Behind the Braids: Q&A with Real Men Who Braid
One of our favorite recent endeavors at SoCozy has been meeting, teaching, and supporting dads across the globe who are setting aside stereotypes, spending quality time with their daughters and creating some beautiful braids! In honor of Father’s Day, we sat down with some of our favorite real men who braid — Shawn Watson, Greg Wickherst, Patrick Van Hoof, and Joe Cafeo – to find out more about the dads behind the ‘dos!
SOCOZY: What inspired you to start teaching your braiding class?
SHAWN WATSON: I see the joy in my daughter’s eyes when she tells people that her Daddy did her hair, and I want to be able to share that feeling with other dads and daughters.
GREG WICKHERST: I made a decision at the beginning of the year to be more active in my community. Since I know a few things about doing hair, I figured this would be a great way for me to give something to the community. I have also been a delegate this year, and I have been a part of a community organization to make our city a better city. I definitely get the most satisfaction from helping other parents bond and connect with their kids.
JOE CAFEO: I was inspired to do my own class, just by wanting to make a difference in my community. No one offers any kind of public service to help others grow as parents here. I’ve also had help from the other dads. We have been in constant contact for awhile now, and we sort of work together to encourage each other.
PATRICK VAN HOOF: I started teaching braiding classes out of personal frustration and need to learn. My daughters Nine and Julie are demanding as it comes to doing their hair, so I approached a hairdresser with my idea. I launched the first braiding workshop for dads and daughters in the Netherlands – I even made national news!
SOCOZY: What are your favorite things to do with your daughter?
SHAWN WATSON: Play in the rain and read together.
GREG WICKHERST: My favorite times with my daughter are exploring. I will take her out for a drive in the mountains, or we will go for a hike and look for animals in the woods. It’s a perfect time to teach her things about nature, and it’s also a great way to bond with her.
JOE CAFEO: It all depends, but now that summer is coming up we will spend a lot of time at the pool. She also likes to do things to make me “pretty” like paint my finger nails.
PATRICK VAN HOOF: We love exploring – especially swimming and going to the playground. We also like coloring together and doing make-up and manicures!
SOCOZY: What has been your most defining dad moment so far?
GREG WICKHERST: I didn’t know how to do a ponytail, let alone braids or buns. I spent an hour with a Cosmetology student at my work learning the basics. When I went home and tried my first style, my daughter Izzy looked up at the mirror and said “You did a good job, Daddy!” I was so happy that I made her proud of me. As parents, we can second guess ourselves. When our children tell us we are doing good, that means a lot!!!
JOE CAFEO: Each day is something new. As she grows new challenges come up, and we also find new things to do together. So I’d really have to say everyday is a defining Dad moment, since each day is something new. Other than that, maybe getting her off the binky long ago…that was rough.
PATRICK VAN HOOF: After I got divorced, I realized more than ever that I needed to be there for my girls. It’s important to me that I raise them right and give them all the love i got to give. I even took a permanent day off work every week to be there for them when they come out of school. Bonding with them is my most important task in life, and I want to make sure they will grow up to be strong, individual women who know how the world works, with loads of love to give.
SOCOZY: How does your daughter challenge you?
SHAWN WATSON: She always encourages me to keep trying. She drives me to set a good example for not only her, but for other dads as well.
GREG WICKHERST: I am a single dad. I don’t pretend to know the first thing about being a girl. Saying that, I don’t want my daughter to grow up to be a tomboy just because I don’t know how to raise a girl. So I have had to do a lot of research and develop new skills to try and raise her the best I can. I have had to be a lot more empathetic than I ever have been in my life.
JOE CAFEO: My daughter challenges me to be the best person I possibly can be. She will learn how a man is supposed to be through me, so I feel it’s my duty to show the very best.
PATRICK VAN HOOF: My daughters challenge me to think about myself as the good dad I want to be. As they grow older, they challenge me with more and more questions about life. Also I want them to be the girls they want, and give them as much space to grow as possible.
SOCOZY: You teach other dads how to do their daughters hair – but what has your daughter taught you?
SHAWN WATSON: Lilly has taught me not to sweat the small stuff, and to always be kind to others, to help people when you can. She has also taught me to be patient, and to listen. We were out on the pond in a paddle boat once, and she told me, “Dad, you know you don’t have to pedal all the time, right? It’s okay to stop, relax, and enjoy the view sometimes.”
GREG WICKHERST: I have definitely had to learn patience. I’m not sure if it’s a mom vs. dad type thing, but I really have had to be patient and understanding towards my daughter.
JOE CAFEO: I’d have to say my daughter has taught me how to be patient. To slow down and appreciate the important things in life. She’s also taught me that, I can get through basically any problem life throws at me. When I became a single dad nearly 3 years ago, I had no clue how I would manage, but she always gave me the uplift I needed to figure out a solution to what ever problem we were facing.
PATRICK VAN HOOF: My daughters teach me that having children is the most wonderful and important task in life. No one can prepare you for fatherhood, but as soon as they were born, I instantly felt that is was my most important task in life to give them all my love and raise them as best I can.
SOCOZY: What are you most proud of about your daughter?
SHAWN WATSON: Lilly isn’t usually around for the times I’m most proud of her. It’s when I talk to her teachers at school or other parents she’s been around, and they tell me how polite, well-behaved, considerate, and thoughtful she is. It brings a tear to my eye and I beam with pride.
GREG WICKHERST: I am proud of her for her having such a big personality! She is a natural born leader. Her teachers have told me she rules the classroom. And she is always trying to make people laugh and smile. She loves telling jokes!
JOE CAFEO: This girl never ceases to amaze me. She always wants to help people. I’ve had 2 surgeries this past year, one just 6 days ago. It’s amazing to watch her put the normal behaviors and activities of a 4-year-old aside, and step up to help me out when she needs to. A few weeks ago during an interview, the reporter brought his daughter and we showed him how to do a braid for the camera. When his daughter started to cry when he was brushing her hair. Gigi reached over and said here hold my hand, and calmed the little girl down.
PATRICK VAN HOOF: My two girls have really different Characters. Nine is really wise for her age and loves to read – she is curious about almost everything in life. She is really social, and makes sure no-one is left behind which is why she has such a large circle of friends.
Julie is a little rascal and seeking boundaries in life – which is exciting. She always makes me laugh out loud with her actions and she’s a huge cuddler! She also can be really silly and like to make people laugh a lot. She definitely isn’t shy!
SOCOZY: If you could share one piece of advice with your fellow dads and parents, what would it be?
SHAWN WATSON: The biggest piece of advice I have for any parent is to just spend time with your kids. No phones, no email, no Facebook. Just hang out and be engaged in the moment. Talk, go for a walk, play catch, cook a meal together. Anything. You’ll be amazed at how much those little things will improve the bond you have with your child.
GREG WICKHERST: Take it all in! Enjoy all of it. Laugh at the hard parts when they are over. Soak up the good times. Don’t constantly look towards the future or dwell in the past. Enjoy the moment as often as you can. These moments won’t last forever, so enjoy it while you can!
JOE CAFEO: My advice to everyone would be to be there. Not just physically, but emotionally. Our children’s confidence starts at home. They need to hear more than just they are beautiful, they need to know they can succeed, and sometimes, we have to watch them fail at something, just so we can help them use their mistakes as a tool to learn from, and keep trying till they do succeed. Also I think it’s important to hide frustration. Kids can pick up on these things and it effects them, that can hurt confidence.
PATRICK VON HOFF: Do you know how children spell love? T.I.M.E. Spend time with them. Connect and bond with them. The bond you create now will pay off when they grow older!
Happy Father’s Day Shawn, Greg, Patrick, and Joe!
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