SuperDads relish time with the kids

The Baltimore Sun

About four years ago, Matthew Lamas began to hunt for a group that offered activities for fathers and kids.

The pickings were slim.

There were groups, but most involved fundraising - he wasn't interested in that - or were targeted to moms. The father of two was seeking a group just for fathers and their kids, that the dads could organize and run.

Finding none, the Bel Air resident decided to fill the need. With six other fathers and their kids, Lamas started SuperDads, a group that meets monthly for activities such as kickball and bowling. The group has grown to 22 families, and, in addition to activities, fathers are finding it to be a valuable outlet where they can connect and support one another.

"We needed to do something to make it formal to spend time with our kids," said Lamas, a manager at Target in Abingdon. "And then we need to remember the things we learn in the group when we're away from the group."

The group also embarks on camping outings and trips to such events as the Renaissance Festival and Aberdeen IronBirds minor league baseball games.

A father-and-kids group was a legacy from Lamas' early years. He and his father took part in a similar group when he was a boy growing up in Costa Mesa, Calif., he said.

"Some of my best childhood memories of my dad are of the time we spent doing activities in that group," he said. "The idea had always been in my head, and when my kids got to a certain age, I wanted to do all the fun stuff with them I did with my dad."

On a recent evening, the SuperDads convened at Annie's Playground in Fallston for a game of kickball. About 15 fathers took positions in the field while about 20 children lined up behind home plate.

The pitcher rolled the ball toward home and Keean Meadows booted it onto the field as his teammates cheered.

"We do amazing things and have amazing times," the 9-year-old said after circling the bases.

The opportunity to participate in games with his children is what attracted Matthew Clark to SuperDads. Clark and his children - Shyler, 4 and Griffin, 7 - joined the group about a year and a half ago.

He soon discovered the gatherings are as beneficial for the fathers as they are for kids, the Army officer said.

"SuperDads is like a dad's support group," the 33-year-old Bel Air resident said. "We get together and talk about our kids, our spouses, and everything that guys talk about."

Asked for details of such discussions, Clark said: "That's classified."

Participating in the group bolsters fathering skills, said Doug Robinson, who has been with the group since it started. SuperDads has helped the 34-year-old financial adviser to be more patient with his three children.

"I think a good father has to be patient with his children," the Bel Air resident said. "This group not only helps dads to be patient, but it gives dads who typically have difficulty finding time to do fun things with their children a chance to spend time with them."

Many of the children say SuperDads provides a way to have fun and spend time with their fathers. Carrie George, 9, said the group's activities are her favorite things to do with her dad, Doug George.

"My dad is nice, he's cool, he's fun, and he's a pushover," said the Bel Air resident. "Mom says, 'No,' Dad says, 'Yes,' so I go to him. When we come here, we just have fun."

The camaraderie of the group appealed to Anthony Glass, a father of three.

"SuperDads has a bonding atmosphere," said Glass, a senior manager for the athletic apparel maker Under Armour Inc. "We don't always do things to bond with our kids. Our wives spend time with the kids all the time. Dads need to be able to do the same thing."

The group has helped him define what it means to be a father, he said.

"Being a dad is absolute happiness," he said. "It's the ability to influence another human being's thoughts, and how they interact with other people."

The activities provide a chance to spend time with his kids before they outgrow the desire, Glass said.

"There will come a point when our children will turn 13 or 14 years old and they won't want to spend any time with us," he said. "So we have to take advantage of the time we have now."

And, of course, SuperDads give the fathers a chance to hang out with the men, he said.

"If I tell my wife that I'm going out with the guys, she might give me a lot of resistance," he said. "But if I say that I am going to a SuperDads' meeting, she has no problem with that. At the meetings, the dads talk, and we spend time with the kids. But it's still going out with the guys."

Perhaps the biggest plus is one-on-one time with the children, Lamas said.

"A lot of dads coach their kids' sports teams," he said. "But that's spending time with a group of kids, and they don't get one-on-one time with their child. In SuperDads we do all sorts of things with our kids."

This weekend the group planned to go on a camping trip.

"We didn't plan the trip for Father's Day, it just happened that way," Lamas said. "What great luck."

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