A stay-at-home Kelowna dad has won the inaugural “Canadian Dad Blogger of the Year Award.”
Dale Allen Berg, who also co-hosts the local Parenting 101 conference with his wife Lisa Gaytan-Berg, told the Capital News that he found out he’d been nominated and won the award last week.
Berg was nominated for his self-titled blog about fatherhood, which he started in 2002.
“Just to be nominated, to be included in this group was a huge honour, and then to be told that I was the winner this year just left me completely speechless,” he said.
Berg is the father of a four-year-old as well as two-year-old twins, and he writes openly about his family’s struggles with medical issues.
In February Berg was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord.
Still in good physical health, Berg said coming to grips with his diagnosis has been more of a mental battle so far, one that has been overshadowed by another diagnosis that one of his twins recently received.
Less than two weeks before Berg was diagnosed with MS, his daughter Madison was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a rare, non-inherited neurodevelopment disorder that almost exclusively occurs in girls.
As a result of the syndrome, Berg said Madison will never talk or walk and will always be 100 per cent dependent on a caretaker.
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It’s not right that a 2 year old should have to go for an MRI. It’s not right that she should have to be sedated with a team of doctors around her while the imaging is being done. It’s not right that she has to be put through this and expected to be so tough. But she didn’t complain once. She didn’t even make a sound. The anesthesiologist slipped the IV into her hand and she didn’t even flinch. She has taken this diagnosis (and all that comes with it) better than any of us because it’s not a diagnosis to her – it’s just her life. And she lives her life so contently. It’s just a huge reminder to me (and maybe each one of us) to not focus on the diagnosis or even the disease… but to focus on the person. Focus on Madison and what a beautiful little girl she is.
“To have your two-year-old daughter diagnosed with that, my world crumbled when we got that diagnosis,” he said.
“Two weeks later I was told that I have MS. It almost didn’t sink in or it almost wasn’t even significant because I was still reeling and coming to terms with my daughter’s diagnosis. I still am and I think I always will be.”
Berg added that his other two children have autism. He said he writes publicly about his experience with fatherhood and caring for children with special needs in the hopes that someone will read his stories and be inspired.
“We all have challenges and we all have things that we’re working through, ” he said. “In sharing our stories with each other, it’s giving each other the strength and the motivation to make it through the day.
“That’s why I tell my stories and that’s why I read other people’s stories, because I want to know that I’m not alone.”
Berg said his wife Lisa is supportive of his blogging.
“She is my biggest fan,” he said, adding that it means a lot to him since she studied English at Oxford. “I think that’s how it should be.”
The Canadian Dad Blogger of the Year Award was created last month by Vancouver-based dad blogger James R.C. Smith, of SocialDad.ca.
Smith told the Capital News that Berg was one of 10 to 15 dads from across the country who were peer-nominated for the award.
“I’m completely unsurprised that [Berg] won and he had the most nominations,” Smith said.
The two men have met once before, on a “dads gone wild” camping trip to E. C. Manning Provincial Park, organized by Smith last September.
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Lets be honest… I can think of at least 48 ways this #5DadsGoWild trip could have been a complete disaster! For me alone, I had never gone camping before in my adult life. I had never heard of… let alone MET any of these other Dad bloggers before – and no one knew of me. We were all blindly meeting up in a random campground, about three hours away for each of us, after only chatting online about this project. It was supposed to snow… There were bears, and even recent Sasquatch sightings nearby… we couldn't start a fire on the first night… . And yet, the five of us bonded as Dads, helped each other express ourselves as content creators, laughed together as inexperienced campers, and in the end we left and went back home as new friends. Thanks @jamesrcs , @adadintheburbs , @beyondtherhetoric , and @stephenfung for all the memories. Let's do this again next year!
“He, time after time after time is sharing often heart-wrenching stories,” Smith said. “He’s inspiring me to … open up and be honest with my readers.”
Smith has been a father for almost four years and started blogging after realizing that many parenting resources were aimed at mothers.
“There are tons of books for moms and new moms, and people trying to get pregnant. The only books about fatherhood are kind of joke ones, like, ‘So you’re going to become a dad, you’re going to have to stop drinking so much,’ Smith said. “That’s cool, but we’re also parents, so it would be nice to have some actual resources aimed at us.
“I thought, ‘Well, if I can be a resource, even if it’s just documenting my own failings, I think there’s an audience for it.’”
“So much of parenthood is focused on moms and there’s a lot of omission when it comes to dads, in marketing and in some of the language that gets used when it comes to parenthood, it’s often very exclusively geared toward moms,” Berg agreed.
“There’s a group of us, myself included, that really want to bring a bit more focus on the fact that not all dads are disengaged. There are a lot of dads out there who are very actively engaged with their families, very actively engaged with their kids, and sometimes it feels like the world doesn’t recognize us or doesn’t notice us and it’s all about the mom.
“I stay at home and I’m the one changing the diapers and I’m the one cooking the meals and I’m the one going grocery shopping. Those are the stories that I tell in my blog.”
Smith decided to create an award for dad bloggers and drum up some recognition for dads after seeing a similar B.C.-wide competition for mom bloggers last summer. He came up with a logo and publicized the opportunity to make nominations on his own blog as well as on Facebook.
Smith also created the “dads gone wild” camping trip after seeing networking events for moms online. He said the dads are going to repeat the same trip this September.
“At it’s heart it’s a chance for us busy dads to chill out … and just spend some time bonding and talking about our own lives and about what they’re facing, why their kids won’t sleep and how do you get them out of eating just chicken nuggets all the time,” Smith said. “We still don’t know, but we’re working on it.”