My kids are big inspiration for my thinking so it was fun to get a chance to talk about being a parent with Modern Day Dads.
This interview was originally a Rad Dad Feature on Modern Day Dads.
Rafe Kelley is a movement teacher. Considered one of the top parkour coaches in the world, he helps people reconnect with playful movements that allow you to feel a oneness with your environment, your senses and your own physical capabilities. He’s creative and passionate about what he does and that flows over into his parenting as well. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Rafe Kelley.
1. Tell us about what you do, who you are, and how you balance your career with being a dad?
I am a movement teacher/artist and entrepreneur. I teach a method of movement called Evolve Move Play. Evolve Move Play is an approach to recovering our capacity to move playfully and masterfully through the power of the inherent play drives evolution equipped us with.
The basic insight is that play was evolution’s solution for developing a functional human, and that the types of movement we are universally attracted to playing with are those that were evolutionarily relevant for us.
Through progressive play and exploration in the natural world we become adaptive full-fledged humans who can experience this journey of aliveness on a much deeper and richer level.
At the center of that is the ability to move your body, and my approach to that is based on nine years as a leader, teacher and athlete in the parkour community. In addition, we need to be able to manipulate objects, interact with other living things, and defend ourselves, my approach to this is informed by years of strength & conditioning and martial arts training and my recent studies in dance.
I am lucky to have a wife who has a good full-time job and who is supportive of my passion. I travel regularly to teach seminars, but when I am home I split roles between stay-at-home dad and business owner/trainer/athlete.
On a typical day I spend a couple hours with my kids in the morning before taking them to daycare, then I train clients or work on the online side of the business for several hours, before going out for my own training, then pick up the kids and cook dinner, spend some time with my wife then often a couple hours more work before turning in.
It’s not always easy to juggle the role of athlete, business owner, teacher, husband and father, but it is rewarding.
2. What does being a modern-day dad mean to you?
I think being a father is and has always been the most profound role a man can play in his life. Evolutionarily of course it is our central purpose, we are just replication machines from the Richard Dawkins’ perspective. On another level, I think love is really the thing we all seek and orient around in life, the deepest source of memory and meaning in life.
Love evolved really to bond mother and child; romantic love, sibling affection, friendship all of these in some sense are derived from that original bond. I feel blessed to share in that parental bond with my children. The emotional meaning of a child is impossible to describe to someone who has never had one. I think our current world offers a pretty unique challenge and an opportunity in the flexibility we can have in division of labor and ways we can share our parental roles.
3.How did becoming a father change your life?
Put simply, it added two people who now mean more to me than I could ever describe. I am lucky that logistically they have not required me to change too much about the rest of my life. I still train, still see the same friends, still get to travel, but everything is colored different because of them.
Being on the road is bittersweet because I always know I am missing something going on with my kids. My son rolled over for the first time on my last trip. My daughter always seems to learn a few more words, and develop in some unexpected way every time I leave.
4. Whats the greatest part about being a dad?
The aforementioned love of your children, I think tied with falling in love. It is the most profound experience in a human life, watching them change and grow is a constant joy.
I guess my personal favorite part is probably being able to roughhouse with my kids and watch them play, we all love that in our family and its something I think is special for my kids because so few parents seem to encourage play in their children. I aim to help change that though.
5. Can you share a funny story about being a father?
My kids have been mostly really easy so no crazy adventures they are also still quite young at 2.5 [years] and 5 months.
My daughter Audrey is just getting to the age where she says funny things. The other day we were roughhousing and she accidentally kicked me in the groin, she jumped up and said “be sad daddy, I play piano!” and then ran over to start playing piano. I thought that was an amusing reaction to accidentally kicking me there.
My other favorite recent incident, my daughter was feeling possessive of her mother so when I sat down next to them she loudly protested “That’s my mommy,” to which I replied “That’s true but she is also my wife.” Audrey responded “No, my wife.” For some reason that really cracked me up.
6. What advice can you give any new father out there?
1. Don’t worry too much. You’re a mammal, you have instincts for rearing children, don’t get too tied up in all the different arguments and theories about what is the perfect way to raise your children. Understand children are robust, they come with a largely preset personality, your job is just to love them and give them space to become the person they want to be. Parenting to me is less about shaping who they will be and more about developing a day-to-day relationship that is rewarding for both parties.
2. Learn to redirect. As soon as you’re in confrontation with your kid you already lose.
3. Take time for your relationship with your wife or partner. One of the biggest gifts you can give your children is a stable marriage and that means taking the time to feed that relationship. It’s easy for kids and work to make the husband role fall to a back burner, but you choose this person to have children with for a reason (hopefully anyways), you need to regularly remind each other that, for your children’s sake, her sake and yours.
4. Play with your kids, play is incredibly powerful for children’s development and we live in a culture that really stifles it, fight back playfight, jump on the bed, climb trees together, hide from monster together.
5. If your kid falls down unless unless its clear they’re really hurt always start with your ok right? Or nice fall, my daughter is proud world champion of falling down. Kids who get the message that they can recover and be stronger will probably be stronger adults, kids who have your fear projected on them every time they fall will be more inhibited, falling down is normal part of childhood don’t make it a big deal. ”