Written By: Emily Dale
This first episode of the new interview podcast series, Learning to Dad with Tyler Ross, starts off with Tyler’s first guest, Matt Carson, talking about a camping trip he took recently with his wife and two kids. During this three week road trip, Matt had only two rules for his seven year old son and eleven year old daughter. “One is no whining. Two is, if you tell me you’re bored, I’m gonna say, ‘good.’” Matt goes on to explain his thinking behind this second rule. “Being bored is good for your brain. It forces you to let your mind wonder.”
Matt went on to speak of the importance in making sure you don’t keep your children from experiencing things you may have already experienced. He explained his outlook to Tyler saying that when you experience something again, with a child, you tend to see it and experience it differently, becoming a whole new experience. A while later in the episode, the interview ends up circling back to this idea of “re-experiencing” things with your child(ren). Matt opened up even further by saying that it’s almost like you get to “resee the world through their eyes.”
I found this to be an especially raw and honest segment of the interview, as I could hear the passion behind this dad’s voice as he spoke about the value and love he has through shared experiences with his kids.
They continue, discussing briefly about children and technology, with Matt giving some more details about the no screen-time trip, and bringing up an inspiring and creative “dad-move:”
At the start of the trip, he gave both of his young kids blank journals and pens and made it very clear that there would be no iPads being used at all for those three weeks. There were no guidelines that accompanied these journals, it seemed that Matt just wanted to encourage them to be creative, use their imagination, and really try to take in as much of the world around them as they could.
The episode then dives into the “hot topic” of kids and technology usage, in which they merely scratched the surface of this heavily debated topic. Both dads agreed that they have noticed that this generation of children tend to seek and favor playing on such devices over doing other things, that maybe they grew up doing. Matt was proud to add, though, that his kids stopped asking about their iPads two days into the trip. This seemed to be a very pleasant surprise to Matt and his wife because they thought it would have been a way bigger ordeal.
This all made me wonder…If parents had structured rules regarding their child’s technology usage, AND enforced these rules consistently, would “screen-time” be as big of an issue? Is it merely a parenting issue that can be solved by being more strict about what kids are doing on the device and for how long? If parents created more opportunities for their children to be engaged in different experiences, would the kids crave technology as much?
As the interview continues, Matt’s parenting style begins to unfold even more: “I’m in favor of stitches and bruises and cuts...and the occasional broken bone.” Tyler and Matt shared a laugh as he explained what he meant by that, “It teaches that pain isn’t the end of the world. Pain’s supposed to hurt, but it eventually goes away.” The Virginia native’s approach to parenting begins to resonate with me. It becomes more and more evident that Matt believes, and lives out, his role of a father as one who creates opportunities for his kids so that they can experience as much as possible, all the while learning and growing from all of these experiences, as they come and go. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Sure seems like an effective, love-filled parenting approach to me.
This segways into Tyler asking what his parenting looks like at home. Unsurprisingly, Matt has created nature trails in their backyard and even built the kids a tree-house. He added that he has provided them with “every nature book imaginable”... and then brought up the newest and not-so-typical “toy” he had given his young son and daughter. “I got the kids a hatchet,” Matt states, rather nonchalantly. Of course, this new toy came with one big rule, “Just don’t use it on other people.” Matt’s simple and logical rule had the two of them laughing again. He continues by saying that his kids know not use it on live trees, as well as not to use it on other people. “Use it on dead trees...go nuts!” which they apparently have done, cutting down any dead tree or branch that either of them could possibly reach, creating a nice clearing in the Carson’s backyard.
Later on, Tyler brings up the fact that a father’s effectiveness is almost impossible to measure, making it hard sometimes, to know if you’re doing it well, or right. Matt somehow is able to reference a comedian, and it turn into an oddly profound segment of the interview. “Like Chris Rock said, ‘If you keep your daughter off the pole, you’re a good dad” in which Tyler, without missing a beat, responded, “But you don’t know until the pole’s been put there and they say, ‘No thanks, I don’t wanna be on the pole.’” It’s true, you can’t ever really measure your effectiveness as a parent, but stepping back and watching how your child responds to certain situations is a damn good way to evaluate the effect you have had on your child.
Tyler then smoothly shifted the topic of conversation by asking Matt to talk about how he maintains a healthy “Work-Life Balance,” which led directly into a great discussion about how his work-life changed when he had kids. Matt shared about the abrupt change in his work habits. “We used to do impromptu, late night, whiteboard collaboration...a little tipsy...free-flowing. But that ended.” He said that he still works until 2:00am, “I still get up late, stay up late,” only now he is doing the brainstorming at home, by himself. He laughs and adds, “But I wouldn’t exactly call that a storm.”
Although this first episode of Learning to Dad with Tyler Ross lasted a little over an hour, which, to me, is a relatively long time to listen to someone else’s conversation, there was not a dull moment as these two dads’ words flowed effortlessly from one topic to the next, chock full of laughter, great questions, poignant one-liners, and unashamed honesty. As a listener, their words evoked various emotions and reactions throughout the course of the interview. It almost forced me to reflect on my own life and the relationships that mean the most to me, especially the one I have with my dad.
It was truly impossible not to be drawn in by their conversations, as it feels like the episode is a combination of two college friends catching up, paired with an incredibly effective and fun guide to parenting, all rolled into one. The result is... an entertaining, helpful, and wonderfully relatable interview.
I am not a dad, nor do I need to learn how to be one, but not once did I feel like I was listening to something that I could not connect with.
Learning to Dad with Tyler Ross definitely has a target audience: anyone who has a father figure, had one, wants one, or is one.