WonderDad of the Week – Nils Dahlgren, The Dad Life of a Single Father With 3 Boys
April 9, 2019
As an experienced filmmaker, writer, and producer, if your kids wanted to be on television or film, how would you guide them?
I’m the first to admit that the entertainment industry is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been doing it for more than 20 years and I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with rejection and waiting. But I also was able to experience the highs and the wins, I only have 1 daughter who is now 11 and I’ve been a parental figure to my girlfriends 3 kids (12, 9 and 5) and they all have expressed a desire to be “famous” and right now the talks about hard work, networking, and luck have fallen on deaf ears with the era of YouTube shows by amateurs with a million followers. I did in the last few years have the opportunity to work with my daughter in two commercial jobs. Both of which she got simply on my request. So she didn’t get to experience the bad parts of the business right away. It wasn’t until later when she went on actual auditions that she lost some interest after asking several times when they were going to call her to work. Not understanding she didn’t get the job. I took the “pack of cigarettes” approach. When some kids ask what smoking is, a handful of parents allow the kid to smoke either one cigarette or make them smoke a whole pack in hopes they will get sick and never want to do it again. With the industry I allowed her heart to be broken and her ego to get bruised. She still has an interest but she’s more methodical about it now.
What advice would you give to other Dads who are taking their kids on their first Disney vacation?
Don’t oversell it. It does a great job of impressing kids on its own. I would get so excited as a kid my parents stopped telling me we were going and to just get in the car to run some errands or see family. I was a Disneyland Cast Member when my daughter was born. I was attending law school at the time so it was part-time, I took her there for the first time when she was about 6 months old to show off to my co-workers and to let her see and hear the magic. I even had her blessed by the fairy godmother in front of the castle. My advice is that if you can afford it try to spread the trip out a little. a 2 or 3-day park hopper ticket is ideal. Stay close to the park if you’re getting a hotel and plan on naps and breaks from the excitement. It’s a lot to take in and rushing to get it all in in one day takes away from the enjoyment in my opinion. Pack snacks to save on money but spend money on staple items you could only eat there like the Dole Whip or the giant corn dogs. I had the opportunity to potty train my daughter at Disneyland as well. In the baby care center on Main Street, they have changing tables but they also have little toilets in private rooms. I was able to build up the excitement so much about using the “special toilets” that she couldn’t wait to use them on her own. Once she realized she could do it alone it was smooth sailing from there. She even lost her last two baby teeth in the last couple of years at Disneyland while eating ice cream. We have been blessed with the ability to link several landmark childhood events to Disneyland. So make it special for your kids. Take the time to appreciate the details they will remember. The hidden Mickeys in the park, the smells on Main Street, a visit to see Mickey Mouse in his “real” house. Skip running to the next ride. Walk and enjoy.
What is your favorite trip you’ve ever taken with your kids?
2 years ago we were able to make our way to Paris and visit Euro Disneyland. We went for a whole week so we also experienced Paris and all it has to offer. But of course, the trip to Disneyland was a highlight. We did a tourist package which only allowed us 8 hours there because of the bus pick up and drop off times. But it wasn’t crowded and we experienced a lot. Enough to get the bug to return soon.
Who are the 3 other Dads (that people may know of) that inspire you the most?
I’ve looked to several public figures who are fathers and have been good fathers and examples of parenting in different situations than most would ever experience. Hugh Jackman is a prime example of a good father and a good husband. I also admire Will Smith for his ability to incorporate the blended family concept and making sure to include his ex-wife in family functions. That’s difficult for most. I know my relationship with my ex is more professional than anything. Getting to include her in my new family life is still a process and not likely to happen soon. But I make every effort to make any interactions more comfortable for my daughter as I’m there for her anyway. I also greatly admire Chris Pratt and his relationship with his son Jack. We have similar Christian beliefs and both him and his ex-wife have gone out of their way to not only create a consistent and nurturing environment for Jack, but they also continue to do so when speaking in public, never saying anything that Jack would learn about later in life and possibly resent. I’d also add an honorable mention for Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama) who has perfected the concept of “Bird Nesting” with their son, Noah. Bird nesting is the idea that the child would never move or have to leave their home, bedroom, toys, and friends to go be with the other parent. They leave the kid where he is and the parents pack and move on a regular schedule. I think it’s something that could catch on for those who can afford the multiple houses.
What is your favorite way to bond with your kids?
Well, we have obviously developed a bond with Disney and Disneyland, but it would work with finding any type of common interest. My daughter is a science lover and we’ve spent this last weekend at the Pompeii exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Library. I witnessed the same joy in her eyes that I see at Disneyland. So talking and listening to your child is key. Restrict or limit gaming devices. There is no value in it whatsoever, educationally, physically or mentally. It restricts social skills and old fashioned manners. It takes away from your opportunity to know and to teach your kids what nobody ever taught you. I realize gaming is the babysitter of our era. Parents value the “time off” from parenting. But kids grow up quickly and you are likely to regret losing that time with them.
Follow Disney Dads journey on Instagram @officialdisneydad
April 9, 2019
April 9, 2019
April 9, 2019