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WonderDad of the Week – Jonathan Bailey & Triton Klugh, 2 Dads Raising 2 Teenage Daughters

Our WonderDads of the Week are Jonathan Bailey and Triton Klugh, 2 Dads raising 2 teenage girls and inspiring many with their travel and lifestyle blog that all started with a letter to the president of the United States.
Because your situation may not be β€œtraditional”, where do you guys find the courage to overcome social norms and turn your situation into something inspiring?
When we look around us today, we see LGBT parents all over the world raising young kids in happy families. Our girls are 17 and 15, and when we began our fatherhood journey it was less common to see a family with two dads. We knew going into it that we would be trailblazing, so it did not come as a surprise when people seemed confused about our family or perhaps even disapproving. We used those moments to show our examples of love, and proved that is what truly matters most.

However, when at 10 years old Sophia wrote her now-famous letter to President Obama, she unwittingly thrust us onto the world stage. Her letter went viral around the world, and when Obama wrote back to her personally her letter exchange was cemented in history. We ended up in national TV interviews and dozens upon dozens of news articles from major world outlets as well as blogs. The outpouring of love and support she received – we received – from friends, family and strangers was overwhelming. Sophia’s letter was read on the floor of the Supreme Court when they were deciding the fate of gay marriage rights, and her little voice became a rally cry for all families like ours. If you google Sophia Bailey-Klugh, you will see the pages and pages of stories about this incredible experience.

So how could we not be courageous when our own sweet daughter was showing such remarkable courage and inspiration for so many? This is one of the main reasons we started our blog, realizing how many people wanted and needed to hear positive stories about families like ours.

As bloggers and influencers, if your kids wanted to follow in your footsteps, how would you guide them in the right direction?
With two teenage girls, they are growing up as digital natives who have never known a world without social media. In fact, they’ve been asking for their own access to social channels since they were way too young to have them. When each girl turned 12, we allowed them to have their own phones and, in due course, an Instagram account. Each girl learned the hard lesson quickly about the down side of social media, and almost immediately had drama and issues with mean girls and bad online behavior. These were solid teaching moments for us, however painful, and Sophia and Ava caught on quickly to the game of public/private content.

As bloggers and influencers, we share a great deal about our family, our travels, our home life and things that we experience together. Many people know A LOT about us. However, we’ve kept privacy an important element in our lives and have (fairly) successful separated our public sharing with our private moments. If Ava and Sophia chose to follow our footsteps, we would want them to understand the nuance of that fine line. Sharing is one thing, but over-sharing private moments is altogether something else. We already talk about this a great deal, and have active family conversations about what will be “family approved” to share on our 2DadsWithBaggage social channels and blog.

What has been the biggest challenge when it comes to raising 2 teenage daughters?
Oh gosh, that’s such a loaded question! Our teenage daughters are the same as everyone else’s teenage daughters, and the things we face together are identical regardless of two dads, two moms, a dad and a mom, one mom or any combination thereof. They are pushing the boundaries constantly, trying to understand where their independence starts and our control of them stops. It’s pretty amazing to help them figure out complex social situations, crushes/dating/heartbreak, and the (almost) daily dramas of teenage girls’ lives. Much patience, a lot of deep breathes and a glass of scotch now and then really helps us cope. But honestly, they’ve got it worse. Navigating the swirling circumstances of adolescence today is not easy, especially with the added layer of social media. Social media is definitely the biggest challenge, and teaching them how to use it successfully and positively is paramount.
What tips and tricks can you share about traveling together as a family?
We’ve traveled all over the world as a family since the girls were 4 and 6 years old, and we absolutely love experience new places, people and cultures together. There are a few things we learned along the way to really help us all enjoy ourselves:

– Always bring a surprise bag of fun on the plane, especially when the kids are really little and the flight will be long. Unless you want them glued to a screen the entire time, you have to find ways to entertain them. We would pull one new toy or activity out of the bag at a time, playing with it together until they grew bored and put it aside. Later, we’d pull another out and do the same. The trick is packing the bag with things they have never seen – not their regular stuff – so it’s a whole new experience that captures their attention.
– Always bring them a change of clothes in your carry-on. Always. We’ve learned this lesson the hard way more than once. Not pretty for us, or anyone else seated around us. No need to explain the details.
– As the kids grow older, allow them to participate in planning activities at your destination. We found that when they help choose, we end up doing things we might not have experienced without their input – and it’s always really fun! Also they are less likely to complain about getting dragged to yet another museum or medieval church when they have something of their own to look forward to (or back on).

Who are the 3 other Dads (that people may know of) that inspire you the most?
Well Barack Obama of course, since now he and Sophia are besties. Seriously though, what an incredible role model for positive fatherhood. He served as leader of the free world for eight tough years with dignity and strength, all the while never losing sight of his role as a father to his two daughters. Two tough jobs at the same time.

Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. That man was someone to respect, a fair and just man who was willing to stick up for the underdog no matter how unpopular that position might be. In his actions, he taught his kids more about integrity, civility, courage and the power of truth than any action hero ever could. Even though he is a fictional character, he is one of the most carefully realized, best presentations of what a father and man can be. He is my yardstick.

My own dad (Jon). Nobody knows who he was except his family and close friends, he was very private – never famous or accomplished anything tremendously profound. He was a good, honest, hard-working man with enormous integrity who taught us to always do the right thing. He never gave up on us, was always there to support or listen, and always somehow found the right words to make us feel better, whole, loved. He just passed away a few weeks ago, and I only hope I can honor him most by being as good a dad as he was to my brother and me.

Follow the family on Instagram @2dadswithbaggage and keep up with them on their blog for more family fun.

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