This post has been submitted by guest blogger, Randy Haaland, a rockstar foster and adoptive dad in North Dakota.
We learned about Road Trip for Dad’s at Camp Connect 2017, which was a summer camp for adoptive parents that was put on by the ND Post Adopt Network. Mike Berry was the speaker at the camp and he mentioned it during one of his sessions. When he described it, a few dad’s seemed interested in making the trip, but after the camp was over everyone parted ways. A month before road trip was to start I was contacted by one of the other dad’s that attended the summer camp to see if I would be interested in road tripping to Colorado to attend Road Trip for Dad’s. I was a bit hesitant, but was encouraged to go by my wife, which we later found out was a very common occurrence. After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to go along and give it a try.
We met in Casselton on a Saturday morning and then headed to Bismarck to pick up another dad after that we were on our way to Bear Trap Ranch by Colorado Springs. One of the dads had planned out our trip because he had experience traveling the route that we were taking. We shared a lot of experiences on our drive. We also made some pit stops to sightsee and hit up a couple microbreweries in Deadwood, SD. He had made reservations at a neat little cook shack called High Plains Homestead in Nebraska. We ended up spending the night at a small bed and breakfast just down the road. A couple of the rooms were in a barn, which was comical when we told our wives and kids, but they were actually really nice rooms. After a good night’s rest, we woke up to a great homemade breakfast from the very interesting and down to earth owner of the bed and breakfast and then we were on our way. The conversations we had on our road trip were well worth the 14 hour car ride. I would highly recommend taking the time to actually road trip to Road Trip for Dad’s for anyone looking to attend it.
Arriving at Bear Trap Ranch on Sunday, no one really knew what to expect. We checked in and claimed our beds in rooms that had two to three bunk beds each. That night at supper there was a speaker that talked about his experience with adoption, which was really eye-opening to the amount of trauma our kids can come from. It definitely helped me realize that instead of trying to fix our kid’s problems, sometimes we have to change ourselves and the way we discipline and teach our kids. That night there was a campfire where we all got to introduce ourselves and learn about each other’s stories. That night by the campfire really opened my eyes to realize that we are not alone in the parenting of our kids.
The next two days we really had to ourselves to do whatever we wanted. We did some hiking around the area. A few dads did some fly fishing one day, another group went up to Pike’s Peak, and of course we went down the mountain to a couple microbreweries. I would say the most rewarding experience was going on a hike with a large group of dads through a couple old train tunnels. Just walking through the mountains and seeing all the beauty in the mountains was breathtaking. It really allowed me to reflect on my past with the kids we have had as foster kids and our kids that we have adopted. I was able to just sit and think of things I could do differently from the conversations I had with other dads. I was also able to think about all the ways I could improve on my relationship with my kids and wife. Over those two days, it really helped me realize that we are not alone in our fight for our kids to be able to have as normal of a life as we can provide them.
The last morning we walked up the mountain to have a cowboy wrangler’s breakfast. It was an amazing breakfast and it was great to be able to reflect on the past couple days with everyone one last time. After breakfast we packed up and left. Leaving was one of the hardest things to do, because it was such an amazing experience, but I was definitely ready to get home and share my experience with the wife and kids. It is hard to put into words how the trip changed me, but I feel like attending Road Trip for Dads helped me become a better dad. I have realized over the years of doing foster care that no amount of classes and training can help you deal with some of the issues that our kids come from. The best training is learning from other families and hearing their stories. When you listen to someone tell their story and everything starts clicking and you realize that they are talking about exactly what you are going through, it really helps knowing that you are not alone in the battle of raising our kids who came from trauma.
Click here for more information on Road Trip for Dads!