Today we have a special treat, a conversation with our founder Michael Daniels on his favorite topic in the world: fatherhood.
Michael founded Fayr in 2016 with two very personal goals in mind: to help separated parents be the best people they can be for their kids and to make the process of co-parenting easier and more enjoyable for the whole family.
Below Michael shares the advice he wished someone had given him when he first separated, the most challenging time in his co-parenting journey, and how Father's Day has evolved over his 7 years as a co-parent. Interspersed are a couple sweet, wise, and humorous anecdotes from his daughter Vincenza (10) and his son Vance (9).
Happy Father's Day to Michael and all of the dedicated co-parenting dads out there!
Have you always known you wanted to be a Father?
MICHAEL: I always knew that one day it was something I would do. I don't think I had a clear picture of when it would happen or what exactly it would look like, I just always knew that having kids and being a dad was important to me.
How is being a dad different or similar to what you imagined?
In all honesty, I was worried that I might not be totally prepared to be a dad. I had an atypical and challenging upbringing. My own father was a really brave, noble guy who did the best he could to raise me, but there wasn't a lot of emotional warmth. My goal, even though it was never modeled for me, is to be really affectionate with my kids. I tell them I love them multiple times a day.
The greatest surprise for me was that being a parent is really fun. It’s hard work, but it’s also so great telling bedtime stories, playing with my kids, watching them grow and mature. I don't think I had any idea how enjoyable and fulfilling fatherhood would be.
"My dad is a giving person. He’s a really funny person. And he’s the type of person that you like to be around. My very favorite thing is that he always makes time to be with us, not like most other dads." - Vicenza
What does Father's Day mean to you?
For me, it’s about two different things: my own father and my kids. My dad passed away in 2010, right in the middle of my own separation. He was a decorated Army Ranger. I've always admired his courage and raw toughness. The lessons he taught me inspire me to be brave and strong, to know that even when things are tough, I live a wonderful life. As a father myself, I think how I want my own kids to never doubt that they are my top priority. I strive everyday to be a real presence in their lives, to be both emotionally connected and physically present for my kids. We also try to make meaningful memories together whether that be going camping, as my son's boy scout master, or teaching my daughter to ride a bike.
How is Father's Day different since your separation?
I separated when my kids were 2 and 3, so there aren’t other Father’s Days to really compare it to. In a nice way, we’ve been able to start from scratch and make this day ours. And it’s so rewarding to see them take initiative each year.
What are your favorite Father's Day traditions?
I love how my kids go out of their way to think of me. They’ll always get me a card on their own and then plan a creative, family event. Last year we did Color Me Mine together. I didn’t have any Father's Day traditions growing up, so it’s sweet to see my kids honor this day.
"My favorite thing about Father’s Day is that I have a tradition with my dad. I always get him something that stands for how great he is. And I write on his cards about how much I love him and how much he means to me. I love watching him read my cards." - Vicenza
How has your time with your children changed as they've gotten older?
We still have a 50/50 custody share, so we spend the same amount of time together but the activities have changed a lot. When the kids were toddlers we spent a lot of time down on the ground playing. As they get older we continue to play but now we go swimming or ride bikes. I try to make certain they don’t grow up too fast, so we do still play goofy games and rough house—I think the kids don't want to give up that kind of play yet either. I know a time is coming when my kids will be more independent and will want spend more time with their friends. In the meantime, I just want to keep making the most of this period when the three of us really enjoy being together.
What do you worry about most for your children as a separated father?
When I was separating I didn’t know what the future held—there were so many unknowns. All at once my dad got cancer and passed away, the recession hit, and my home life was changing dramatically. I worried about two things mainly. First, I worried about the kids with all the transition they were going through. There was so much in the air, so much constant navigating for all of us between our initial separation and working out the optimal custody arrangement. I also just missed them so much as we first started spending time apart. Second, I was really worried that with all that stress that I wasn't being the best version of myself for my kids.
What are routines, sayings, or expressions that you always share with you children?
I say I love you multiple times a day, everyday. I never want them to doubt that.
We also have a fun and kind of quirky morning routine. A few years ago I was given a really beautiful poker set as a gift from a former mentor. The kids were infatuated and insisted that I teach them how to play. So if we're having a good morning (where everyone has eaten, brushed their teeth, gotten ready for school and we still have some spare time) we will sit down and play Texas Hold 'Em together. It's not what I thought we'd do, but the kids love it and it's such a fun and relaxing start to the day. Plus, it's our own unique thing and that's really special.
"My favorite thing about my dad? I like how my he's always nice to me. I like how he always looks out for me and how he understand my feelings." - Vance
What is your top priority for the days you have your children?
My goals are for them to have experiences, to be active, to get outside a lot, and to enjoy time together.
What advice do you wish someone had given you right when you separated?
In hindsight, it would actually have been some version of the advice that Dr. Sadeghi gives: don’t spend time being angry, don’t waste energy feeling sorry for yourself. You’ve gone through something really tough, but you cannot let it destroy you. Focus instead on healing, on self-reflection, on the people you love and people who love you. Make a conscious effort to not dwell in the anger and sadness of the loss but to say "This is completed, this is done. So what now am I going to focus on in this next phase in my life?" What ultimately healed me was refocusing my attention is what matters most: my kids, my personal growth, and our shared well-being.
What is the best thing your kids have said to you since your separation?
The sweetest thing actually just happened the other day. My daughter said sort of out of the blue, "No matter what, you are the best daddy I could ever want." It doesn't get better than that.