A Tale of Unexpected Outcomes

Last year when I published my first book, “Dad from a Distance”, I did so with a very targeted and specific goal in mind – I wanted to provide a tool or road map for non-custodial fathers to help them stay connected and engaged in a meaningful way with their children.

It was important to me because, in fact, I was/am that guy. I am a non-custodial father and I know how much it would have meant for me to have such a tool especially early on.

The response was tremendous. I received an outpouring of support for the work and lots of “attaboys” from friends and colleagues near and far.

There were, however, a few unintended and unexpected outcomes that I found equally interesting and rewarding.

First, it turns out that 9 out of 10 of the people who purchased the book were women. Now on the surface I suppose that that shouldn’t have surprised me that much given that women probably tend more likely to be be readers and buyers of books. I also found it interesting is that not only were they were purchasing it for their fathers, brothers, sons, nephews (and yes, their exes), they often also purchased a copy for themselves.

Second, I found that many of the women who purchased the book saw it as a great read and tool for all fathers, including those who were in the home in the “nuclear” family setting because, as was often communicated to me, many fathers struggle not because they are at a “physical” distance from their children, but because they are at an “emotional” distance from them. I received lots of feedback that the ideas and strategies in the book are perfect for those Dads, too.

Third, most readers saw “Dad from a Distance” through a much broader lens than did I One of the most common bits of feedback from those who read the book was that they really saw it more as a book on parenting in general, and encouraged me not to pigeon hole the book as being only for non-custodial fathers.
They said that the strategies and suggestions in the book were appropriate and important for all parents; Moms and Dads alike.

Their point being that none of us as parents, especially first time parents, find that children come with an instruction manual and that any and every parent can benefit from the suggestions and strategies outlined in the book.

Fourth, a considerable number of the folks who purchased “Dad from a Distance” were actually step-moms whose goal was to help their husbands stay connected with their children but, interestingly, found that when they read the book themselves, discovered how they could help with (and in some cases had been unintentionally hindering) that connection/reconnection process.

Fifth, I discovered that parents in the military were drawn to the book especially those who were on deployment.
It never occurred to me that those parents might also find the tips and strategies in the book helpful for those families that are separated as one or both parents are serving our country.

Finally, one of the most interesting and unexpected responses came from the men who actually made up what was initially my intended target audience – non-custodial Fathers. And this response almost always came in a face to face setting at a book signing or other on location book selling venue.

Every single time I was in an on-site book selling venue this scenario played itself out:

I would be approached by a man, who passed by the table a couple of times, glancing over at the book and at me.

He usually waited to approach the table when there was no one else at the table or within range to hear us talk, and then he always leaned in, and looking at me directly, eye to eye, with not just a little intensity and in a low voice asked something like “What do you know about this?”

The message from these men was always totally clear, and I totally got it.

They wanted to know if I was speaking/writing from personal experience or was I just peddling my thoughts on something I didn’t really know about first hand.

For the men, it was all about legitimacy. They would not even touch the book until they had confirmed that I had been and/or was going through the same thing.

Once they realized that I had walked in their shoes, their shields dropped and we had some of the most heartfelt and revealing conversations you could ever imagine. And the depth of the anguish and frustration they felt was always palpable. They wanted me to know, or maybe just anyone to know, that they cared.

So what do I take from all of this, and why am I bothering you with it?

It reminds me that we – all of us – are constantly touching the lives of others in ways that we are not aware of and could never even imagine.

It also lets me know that a relaunch of “Dad from a Distance” should be and will be in the cards, thanks to the many people who cared enough to share their impressions, feedback, and opinions with me.