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The Journal Gazette

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette John Kaufeld and his son Isaac, 13, spend time doing one of their favorite activities – playing a game. Kaufeld's use of games as a bonding tool is being featured in the upcoming book “Dadly Dads.”

Sunday, June 18, 2017 1:00 am

Local dad's use of games lands in parenting book

Cody Thompson | The Journal Gazette

John Kaufeld, 55, refers to himself as a Dad 2.0. Two of his three children are grown. His wife home-schools his youngest, and Kaufeld finds time to game with him.

Kaufeld, the social media manager at IPFW, has also been writing his column, “The Dad Game,” for the News-Sentinel about 15 years.

It was this Fort Wayne dad's mixture of dadliness that allowed him to be one of 115 fathers across the world featured in the new book “Dadly Dads” by Hogan Hilling and Austin Dowd. The only other Indiana dad profiled in the book is Micah Adams of Portage.

“I was really excited,” Kaufeld said. “Helping dads is a passion. It's why I write my columns. It's something I really believe in.”

Kaufeld reached out to Hilling so he could mention the book in his parenting column, which features various topics including games fathers can play with their children and their benefits.

Kaufeld often plays tabletop games at home with his son Isaac, 13. They recently brought the game Incan Gold to a library branch that doubles as the classroom for Isaac's home schooling.

In Incan Gold, father and son play daring adventurers, making their way through an ancient tomb complete with snakes, spiders, fire and other Indiana Jonesesque traps in an effort to bring back the most treasure.

John and Isaac exchange playful glares, each hoping to guess the other's intentions. Every card placement builds tension – until finally a group of zombies scares the pair out of the tomb, resulting in a victory for Isaac by two treasure pieces. Despite his loss, John laughs and congratulates his son.

“As I became a parent and was trying to process the thousands of things going on at once, I began to make conscious decisions about how do I spend time with my daughter or son,” John said. “How do I want them to remember those times?”

It's games like Incan Gold, John said, that bring parents and children together. He steers clear of some traditional American board games, specifically Monopoly, because of their competitive nature, and prefers those that are indirectly competitive or even cooperative, often having players working together against the game itself.

That approach helped John earn the title “Game Dad” in Hilling's book.

Hilling, 62, said the title was one of the primary approaches for the book, assigning each dad a name based on his personality or interests. He said it's important to look at the man first. 

Hilling has written several other books on parenting including, “Dads Behaving Dadly,” “The Dadly Way” and “The Modern Mom's Guide to Dads: Ten Secrets Your Husband Won't Tell You.” Dowd is a freelance photographer living in North Carolina as a stay-at-home dad.

Hilling said he wrote the book to smash the stigma surrounding refer­ences such as stay-at-home dad, gay dad, divorced dad or widower dad.

“When kids introduce you to other kids, they just say, this is my dad,” Hilling said.

His latest book features dads from 11 countries with diverse backgrounds, including a father whose wife committed suicide, a father serving a life sentence in prison, and a father who lost his two children under the age of 8.

Hilling, who lives in the Los Angeles area, wants fathers to build their own community, something he said many moms already have the hang of.

As a former primary caretaker in the 1990s, Hilling knows how it feels to be stereotyped.

“Can't we just look at ourselves as parents first and gender afterwards?” he said. “There's no one-size-fits-all to being a dad.” 

The first 115 dads who applied to be included were accepted for Hilling's book. “Dadly Dads” is published by Motivational Press, set for release on Monday.

The other Hoosier featured in the coffee table book, Adams, 33, lives in Portage with his wife, Jennifer, and children Aaron, 6, and Caleb, 3. Adams earned the “Empathetic Dad” title for the lessons in compassion that he and his wife stress to their children.

Adams, who is involved with the National At-Home Dad Network, said he's breaking traditional gender roles in his household.

“I'm caring, loving and affectionate with my kids, which may not be a standard dad thing,” Adams said.

cthompson@jg.net