With life getting busier seemingly with every passing day, many parents are spending less time with their families, and more time in their own careers and hobbies.
But through life’s frenzy, one Gun Barrel City father has found a unique way to spend time with his son, and is now advocating for other parent figures to take similar steps.
“It all started because I missed my kid,” Tim Dugan said. “I missed so much of him growing up because I was in Army training. His first three birthdays I was gone for Army training.”
Dugan says he now is in the Army Reserve, and works a full-time job in Dallas. By the time he got home from work, Dugan said he just wanted to rest, and didn’t have time to interact with his 8-year-old son, who goes by NJ.
“He was gone for like a year; and for that time I just felt, like, sad,” NJ said.
But enough was enough for Dugan. He knew he had to get more involved in his child’s life.
“At some point I decided, ‘OK, I’ve got to figure out what he’s interested in’ because I didn’t know him that well,” Dugan said. “He’s 8 years old and I barely knew him.”
Like many other boys his age, NJ spent a lot of time with YouTube and Minecraft. Dugan realized that this was the best chance he had at connecting with his son.
“So I said, ‘OK, I’ll learn all about Minecraft.'”
On his limited time off, Dugan began asking his son to teach him how to play Minecraft. Using a screen-recording feature, Dugan and NJ began documenting their sessions. Dugan doesn’t remember whose idea it was, but the duo made the joint decision to upload their Minecraft sessions to YouTube.
“And that turned into a YouTube channel,” says Dugan.
The duo’s YouTube channel, called “Dad Can Learn,” has evolved so it documents not only their Minecraft adventures, but also other NJ-approved ideas.
“Since we’ve started a YouTube channel it’s making me feel better about not being as alone,” NJ said.
At its core, the YouTube channel is a father and son just spending time with each other. However, the vision for the channel is expanding.
“As that’s grown, we’ve turned it into more than just the two of us learning Minecraft,” Dugan said. “We’re hoping to turn it into a community of parents getting involved with their kids, on their kids' level; instead of forcing them to go out and play soccer, or baseball, or whatever the kid doesn’t want to do.
"Let’s find out what the kid does want to do and find a way to make that the catalyst for the relationship.”
Dugan also stresses that the push to be involved doesn’t just have to be from fathers. The need for engagement with their children should be a focus for all parental figures, he said.
“The tagline that we’ve come to use is: ‘reclaiming the relationship that the world is trying to steal,’” Dugan said. “That’s the focus of what we’re doing, whether it’s through the YouTube videos; hopefully, prayerfully, through growth we can have workshops and meet-ups that get people involved actively involved in their kid’s lives.”
Dugan points out that an absent parent affects both lives.
“I didn’t just miss out on his growing up, he missed out on me being there,” Dugan said. He continued, adding that by neglecting his son he was neglecting responsibility.
“That’s the task that we’re charged with by God — to bring our children up in a way that pleases him,” Dugan said. “That’s my job, and I was failing on my job. And a lot of parents are out there that do it.”
Now, NJ is getting the quality time with his father in a way that he loves.
“It’s just me having fun with my dad and playing Minecraft,” says NJ. “But on his side, I’m pretty sure it’s him helping and reaching out to other people and helping them start hanging out more with their childs, or childs hanging out with their parents more.”
At the end of the day, Dugan just wants to spend time with his kid, and wants to teach others how to do the same thing.
“That’s what we hope it is — a community,” says Dugan. “We want it to be a community of parents trying to reclaim the relationship that the world is trying to steal.”
For more info, search for “Dad Can Learn” on YouTube, or @dadcanlearn on Twitter and Facebook.