Bill Black and Tom Tozer laughed and cried their way through many lunches and finally decided to pitch an idea for a weekly column to their local paper.
There was little information from real dads providing real-life perspectives about navigating the typical minefields of raising teenagers. Nearly four years later, the syndicated column appears in more than 30 print and online publications, and a collection of columns is now a book titled “Dads2Dads: We Survived and You Can Too — Tools for Raising Teenagers” (plus a few tirades).
Black and Tozer are educational administrators who know first–hand the frustrations, ambiguities, difficulties, worries, and joys of raising kids. They have always been students of human nature and much of their professional work has involved the human culture in organizations. Both authors in their own right, they came together a few years ago for this most important mission in their lives — helping dads reach each other and improve relations with their kids.
Black’s perspective on parenthood comes from his own research, the example of his parents, the many lessons he learned from being a parent himself, and the enduring patience of his wife.
He is keenly concerned about the role of fathers in their children’s lives, making a connection with other dads and helping them deal with the feelings of fatherhood.
Tozer is a former school teacher, radio DJ, and marketing and news director. He is a published author who has also worked as a youth director. His career path has wound through Ohio, Indiana, back to Ohio, Los Angeles, back to Ohio, Kansas and Tennessee — in that order.
His passion for writing led him to Southern California where he co-wrote a screenplay, created material for a comedy troupe, penned a church history and took on odd jobs to pay the rent. During his work at his Hollywood church, he met and married his wife, Linda. Deciding to start a family, they relocated to a small town in the Midwest which became the birthplace of their daughters, Megan and Alyssa.
When Linda got an offer to start a new market research office smack-dab in the middle of Kansas, Tozer saw it as a providential nod. His wife would be making good money and Tom could once again write full time — and take care of his two daughters, now ages 2 and 4.
At age 44, Tozer spent the next two years as a bona fide, 24–7 Mr. Mom. And he wrote a little. Those two years, now referred to as the “Kansas Experiment,” comprised a full-blown role reversal that proved exhilarating, excruciating, exhausting and eye-opening. To put it succinctly and honestly, neither of them could wait to return to a more conventional existence.
Black grew up in a surfing community in Southern California and although he has lived in six other states, he still retains a bit of that culture. He is the son of an educator and a teacher turned stay-at-home-mom and the brother of three older siblings.
He started writing at the age of 11 on a vacation trip to the mountains with his parents. That love of the written word stayed with him and caused him to major in creative writing in college. Black was shaped by his parents — who stuck with him in spite of his rebelliousness and their doubts that he would pull it together and amount to something — his public school environment, his friends and the cultural and political events of the 1960s.
After working his way through the graduate program in library and information science at the University of Michigan, he moved to Illinois and began a career as an academic librarian.
As he has raised his own children, Black has developed an appreciation for the wisdom, patience, and love of his parents as they dealt with his growth, particularly during troublesome periods of high school, his indecisive years of college, and the Vietnam War.
His interest in family affairs became stronger during his own years of parenting children. He thinks of those years of raising two sons as the most important years of his life, and he highly values his relationship with his boys, about whom he still occasionally worries. He sees his role now as that of an anchor, a stable force in a sea of change.
While he can do little to influence decisions his sons may make, Black says he is determined to be present in their lives, available for any advice that might be requested, trying to be an example to them as they maneuver the pathways to a successful future. He says, “The grace and success of my children is directly attributable to their mother.
“We don’t tout ourselves as professional counselors or therapists,” Tozer explained. “From the get-go, we said we are regular dads who have struggled with raising kids, made mistakes and enjoyed some triumphs during those wonderful and turbulent years. Dads don’t talk to one another about parenting issues — and they often don’t have a forum to share their questions and concerns with other dads. We’re hoping to provide that forum.”
“Our focus groups with other dads revealed that men want to share their thoughts and ideas, but they want to do so in a nonthreatening, nonjudgmental environment,” Black noted. “They don’t want to be preached to — they want to learn from one another. There is no textbook for fatherhood. Most of us just fumble through and do the best we can.”
Their upcoming book will provide practical, humorous, and touching commentary from two dads who have survived the hope, heartache and happenings of raising kids. The authors say it is their pleasure and privilege to share with other struggling dads some of the frustrations and hair-pulling exasperation that they have experienced.
This project came out of a deep interest in their reaching out to other fathers, sharing what wisdom they had gained, and letting guys know they are not alone. They are now sharing what wisdom they have gained with other fathers through lectures, seminars and focus groups.
The 170-page book is divided into sub-sections: The Clueless Dad, The Connecting Dad, The Learning Dad, The Family Dad, The Modeling Dad and The Teaching Dad. At the end of each section, the authors offer “Try This” exercises for the family to do at home. The exercises themselves are not difficult — the real challenge is to bring the entire family together amid all of today’s distractions.
“Dads2Dads” is available on CreateSpace (https://www.createspace.com/4178123) and on Amazon. Contact Black and Tozer at Tomandbill@dads2dadsllc.com or visit www.dads2dadsllc.com