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Navigating the Roller Coaster of Fatherhood: A Conversation with Ryan Ottinger

Dads With Daughters

Release Date: 11/06/2023

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More Episodes

In this episode of the "Dads with Daughters" podcast, host Christopher Lewis discusses fatherhood, blended families, and raising daughters with guest Ryan Ottinger. They delve into various aspects of parenting and the unique challenges and rewards of being a "girl dad."

Christopher emphasizes the importance of understanding that fatherhood is a journey with its ups and downs, and it's crucial not to go through it alone. He highlights the value of learning from other dads and sharing experiences to become the best possible fathers to their daughters.

Ryan, a father of two biological children and three stepchildren, discusses the challenges and joys of blending families. He emphasizes the significance of setting a positive example as a male role model and ensuring a strong family-oriented upbringing. Ryan shares his experiences coaching his children in sports, emphasizing the importance of being present and involved in their lives.

The conversation touches on finding a balance between work and family life. Ryan talks about how having a flexible job with a short commute allowed him to be present for his children and attend their events, reinforcing the importance of making time for family.

Ryan and Christopher discuss the unique relationships they have with their children and the importance of recognizing and nurturing each child's interests and passions. They stress the value of quality one-on-one time with each child, tailoring their parenting approach to each child's needs.

The episode also explores the concept of being a "girl dad" and what it means to take pride in raising strong, independent daughters. Both hosts express their deep pride in their daughters' accomplishments and the fulfillment that comes with guiding them towards successful futures.

In the final segment, they touch on the emotional journey of leaving a child at college and the bittersweet transition as children grow and gain independence. Christopher emphasizes the importance of preparing children for adulthood and celebrating their readiness for the next chapter.

Overall, the episode provides valuable insights into fatherhood, blended families, and the joys and challenges of raising daughters, highlighting the significance of being present, supportive, and nurturing as fathers.

If you've enjoyed today's episode of the Dads With Daughters podcast, we invite you to check out the Fatherhood Insider. The Fatherhood Insider is the essential resource for any dad that wants to be the best dad that he can be. We know that no child comes with an instruction manual, and most are figuring it out as they go along. The Fatherhood Insider is full of valuable resources and information that will up your game on fatherhood. Through our extensive course library, interactive forum, step-by-step roadmaps, and more you will engage and learn with experts but more importantly with dads like you. So check it out today!

TRANSCRIPT

Christopher Lewis [00:00:06]:

Welcome to dads with daughters. In this show, we spotlight dads resources and more to help you be the best dad you can be. Welcome back to the Dads with Daughters podcast, where we bring you guests to be active participants in your daughter's lives, raising them to be strong, independent women in really excited to have you back again this week. As always, you and I are on a journey together. We are working together to try to figure this fatherhood thing out. It's not always an easy thing, not always simple. We go through ups and downs and there's always going to be that in the lives of our daughters, but also the lives that we have. And we have to be able to understand and know how to ride that roller coaster as it goes on.

Christopher Lewis [00:00:57]:

Now, that being said, we don't have to do this alone. And it's so important for you to understand that you're not alone in this journey. And whether you're comfortable talking to that neighbor of yours that has kids or not, we're still here. And I love being able to talk to you every week and to bring you resources and other dads that are doing fatherhood in different ways because you can learn from every father that comes on this show to help you to be the best dad that you can be. This week, we got another great guest with us. Ryan Odinger is with us today, and Ryan is a father of two biological kids and step kids, so he has a blended family, so we'll be talking a little bit about that, but we'll also be talking a little bit about a few other things and learn a little bit more about him and about the experiences that he's had. And I'm really excited to have him here. Thanks so much for joining us.

Ryan Ottinger [00:01:59]:

Thanks for having me. My pleasure. Having you here today. One of the first things I love doing is I like to turn the clock back in time. And I know you've got two daughters. I'd love to turn the clock all the way back, all the way back to that first moment when you found out that you were going to be a dad to a daughter. What was going through your head? Amazing. I've never been more terrified.

Ryan Ottinger [00:02:17]:

Being a dad of a daughter is the longest roller coaster of joy and fear that you could be on in a great way in all aspects, but I knew how to be a boy and I knew how to be a man, but I didn't have any idea what to do with a little girl. And I was scared to death. But it turned out to be one of, if not the most rewarding experiences of my life. Fatherhood is a rewarding experience and definitely can be fearful as well. There's fear in not only having kids in general, but I talk to a lot of dads and a lot of dads say that there is fear that goes along with being a father to a daughter. What would you say has been your biggest fear in raising a daughter? My biggest fear is just as she moves forward. She's a freshman in college now. I've always tried to set an example of what a male role model should be in her life.

Ryan Ottinger [00:03:14]:

Whether it will be a teacher, a coach, future employer, husband, whatever the case may be that they should have a positive impact in her life. And I try to lead by example on that. I don't always get it right. That's part of parenting. If I could turn back the clock, there's probably a few things I would do different. But overall, she's amazing and I may take a tiny bit of credit for that, but she's been just a joy to father and she's made it easy. Our relationship has been nothing but friendship the entire time. We were best friends, always did stuff together.

Ryan Ottinger [00:03:53]:

I included her in my stuff, which I think is huge, and then also I wanted to be included in her stuff. We would take her when she was little to the mall and get makeovers and stuff like that, just her and I. And I think that's huge too. It has to be a partnership. It can't just be all that dad wants to do and sit and watch football or go fishing or whatever. But it doesn't always have to be all makeup and whatever she was into. We just kind of tried to find a good mix of what we both enjoyed and it worked out fantastic. I think it's important to be able to find those things that not only your child is passionate about, but you're passionate about too, that you can, as you said, kind of share both together.

Christopher Lewis [00:04:35]:

As you think about the relationship that you have with your daughter, what would you say is the thing that you love to share most with your daughter? I think that what I'm most proud about is just the person that she has turned out to be. She is all the good that I wanted her to be with very little, if any, of a negative as far as just being a good person, being a valuable member of society, being a good friend. And she loves family, which is a value that I've tried to instill. She makes time for us, she makes time for her cousins, step brothers and sisters, her brother. She's just always available and she puts family first. And I think that if I've taught her anything, that is probably what I'm the most proud of, is the fact that she is very family oriented. And I think she may be the type of girl who just once she spreads her wings after college, she may never come back to live in her hometown. But I think that we've dug enough roots that she will always value family and where she came from.

Ryan Ottinger [00:05:39]:

That's the only thing that we can do. And I have a daughter that's just like that. You and I both have freshmen in colleges, are in college. And I know that I don't believe that she will move back anywhere near where we are and she will spread her wings and fly and do amazing things in her life. But the thing that I hope too, is that she will always have those roots, always have the family to be able to draw from, no matter where she is, whether it's in Michigan, in Washington, DC. In the United States, or somewhere else. So I think that's all we can do as fathers, as parents, is to plant those seeds along the way and try to hope that they take root, as you said, because that will help them to only be more successful as they grow. Now, as we raise our children, there are times where you have opportunities to build really strong, memorable experiences, to have to build those memories with our children.

Christopher Lewis [00:06:50]:

What would you say has been the most memorable experience that you've been able to have thus far as a father to a daughter? I would say being able to coach her in athletics. She is in high school and all through her life has been just a superb athlete. And the opportunity to coach her and the opportunity for her to enjoy it, I've seen in the past, and I've been in parenting situations and coaching situations where they don't always blend. It's tough to treat everybody the same, whether it's good or bad. And she is such an amazing, hard worker. And to be able to coach her, see the learning process kind of going through her head, and then her incorporating that, it really touched me because a lot of it sometimes kids say, okay, and as kids, I was the same way. You probably figure that, you know, it a little bit better, especially as you get older. But she was always so coachable and just an appetite for knowledge in any subject.

Ryan Ottinger [00:07:49]:

And I think that's the thing that I will remember most about growing up as she was growing up, just being able to coach her and her really transferring that to whatever activity she was involved in at that time. I love that. I can say that I've never coached, but I always was involved with the team. And at times I was an assistant coach, though I can't say that I was really the coach. I would be there, I would engage with the kids, I would help the kids. I don't know that I had the skill set to be the full coach in that regard, but I tried my best. Being out there, that's just as important as anything else, just being involved, I think. Now, I know that you work in utilities.

Christopher Lewis [00:08:30]:

That's a challenging job. It can be a time consuming job. And you also made the comment that you try to make sure that you're present and that you were involved in your kids lives. Talk to me about balance and what you had to do to be able to find that balance between work, family and all the other hats that you wore. I've been at the utilities here in my hometown since 1999 and I've always tried to find a balance with my kids. And there were job opportunities that had a commute or involved travel. But the job that I have now is three minutes, four minutes from home. And I had the flexibility with a wonderful workplace.

Ryan Ottinger [00:09:13]:

If my kids ever were to fall ill at school, I could leave right away and go home, take care of them, no questions asked, and never missed a sporting event. Now, if we had emergencies, the normal schedule and the day to day balance, I was there when they got home from school. I was able to take them a lunchbox if they forgot it. I was able to take them practice clothes if they forgot it for after school. And I think that that is huge. And I think just being present, there's a lot of times where the kids would be on their phones in the living room, but I always love that compared to them going in their bedroom and closing the door, it's just being present and being involved with them, even if it's just sitting around in the living room. And now that they're gone, you really realize how every second is precious. And 1819 years, it seems like a long time, but in kid years it flies by and there's no do overs.

Ryan Ottinger [00:10:08]:

So I'd rather my kids get tired of me and I spend too much time with them as the opposite of them just wanting somebody to be there for them and not be there. It does fly by. I think people told me that throughout my life. Treasure the time because it is fleeting and it truly is. And I will echo that until I can't echo it anymore. Now, you've talked about a lot of the positive things. What would you say has been the hardest part of being a father to a daughter? Being able to relate. As far as the struggles that teenage girls go through with my son, I understood for the most part this is a trying time for all teenagers and they have a lot of difficulties that a person my age never had to deal with, with social media and everything that goes along with that.

Ryan Ottinger [00:10:52]:

But I always had trouble relating. So what I always tried to do was just listen. Just let her come home from school and go off about this or go off about that and be compassionate. Sometimes I didn't give her the right answers and sometimes you have to give the wrong what they don't want to hear because that's reality. But I always just tried to listen and if I couldn't relate, just be a sounding board for. And 15 minutes later, after she calmed down a little bit, she was fine. She just needed to get it off of her chest. And I think that was what I tried to do.

Christopher Lewis [00:11:25]:

The best is just listen and be a listening device and not have to give an opinion on every single thing. Now, I mentioned at the beginning of the show that you have a blended family. You have two biological kids, you have three step kids. And talk about challenges of raising your own children, let alone bringing families together. That is challenging in itself. Talk to me about what, as a family, you had to do to be able to start to bring those families together. When you did come together, it wasn't easy. But I also think that nothing in life that's going to have a long term reward is easy, because if it is, it's not as rewarding.

Ryan Ottinger [00:12:06]:

Having said that, it's difficult when you go from a single dad with a three bedroom house. And then we moved in together, and together we have 220 year old boys. My daughter hayden and Kobe are 20. Kobe is my son. Kylie is my daughter. She is 18. And then Reed is the youngest boy, and he's a senior in high school. And Sloan is my stepdaughter, and she's in 8th grade.

Ryan Ottinger [00:12:32]:

So unfortunately, their father has passed away. So I've been around for about three, four years now. And so I really think it's important that I pass on and show my youngest stepdaughter the relationship that I have with my daughter. And that way she also has. And this kind of refers back to what I was talking about earlier. She knows what a good father son or father daughter relationship is. She sees a positive male role model. She sees how I treat her mom and how I expect others to treat her mom, and that's how I expect that anybody in her future would treat her.

Ryan Ottinger [00:13:13]:

But moving in together, it's never going to be super easy. But her kids are wonderful, and my wife Melissa is wonderful, and my kids love her, her kids love me. We go on vacations together. We spend tons of time. So, you know, moving is stressful, just if you move in a normal situation. But when you're blending families and dogs that never met each other and that kind of that whole thing, there were some growing pains. Everybody kind of had to find their groove. But I think that's the biggest thing is you let everybody kind of carve their path and then you know, okay, this person showers every night at this time, so I've got to figure that out.

Ryan Ottinger [00:13:52]:

This person does laundry. It's just life. Living together with anyone's not easy. You have to have cooperation. And we found a good balance, I feel like. And now when we moved in together, all five kids were in the house. And then a year from now, there's only going to be one left. So she's going to get all the attention.

Ryan Ottinger [00:14:09]:

Whether she wants it or not. She's going to be the focus of both of us. So talk to me about that relationship with Sloan and what you've had to do to be able to maybe say, slowly step into a role of mentorship, a role of friendship, a role of connection. And I say all of that before I say a role as a father, because I'm sure that you have probably in your mind and outwardly said, I am a father. I'm not trying to replace your father. But how did you have to start building those building blocks with her after that initial move in? It was a process, but it was easy. She's very different from a lot of teenagers. As far as she was open and willing to a relationship, there wasn't any resentment or apprehension on her part for me to be a part of her life, which made it all the easier, because then if you have apprehension and then you have to find the balance as a bonus.

Ryan Ottinger [00:15:14]:

Dad, do I try harder? Do I pull back? Grant, where do I fit in this role? Because I don't want to be overbearing and try to force a relationship. But I also don't want to seem aloof and to seem like I don't want a relationship. So what I always try to do is Kylie, my daughter, was always in my back pocket, so we were always together. So what we tried to do is include Sloan on a lot of the stuff that we were doing together. But then I also made sure that I had one on one time for Kylie and I had one on one time for Sloan. So I think that when you're able to carve out time just for one child, it's more meaningful experience. Maybe not for the parent, because I love being with all my kids, but for the child, it just seems more special. But it's been a slow.

Ryan Ottinger [00:15:59]:

You're putting brick on brick and you're getting a foundation. We're great friends. We've got a great relationship. I don't know about being a disciplinarian just because at this point in life, she doesn't really need it. She's just that girl. And my daughter was the same way. If I said something and made a suggestion, 99 times out of 100 they go with it and we go down that path together and if there's a disagreement, we work it out. So I'm very fortunate that way that she's bought in the same amount that I bought in.

Ryan Ottinger [00:16:28]:

And it's a great relationship. You talked about the fact that with your kids you have to build those unique relationships, especially in a blended family. You have built relationships with your two biological kids. You've had more time with them. Now you've had three new kids that have entered your life and have become a part of your family as a whole. Talk to me about how you have been able to build those unique relationships with each child. Seeing that each child is unique and understanding that you have to build that relationship in a little bit different way. Anyone that has more than one child at home knows that there's no cookie cutter, even if you have I have stepbrothers that are twins and they're not even remotely the same and they weren't ever growing up.

Ryan Ottinger [00:17:17]:

They both had vastly different interests. So I think it's finding out what they're interested in and they're passionate about and exploring know. My stepson and I, reed had a we talked politics for about an hour and a half. My wife finally just went to bed and we sat at the kitchen table and with no TV on, no phones or anything, and just talked. There was no arguments, no disagreements, and it was fantastic. Now, if I tried to do that with my son Kobe, eight minutes into that, he'd be like, can we turn the game on or something? This is not interesting to me. So I think know with Sloan, she's got a huge passion for volleyball and she just started playing in 6th grade and she couldn't hit the ball straight for a million dollars. And just seeing her out in the driveway, I would set up makeshift nets where we put outdoor benches on top of garbage cans for her and then put cones in the yard for target practice and stuff like that.

Ryan Ottinger [00:18:12]:

I never played volleyball in my life. My daughter did. So I had a few ideas. But finding out what they're passionate about and adjusting your priorities to allow them to pursue their passion, I think that's the most important thing is you can give them suggestions. You can give kids a path to go, but if they want to veer off that path, just find a positive outlet for them to veer because if not, it could turn into a negative. But you can't say, well, I've always liked this, so you should like this. That's not how I wasn't into the same things my parents were in. So I think that's the biggest thing is finding what they're passionate about.

Ryan Ottinger [00:18:47]:

And even if you got to fake it for a couple of hours and put a smile on your face, that time is going to be so precious. When you look back on it, you can be like, you know what? I was miserable when I went. And they'll get a laugh out of it. And I'm sure that she can turn around and say, yeah, that one thing you took me to. That wasn't great either, but I did enjoy being there. I think that's the most important thing. 

Christopher Lewis [00:19:13]:

Appreciate you sharing that. Now you and I got to meet each other through Twitter and using the hashtag Girl dad. It is definitely a hashtag that's been around for a bit. Many people know it started with Kobe Bryant and his daughter and kind of built from there and ended up continuing to grow from there. As you think about the hashtag girl dad, what does being a girl dad mean to you? 

Ryan Ottinger [00:20:29]:

Being proud of your daughter, being proud of the fact that she's a female and she is going down a path of she's going to be a leader in the community, she's going to be a leader in whatever job or whatever path of life that she chooses, and to know that she's a valuable member of society. And the challenges of raising a daughter are large for a male role model, but the rewards are equally as large. And when things work out, it is the greatest experience in the world. And not to take anything away from being a father-son relationship, because it's amazing. My son and I are best friends, but when you raise a daughter, you know that there's an expectation that you need to set as far as role models go. And with Kylie, she's exceeded the expectations of the person that I wanted her to. You know, on that tweet that I sent out that you responded to, I kept saying for a month, she wasn't ready to go to college. She just wasn't ready. She's naive. She should commute all the gamut of emotions. And we get there and we get her moved in. And I was giving her a hug and I saw her walk off. She was not walking off, she was prancing off and couldn't be more excited. I'm sitting in my truck crying like a baby and I'm like, okay, I'm the one that's not ready. She's ready. I've done my job, which it's the most bittersweet experience in the world. You always want your daughter to be happy, but then you know, for her to be happy, you're going to be sad for a while. And that was the most difficult part, but it was also the most fulfilling. 

Christopher Lewis [00:21:27]:

Yeah. Leaving your child at college is definitely challenging, especially if they're farther away. But even if they're close, the relationship changes. You don't get to see them as much, you don't get to talk to them as much because their life is moving in a little bit different direction. And parents are told that you don't get to see it or know it until you actually experience it. And that is something that every parent has to experience in life. Whether it's that your child is going to college, whether it's that they're going into the workforce or the military or whatever it is post high school, something happens and they will change in some way. And as parents, as Ryan just said, we have to do what we can as they're growing up, to prepare them to fly, prepare them to be able to leave our homes, to be able to do things that are going to help them to be successful and to move forward in their life. Now, Ryan, we always finish our interviews with what I like to call our Fatherhood Five, where I ask you five more questions to delve deeper into you as a dad. Are you ready? 

Ryan Ottinger

Absolutely.

In one word, what is fatherhood

Ryan Ottinger

amazing?

Christopher Lewis 

When was the time that you finally felt like you succeeded at being a father to a daughter?

I would say the minute she graduated, she graduated with honors, and I really felt like I've done everything I could do to prepare her for the next step, whatever that step may be in life. And as a parent, that's what we're supposed to do.

Christopher Lewis [00:22:40]:

If I was to talk to your kids, how would they describe you as a dad?

Ryan Ottinger

It depends on when you want to talk to them. I would say I can be tough on them when it comes to work ethic. I'm a big work ethic person in general, but I think that they would say, overall, I'm fun, and I think that they see the joy I get out of being a dad. I feel like that's the only thing I've ever wanted to do when I wanted to grow up, other than being in the NBA, which was quickly realized that that wasn't going to be an option. I always just wanted to be a dad, and I feel like that's what I was quite honestly put here to do, is to be a father and is the greatest job and experience I could ever have. But I think they would just say I'm a fun loving guy, and I hope that if they had to do it over again, they would still choose me.

Christopher Lewis [00:23:29]:

Now, who inspires you to be a better dad? I have a lot of people. My mom, for one.

Ryan Ottinger

For a long time in my life, my mom was kind of raising us on our own and my sister and I, and so she kind of had to do a dual role, but she just showed me what parenting should be. I look back now and I see the sacrifices that she made for my sister and I, and I've instilled that into my parenting style. Kids first, always. If that means missing a guy's trip or missing golf or whatever the case may be, no regrets about it, no second thoughts about it. And it wasn't even an option to not be present for my kids. My stepdad was a vital figure. My dad was a vital figure of just being present. They still come to all my kids sporting events, my niece and nephew's sporting events, and Christmases and every holiday. We're always together. Our families are always together. So that's the biggest thing that I think I would take away, is just always just try to keep your family. Anytime you have an opportunity to be with them, be with them.

Christopher Lewis [00:24:13]:

You've given a lot of pieces of advice today, things for people to think about and things for people to consider of incorporating into their own lives as we finish up today. What's one piece of advice you'd like to give to every dad? 

Ryan Ottinger [00:24:39]:

Enjoy every second. We touched on it earlier. It goes by so fast.And the memory I want to share about my daughter is I'll never forget one time I was in a hardware store and she went with me, and she was at the age where I just had given up on trying to tell her what to wear. As long as she had some sort of shoes on her feet and her hair was somewhat combed, I think she may have been five or six at the most. And so she had these cowgirl boots on with pajamas, and it was noon, and we're in a hardware store and she's three aisles over just stomping up the aisle and making all kinds of noise. And I'm just like, oh, my gosh. And this guy beside me goes, hey, she won't be stomping very much longer in those cowgirl boots. You better enjoy it while you can. And it's just a random stranger. And it stuck with me from that moment on because I started to get frustrated because she was running around and that frustration just went away. It's like, you know what? She's a little girl having the time of her life. I can't get in the way of that. And so from that point on, I really just tried to cherish every single second that I was with her, and I'm glad that I did.

Christopher Lewis [00:25:26]:

Well, Ryan, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for sharing your journey today. Really appreciate it. And if people want to find you on Twitter, where's the best place for them to go at Ryan_Ottinger. Nothing real fancy on that one.

Christopher Lewis [00:25:48]:

Well, I truly appreciate you being here today, and I wish you all the best. Thank you so much. The Fatherhood Insider is the essential resource for any dad that wants to be the best dad that he can be. We know that no child comes with an instruction manual and most dads are figuring it out as they go along. And the Fatherhood Insider is full of resources and information that will up your game on Fatherhood. Through our extensive course, library, interactive forum, step by step, roadmaps and more, you will engage and learn with experts, but more importantly, dads like you. So check it out fatheringtogether.org. If you are a father of a daughter and have not yet joined the Dads with Daughters Facebook community, there's a link in the notes.

Christopher Lewis [00:26:31]:

Today. Dads with Daughters is a program of fathering together. We look forward to having you back for another great guest next week, all geared to helping you raise strong, empowered daughters and be the best dad that you can be.

We're all in the same boat and it's full of tiny screaming passengers. We spend the time we give, the lessons we make, the meals we buy them present. Bring your A game because those. Kids are growing fast. The time goes by just like a dynamite glass calling astronauts and firemen carpenters and muscle men get out and be the world to them. You be the best dad you can be. Be the best dad you can be.