Writers on Writing

Documenting Fatherhood: A Connection Worth Writing

 by Scott Hanley

I didn’t start out with the intent to write a book. My original idea was to create a simple chronicle of my experiences as a single dad; a collection of reflections on my challenges, understandings and feelings. I thought it would be something perhaps my boys might find amusing, or at best something they could find of value when they embarked on their own journeys of raising their children.

The material for this book developed from dozens of traffic-congested trips in my truck while I was on my way to various work sites. I was able to describe my process in real time by talking into a tape recorder that I screwed to the floor of my truck as I weaved, started, and stopped my way through the infamous Boston streets and highway interchanges.

Three years later I had thirteen 90-minute audio cassette tapes filled on both sides. I tossed them into and old Nike shoebox and put them in the closet. After moving to Portland, Oregon a few years later, I stumbled upon the box of tapes while digging out from the move. As a birthday gift a close friend offered to transcribe them (I don’t think she knew what she was getting into). When I first began to read them they were quite a mess- Even I couldn’t understand them! Some ten years later, with the help of a few writing classes, and dozens of rewrites, my journey through fatherhood became this book.

The Dad Connection is a personal reflection of the learning-as-I-went process of raising two strong-willed, bright, and independent boys. Although it was an extraordinary experience in every way, the journey had a myriad of challenges – from the typical supermarket meltdowns to broken arms, teacher conflicts, and emotional traumas. Each of these individual and cumulative experiences served to create a lifelong bridge of bonding between the three of us.

I learned what it is to be a Dad and even more I learned what it is to be a very young person in an adult’s world. This was as enlightening as it was uncertain. I spent considerable time focusing on how to do it better and build a stronger connection to each of my boys all the while trying to keep in mind that I still had to do my primary job of keeping them safe and sound. It was not work. Instead it was fulfilling and exciting. This book simply captures some of my feelings and thoughts as I was traveling along this journey.

As I edited and rewrote (seemingly endlessly) I continued to change words and sentences while struggling not to lose my voice. This was a considerable challenge for me as I am not a natural writer. I had to dig down into the feelings at my core to re-connect with some of the initial emotions that I had I felt when the experience was occurring several years before, considering that my boys are now in their late 20s. This was a lot more challenging than I had expected. However, I felt this was the only way I could retain my original voice and still be able to tie it into my present-day understandings, which had the advantage of several years’ perspective. Once I felt I was able to achieve this I believed it could become the book I wanted it to be. Once I had the meat of the book in words, I shifted my focus to organizing the writing so it would be relatively simple to read that the audience could understand in a relatable frame of reference.

Presenting the final draft for review and feedback was scary because since this is a non-fiction, memoir style of work, I was left feeling completely exposed. It is not that I needed to be validated or regarded for my ideas (although that would be great)… I just wanted this writing to be understood and experienced by the reader as a positive contribution to their life as a parent. Perhaps that is slightly dramatized, but it is absolutely real for me.

What began as more than 450 single-spaced, double-sided pages of mostly gibberish is now a more succinct 150 pages of material attempting to reflect both my experiences and understandings as I grew from a young, single guy to an older and experienced dad. It is my hope that the reading will be easy and maybe even a little fun; combined with some relatable understanding that all parents can have an unbelievable and extraordinary journey raising their kids.

Scott Hanley was born and raised in Indiana. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in zoology while captaining the Hoosiers nationally ranked rugby team and earning National All-Star honors his senior year. He has managed his own successful four-star restaurant in Cincinnati, a construction company in Boston specializing in urban remodeling, and a construction business in Portland, OR specializing in ultra high-end remodeling – all while raising his two sons as a single father. He was named the Northwest Regional Contractor of the Year in 1999. His expertise and personality earned him guest appearances on the local ABC affiliate morning talk show “AM Northwest,” which eventually grew into a permanent role as one of the show’s weekly celebrities. From 2000 to 2003 he was co-host of Fox 12’s Saturday morning talk show. He currently lives with his family in Portland, OR.