five”.
And all that is fair, but I think it doesn't invite this communal learning. That is absolutely part of our faith. I mean, there's nothing to me that's as compelling about Christianity as the idea that we are a body. And that God is always pushing us toward each other. Always, always, always.
Without it, you have these conversations, again, like Jon said, where they come home at 30 and they go, “Dad, you get really, you get really mean when this happens”. And you want to go, “No, no”.
But if you've had someone sit with you 15 years before and go, “Hey bro, you get really mean with this” you're like, oh shoot. So it becomes a common vernacular and you know, and again, that's your work. That's the work.
You're sort of spelunking the end of yourself to it and hopefully in a healthy way to kind of go like, oh, I may have some blind spots after all.
ALISON: It's a muscle you have to exercise. And if you've never exercised that muscle to be able to see your own blind spots, to be able to see what's hard about yourself, shame hardens you. I have a friend who says “shame doesn't age well”.
And so because of all that shame. If you've never had a little bit of exposure to the little bit of, “oh, ouch, that hurts that you're seeing my family in this way”, or “you're seeing this side of me”, but “oh, I can survive it”.
And actually, it draws us closer. And actually, you still love me. If you haven't been working on that incrementally, it builds and builds and builds to the point where you become that older person that can't take any real feedback. That can't be seen.
Part of why I wanted to have you guys on is what you're doing on your podcast–creating a space for dads, for men, to have these conversations as only guys can, with a lot of humor. And it's fun, but there's a lot of depth in it–you bring so much of the depth and the fun to it.
I know a lot of my listeners are going, “I don't know how to get my husband to engage in community in the way you guys are talking about, where he's open to some of these hard conversations, where he's doing this work of seeing some of his own stuff”. And so talk to me a little bit about that.
How do we encourage men to do exactly what you're describing, which is be in community, be talking about what's hard, be talking about what's scary about being a dad. This is really vulnerable stuff. How do we encourage that?
DAVE: Well, I was looking at your questions, and I loved this one because I think it's a wonderful question, but I actually thought about this for a while and I think that the two things that I thought about and you're right, I don't know that there's a definitive answer, but the two things I found myself thinking about is one, I think there has to be an agreement that everyone is struggling with something. There's no such place where every man is good. Like, I'm good. I'm good. It's like that in the Christian space, especially.
That is antithetical. Like that's not a reality. Like God didn't create perfect guys who roam the earth for 80 years and then die. So it's some degree we, as men, are all struggling with really a myriad of things, but I would say especially a few things, whatever they are.
So I think there has to be an understanding, moms, if you're thinking about your husband, it's in there, it is in there. If we believe anything about humans, it's in there. And then it's about, my favorite quote, Jon has heard me say this quote many times, but I think it's especially potent in this conversation, which is, I heard someone say, “Anytime we come together sharing our strengths, it breeds competition. Anytime we come together sharing our weaknesses, it breeds community”.
And so the thing that I always encourage my friends who are struggling in this space is like, start being really honest. And that sounds crazy. Cause guys like, no, no, no. But I think two things, I think that, and this, I think Alison, you may have said this, but men do a better job looking in the same direction than they do at each other.
So that's a fishing trip, a drive, a trip together, watching sports. That usually helps a little bit cause it's not quite as intense as really seeing somebody and being like, I'm really struggling with lust. And they're like, do you mean with me or why are you staring at me like that?
So I think, one, try to think of ways that we can be together as men that don't maybe feel quite as imposing.
But two, I did this when I heard that quote. It changed my life because I realized that I had these friends who I had a really hard time connecting with. I love them dearly, but like we couldn't and so literally it became sort of like a joke like I would sit and be vulnerable and it would it nine times out of 10 elicit amazing conversations and relationships that were so helpful to me because I would go, “Hey, can I, can I just, I'm having a really hard time with this right now and I don't know what to do”.
And nine times out of 10, they go, “Dude, do you know how hard that is for me”? And all of a sudden you're like, here we go. We're in. Let's go. Yeah. Oh yeah. And it would take the bravery of going like, Hey, and it doesn't mean you have to be like, like the most bear you've ever been, but I think sometimes go like, “Hey, my kids…” And not like they're hard or I don't like, they're being punks, but say like, like let's use emotion words and say “they're, they really make me sad sometimes”. Like, or “I'm really struggling with feeling like I'm not being a good dad”. It is rare that I've ever had that conversation. So I'd be like, man, that sucks.
And you're like, okay, that was good. High five. And we're out of here. But you usually find somebody goes, “Dude, me too. Like last week”. And then you're off, you're off to the races. And so for me, it's become a test pattern that I love doing, which is like, in those moments of friendships where I'm like, why is this not working? It's probably because nobody's being vulnerable.
It's probably because we're not being honest because the minute we are, it creates this crazy bond, and it gets easier the more you do it. Because everybody is, again, it goes back to point one, like some everybody's struggling with something.
You're not gonna find somebody who's like, I don't have problems, and if you do then they're probably not gonna be a great friend anyway. I wouldn't advise hanging out with whoever that is. But I've found that for me that has been wildly helpful for me and my friendships.
JON: Yeah, I don't know that I have anything to add to that. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. I mean, it, it, it really is, I guess, about who's gonna take the first step. Who's gonna, in a group of guys, I mean, we always laugh about this, Amy and I, Dave and I, you can have a group of guys do a guy's night and the night after the girls do a girl's night and like I'll come home from a guy's night and Amy will be like, Oh, was Matt there? Yeah, he was there. Oh my gosh. How's his mom doing? She's in the hospital. I'm like, Oh, I actually didn't know that. You didn't talk about that? You hung out for four hours? What'd you guys talk about? We were joking the whole time, which is great, which is great.
But I do a thousand percent agree with Dave in that I've never been in a situation where or somebody in the room makes some one little baby step toward out of like jokey land toward vulnerability and is left hanging. It doesn't happen. And I think that like Dave said, the more you do it, the easier it is, and the longer it's been since you've done it, the bigger that lie of “you're the only one, they don't want to talk about how they yell at their kids because they don't yell at their kids. You yell at your kids, no one else does'' grow.
You said you're not sure if there's an answer to this question. I don't know that there's an easy answer to the question other than:
Somebody's got to take that little baby step toward vulnerability and believe that they're not going to be left hanging because like Dave said, everybody has something that they want to talk to somebody about and it's not as socially acceptable for a myriad of reasons in our society for men to do that. And I think the older you get, the harder it is.
ALISON: And how do your wives encourage you toward male friendships?
DAVE: I'm not saying that we do this well cause I think this takes a lot of time and wisdom, but the older I get, the more I realize there are times I look at it and you go, “I don't know that I can help you with this. I think this is better with your girlfriends”.
And I think the same for her to look at me and go like “This sounds like stuff I'm a little under qualified to answer” or “It's not appropriate for me to be a part of”. And I don't even mean lust, I mean because I can't relate to you. I'm not gonna be able to look at you and go like I know that life.
Or you can give terrible advice because you go “Well then stop doing it” because it's easy for you not to do it as a man, or a woman.
And so I think a lot of wisdom comes from knowing what are the things that are not for me to navigate with you. Because I can't relate to it, and there'll be a woman that, for my wife, that she could sit down, and that woman goes, I know exactly what you're saying, where I could be like, let me think about that.
I mean, I could get that. I don't really feel that way. So I think some of it is knowing hey, when is it not my turn to do that,
ALISON: It's, it's so interesting. The whole thread through all this, we talked about art, creativity, work. We talked about being a dad. We talked about friendship, this whole friendship thing. The whole theme is really about letting go of control. And I think of that metaphor where you were saying you push the boat out, you do your best and you push the boat out with your art.
But in a way, Jon, when you were talking about your little girl, being at school in a way, you did your best, you equipped her and then you had to kind of let her go that day and not micromanage, her, and obsess over is she making friends, you kind of let it go and trust her to God.
There's this constant kind of, it reminds me of these attachments that we talk about where. healthy attachment isn't grabbing on. It's this back and forth. It's this flow of pouring in and then letting go. And it's really the same with our spouses. If we see our husbands hurting, and I hear this a lot as a woman. We see them feeling lonely or we want to go get them their friends.
You might instead say, “I wonder if there's some guys that you might want to check in about that”, and then you gotta let it go. They might not. You can't orchestrate it. There's sort of this theme of you say what you can, you might name something even, even when you guys are talking about with a group of guys, you're like, well, I can try to be vulnerable here, and then I let it go. And typically guys take the bait. Sometimes they don't,
DAVE: Well, and you know what's hard? I think that you're saying too, and this is, I don't know that there's harder work, personally, maybe in life and relationships than marriages where you're trying to respect, where you're, one, trying not to be too codependent, because I think we are all that way, even in the sneakiest levels, because it feels great when your spouse comes to you and goes, hey, I need help, and you're like, “You've come to the right person”!
But to have enough wherewithal and wisdom and maturity to go, I want to answer this so badly because it would make me feel so good and it'd make me feel good with you looking at me that way. It's, “I don't know that I can help you here”.
The healthiest marriages I know have so much of that, that they really are two people that are married to each other. They're not one person. They are in some ways, but that is a hard discipline to have. But the thing that comes from it, and here's a full circle to your point. When I say, “I don't know if I can help you”, it actually pushes my spouse back into community. And I think there's nothing more dangerous to me than seeing older couples who are their best friends and they have drank the Kool Aid until they're both green.
And you're like, you guys have lost the plot because you're mirrors. You're echo chambers of each other, agreeing with each other into oblivion to where you're irrelevant as people anymore because you sort of agree with each other and live in your little mountain and you're not coming back down to earth with the rest of us.
And then the healthiest couples are the ones that are absolutely the opposite. They're in community. They're going, “Hey, my husband has these guys that he talks to that stuff about. And some of it I don't even know about. And some of it we talk about together. And then I have my women”, and I think that is really counterintuitive in some ways.
You think, well, we're married. We're the safe place for each other. And yes, you are. But again, this is a communal experience. Like this is meant to be shared. And some of the most dysfunction I've had to deal with in my marriage is believing that thing that I think the church really has to be careful with, that “you are one in front of the Lord”.
And so husbands, you stand before your wives and you answer for them. And some of that is true, some of it is true, but you have a relationship. Your husband has a relationship with God and with people. And I think we have to hold that space carefully because it can really compound that struggle already.
Because he doesn't need friends when he's got you. Like he's gonna tell you everything and then you listen and he's like I'm good. We're instead of having the discipline to be like, “It's gonna be hard, but I don't know honey, why don't you talk to Fred about that?”
“Oh, okay. Well, usually you want to talk about it.”
“Well, maybe I shouldn't do it anymore”.
It's hard to do. God bless Fred.
ALISON: Yeah. The image that I use is the overlapping circles of the Venn diagram. We don't become one as one unit. We have a steadfast overlapping portion of our two circles that is the bedrock, but we also each have circles off of that and some of them don't overlap, and so I really appreciate what you're saying there.
You know, marriage is... it's autonomy and connection. But that's this whole tension of holding things loosely where you can name some things and you know sometimes our partners don't do the things that we want them to do, but that doesn't mean we can't name a couple things and then be really healthy in our own circles.
It does take a community. Again, for our listeners. I would encourage you to check out the Dadville podcast and encourage your husbands and your significant others and the guys in your life as well.
I think a lot of folks would benefit from it, but especially the guys because you are having these kinds of conversations in a way that's so relatable as guys. And so I appreciate that you're doing that. And I hope you'll keep having these conversations as a place for men, for dads.
To hear guys talking about exactly what you guys were talking about. “Oh yeah, me too. Cause I'm hearing that on a podcast now. It's one level removed from vulnerability”. And I think it's. So great that you're doing that.
JON: We have a ton of fun on the podcast and thank you for bringing our credibility up by coming on the podcast. Hopefully there are guys all around hearing stuff that probably their wives have said 10 times. But they hear it someplace else and then they're like–
DAVE: They hear in a deeper octave. They're like, actually that resonates with me.
ALISON: So tell me a little bit about what went into, what was your decision to start it out of your friendship? I think it's really neat.
JON: Well, so, as I said before, Dave is my neighbor. Literally, we could share Wi-Fi. And sometimes we do. We've known each other for 20 plus years. And our kids play together all the time.
We're often sitting in our backyards on our porch, like talking about our kids and talking about our lives and our kids are our lives right now, to a great extent. And so one day Dave was like, “Hey, would you want to do a podcast called Dadville?” And I was like, “Yeah”. And that was it.
DAVE: Yeah. It's what you said, Alison. Ultimately some of the subterfuge afoot is that we're trying to create a venue for dads to talk about what they actually really love to talk about that they don't always get the venue to do. And that's their kids and their family.
I don't know many dads that if you really cue them up to talk about their kids they that they’re like “I'm good”. I think and I'm not gonna go on like a society bender about why the world doesn't do that, but it's not great at doing that.
There's not a lot of great venues. Guys at business meetings aren't going, “Can we pause? How's Carla doing”? That's not happening and so it's fun to kind of feel like hey, this is a place we can do that. Let's talk about that. What are you scared of? What are you excited about? What, what are you learning? What do you want to do better.
We've been so encouraged because people really enjoy it. And I think people enjoy hearing that because there is a communal sense to it.
ALISON: I love that you've created that space where it's normalizing guys talking about what matters. In closing, I want to ask you two questions. You guys asked the question of me.
JON: What do you want your kids to say at your funeral?
ALISON: I would like to hear your guys' answers to that.
JON: It's tough and at this moment I sympathize with all the guests.
DAVE: Yeah, all of a sudden I'm like, why do we make people do this?
JON: No, it's hard because obviously there's so much. It's overwhelming whenever you distill it all down to a moment like that. There's too much in there. How do I sum it up?
This gets to what we talked about a little bit before. If I heard them say, “We could tell him anything. He would always listen. And we knew that he loved us unconditionally”. That would be, I would be elated.
What more could you want if we had that relationship and they knew that they could always tell me anything, knowing that because part of the frustration of becoming a parent and one of the best parts about becoming a parent for me was this feeling and it has affected my faith.
It has affected my relationship with my parents. It's this feeling of like it's a different love than you've ever felt before. It is this Unconditional love that exists in no other relationship. It's in a different category, you know and part of the frustration day to day when I'm talking to my kids sometimes is I'm like, ah, there's no way I can really get across to you how much I love you.
You can't get it across. And hopefully one day if they have kids, then they'll, they'll feel it. And then it will inform their relationship with me and with God. This unconditional love. And so if at the end of my life they say in some sense, “We knew that and we knew that we could always go to him”, that would be amazing.
ALISON: That's beautiful.
DAVE: I think mine would be that they could always go to Jon. “Dad's gone, but gosh, we can still go to Jon.”
JON: Jon's still here
DAVE: kidding, no, I think two things. There's a million answers, but I think the main two that I think of right now, are one that “I will miss him”, because I think it'd be powerful to think that you ended well, that it wasn't sort of like we were kind of waiting for this a little bit. And “We love him, but like, boy, it got weird there at the end”.
But I feel like I see that a lot with parents where it's like, as they get older, it gets trickier. I pray that I can end that well, that they still feel that they do miss me.
And then I think exactly what Jon said–I think some version of them knew that I loved them, which is really simple. But it's true, that they'd say we never doubted that.
ALISON: what would you want that younger you to know about being a dad that you know now?
JON: I think whenever we have guests on Dadville who are further down the road, if their kids are older or they're out of the house or whatever, I do feel like Dave and I we laugh about this, but we always have a string of questions that have the theme us asking them to tell us everything's gonna be okay. Please tell us it's all gonna be okay. And I feel like that would be what I would want to say, because that's what I wanted to hear.
And that's what I still want to hear. But I would want to say to my younger self, “I know it's hard. relax and enjoy it. And because it's all going to be okay”.
ALISON: I love that. That's great.
JON: And also Dave's going to want you to do a podcast in a couple years. And try to get 75 25 if you can
DAVE: Also, bet on the Patriots. Every Super Bowl they're in, bet on them.
JON: And then, “Go Buccaneers”!
DAVE: I agree, except for that one. My biggest struggle, and I actually feel like I've done this pretty well, but I can't say it enough to myself, it's to be present.
I have this app called Time Hop and it's my favorite app. Every morning it is one of the first things I look at and it takes pictures from whatever day for every year and you've got pictures on that day and it's such a sobering reminder of the speed of time.
You know here's what you're doing a year ago today, two years ago today, three years ago. And there's so many times I see my kids and they're tiny, and I'm like, I would give a million dollars to have an hour with three year old Ben, or two year old Zanna. But at the same time, I'm like, I feel like I did a pretty good job of being still, but I think that's something I would really double down on. It's like, as much as you can think to be present, be present.
JON: I do love that app because Dave will send us + our wives, we have a text thread, and Dave will often send us that day's picture because oftentimes it's like our kids together. And so I do feel like that is a sort of a hack that we have that our parents didn't have that helps us stay in that mindset.
Be present and also know it's never going to be enough. It's always going to go by too fast.
DAVE: I remember with Ben vividly putting him down to naps and taking my hand and feeling his legs and his arms and his little head and thinking, remember the weight of him, how he feels on your neck. It's going to go away. And I couldn't be more present.
I was like Neo in the matrix and I was like, Oh, that's the way it was. Look at his little folds
JON: I love how you do that with all of our guests, too, that we interview.
DAVE: Yeah, yeah, I do. And I hold them tightly. And I feel they're their shaved faces
JON: Their stubble.
ALISON: You guys are great. So, to close out, what is bringing out the best in you right now?
JON: I mean, to answer on a lighter side, I feel like this summer has been great. The summer has always been, for me, it's always tricky because it's like the kids get out of school, and I am guilty of always having like, rosy colored glasses for the future. Like, this summer is going to be the best! The girls are never going to fight! We're going to eat healthy all the time!
And then it's too busy. It's too busy. We have too many trips and the next thing it's like what? We're buying backpacks already?
This summer has been really great. I feel like this summer taking my girls to the pool, I'm kind of doing some of the things that selfishly I did as a kid and liked. And I want to do those things with my girls and I feel like the summer has so far been really great. We've had our tough times because we have kids and we're humans, but it's been great.
ALISON: That's cool.
DAVE: You know what I love during the summer is dusk. Right as the sun is setting, we were playing baseball in the backyard last night at like, whatever that is, 7:30. And that little time of the day, it's so sweet. It's like right before everybody's going to bed, but I was running around the backyard and I was like, man, this is wonderful. That little magic hour in the summer to me, it's so great. So I think that's been really fun.
JON: I love those moments where you can appreciate quietly with yourself. It can be random moments. This is one of those moments.This would make the montage of my life. This little innocuous moment right here.
ALISON: That's beautiful. I love that. Well, thank you guys for coming on and sharing with us a little glimpse into your world and a little glimpse into the Dadville podcast. Tell everybody how they can find you and connect with your work.
DAVE: It's www.dadvillemindspring.net17227. Look at Alison's face, haha
JON: This is where Dave and I are terrible. We are comical. We're always like, do we have a website? Where do people get Dadville? (Here’s their podcast link: https://pod.link/1517698133)
ALISON: It's great. You have great conversations. I think if you're listening and you're like, “Oh, I'm worried about my husband” or “I'm worried about my boyfriend. I'm worried about my son”, it's a great place to start—to listen to some guys who have got a lot of depth and are super relatable talking about real things. Really appreciate you both.
JON: You have been very kind. Thank you for having us on.