When Aaron Dickson posted a video on Facebook last year for his friends and family to see, he and his wife Jen never in their wildest dreams imagined what would happen next. The video, which features Dickson taking his little girl on her first date, was posted on the Friday before Father’s Day and by Sunday “it surpassed a million views as my wife and I were sitting on the couch together,” Dickson said in an interview with PJ Parenting. “We had already put the girls down and we couldn’t even believe it. We were just sitting there kind of shaking, thinking this is crazy.”
And that was only the beginning. Soon there were interview requests, including one from Good Morning America, which resulted in a TV crew being dispatched to Bellingham, Washington, to interview their family.
Then a call came from an organization called Dads 4 Kids, a group that promotes fatherhood in Australia. They flew him there for a quick trip, which turned out to be life-changing for Dickson. “I realized after that trip that there was a need for more dads to be encouraging other dads to step up to the plate and just love their families,” he said. “Dads are being told that the big time for them is once they leave the house and they’re at work. What they’re not being told that the big time for them is at home — with their wife and family.”
After returning from Australia, Dickson launched Best First Date, a project designed to help fathers connect with their daughters. “Our children are aching for daddies who will put down their phones, disconnect from work to connect with them on their level, and spend quality time fostering a lifelong bond rooted in strength, love, and commitment,” Dickson says on the website, where you can find daddy -daughter date kits and other parenting resources.
A year later the “Best First Date” video has been viewed 160 million times.
And now Dickson has a new video, “Daddy’s Little Girl,” with a companion song that was just released on iTunes. In the new video, the daughter from “Best First Date” is all grown up and getting ready to walk down the aisle as her father recalls memories of her childhood. I’d recommend having a box of tissues nearby when you watch this touching, emotional video!
Dickson spoke to PJ Parenting about what he hopes people will take away from the video. He also had some great advice for moms and dads about connecting with their kids and enjoying the time they have together.
Read Aaron Dickson’s inspiring advice on the next page:
On the message of “Daddy’s Little Girl”:
Our hope is that it reminds moms and dads to slow down and live in the moment. I hope that’s what it does for me because that’s something I struggle with. I’m pretty fast paced. So, for me to be continually encouraged to slow down and live in the moment with little girls and my wife is a big deal.
On what daughters need most from their fathers:
I think they need to be told that they’re special and that they’re beautiful and that they’re accepted, because for little girls to have a dad who they know is interested in their life, interested in pursuing them, statistically, they’re not out looking for that attention as early on in life as they would be without it.
So for a dad, not to just tell them that they’re beautiful, in the sense that they look pretty or make a big deal about their appearance, but to explain to them that God has made them beautiful and special just how they are. That I love them for who they are right now and that I can’t love them any more if they perform better or if they do something more significant or brilliant in life. I think to encourage them that they’re fully loved and to be consistently involved in their lives. Be passionate about what they’re passionate about.
On playing with your kids:
We need to get down on our hands and knees and play with them and realize, to adults who don’t dream anymore it’s the living room, but to the little girls it can be a can be a castle and it can be a ballroom and it can be a dance floor and it can be a ship sailing to sea. Just being creative with them and enjoying the moment. Analynne, my oldest, is really into princesses and girly stuff. My youngest, Kyrie, she’s two — almost three — and she’s a firecracker. She wants to kick balls and throw balls and run around and be active, so I think each kid is different. So just get to know your kids and pursue them.
On his day job:
We came back to Washington [after graduating from The Master’s College] and we’re part of a small church plant where I get to be on staff as a music and youth ministry pastor. That’s my dream job. That’s what I get to do. I just love it!
On the inspiration for “Daddy’s Little Girl”:
The book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, by Meg Meeker, changed my view of my role as a dad. My wife grew up in a family where her dad walked out on the family when she was little and so the father figure in her life was her step-dad. And I’m reading some of these stats from Meg Meeker’s book and I can’t even believe what I’m reading about the numbers of girls that don’t have active dads in their lives and the results because of that. The numbers are staggering: eating disorders, depression, teen pregnancy, lack of passion for pursuing different things in life, lack of confidence. I said, man, we’ve gotta do a follow-up project.
On how his faith influences his parenting:
We recognize our need for the Lord and for his strength in our life and also his strength to pursue each day with our little munchkins. We get one more day to live in the moment. We get the opportunity to show them Jesus. Not perfectly, but I have been loved by the King, who picked me, and he has lavished his love on us in Christ in a perfect one-way love that we really can’t represent perfectly, obviously. But we get to be impressed with Jesus and in response to that we get to love whoever he’s called us to love. And we get to love that way. That’s my wife’s and my hope — that our little girls grow up radically impressed with Jesus and not with themselves.
On what a wife can do to help her husband be a better father:
The natural tendency for a wife — and my wife is sitting next to me so she will probably laugh — the natural tendency is for a wife to ask her husband — I don’t want to use the word nagging — but to try to get her husband to perform in a different way than he’s doing. I think that a husband or dad or father really thrives — I know at least I do — when I hear it from a voice of encouragement. So, if a husband or a father is hearing a voice of encouragement saying, “Aaron, you’re doing a really good job as a dad.” That stroke of encouragement goes a long way. And if she makes it specific — if she says “Aaron, you’re doing a great job helping to put the little girls to bed” or “You’re a really good storyteller.” If she makes that specific, then I’m just beaming. I can’t wait for the next opportunity spend time with my little girls, knowing that it’s a help to her and it’s making a difference in the little girls’ lives.
I think the natural tendency is for a mom to say, “You know what, husband? I want you to do more.” Instead of making a honey-do list and telling him, “C’mon, get to work. Go be a better dad. Go take your girls out. You don’t spend enough time with them.” I think that that can work, but I don’t know if it goes as far as the voice of encouragement, saying I’m going to actually look for something that you’re doing really well and then I’m going to encourage that and just watch that bear fruit. Because often men want verbal encouragement. And when we get it, man, we’ll do anything to get it back. So, that would be a voice of encouragement to moms to pick out something that their husband is doing really well as the father and to encourage them in that. I think that’ll go a long way for men.
On his wife Jen:
She’s amazing! So there’s the saying: “Behind every guy that’s doing a good job, there’s an even better woman.” There’s truth to that. By the grace of God, we wake up every day and have the opportunity to love our kids and to encourage them grow into confident little girls. But Jen is awesome in the sense that God has gifted her in a lot of ways and you see our little girls — I mean, if you meet Analynne and Kyrie, they’re very, very fun little girls. Jen is a gifted musician and she’s humble, kind and so a lot of her traits you see trickling down to our little girls. Jen spends the most time with them. I get the credit and the glory because I’m the one in the video taking them on the first date, but the reality is that Jen’s in the trenches with them every day and I think for me, I have to work on encouraging her.
Check out Aaron Dickson’s Best First Date website to learn more about connecting with your kids.