From an early age, we learn that heroes are superheroes, save lives, rescue folks, keep us safe, or serve in the military. These are noble pursuits, but how can a regular person like you or me do something heroic?
If you have never heard of Rob Kenney before, please take a lesson from him because he is the definition of heroism. When Kenney launched his YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNepEAWZH0TBu7dkxIbluDw on April 1, 2020, Rob had no idea he was about to become an Internet sensation. What started as a gesture to do something good has blown up to nearly three million followers on his “Dad, How Do I” YouTube channel. As soon as I heard about his story, I felt inspired and wanted to bring it to others’ attention.
To most appreciate this story, you need to learn more about Kenney’s tale. Rob grew up in a large dysfunctional family. His mom was an alcoholic and lost custody of the children. At age fourteen, his dad exited the picture, abandoning the children. At one point, Rob moved in with an older brother in his mobile home. He credits his brother, Rick, for becoming the male role model that he needed at the time.
Fast forward to now, and Kenney has been married to his wife, Annelli, for 29 years. They have two adult children, Kristine (28) and Kyle (25). Because of his own experience growing up in a challenging situation, Kenney became determined to be the type of father he didn’t have. His primary goal as a parent has been to raise good adults.
When Kenney started his channel earlier this year during the pandemic, he had no idea it would take off. He didn’t start it to become famous; the simple plan was to help others. That makes him a hero in my book because he is saving lives by being a role model. Here is a recent appearance this year from The Today Show:
In offering advice to his kids, the idea of creating a place for teens and young adults to gain knowledge became a reality. Most of his initial videos were “how-to” videos. If you’re looking for tips about how to use tools, skills in the kitchen, minor automobile repairs, and even everyday tasks such as how to tie a tie, you’ve come to the right place. There is no shortage of those types of videos on YouTube, but Kenney discovered the secret sauce, the ability to connect with the average person in dad ways. Here is his video about how to tie a tie:
He expanded his channel into other areas, such as reading children’s stories that teach valuable life lessons. This one is called The Bad Seed:
Another section of Rob’s videos is what he calls “Dad Chats.” They are full of valuable bits of wisdom that he has acquired. Here is one entitled, “We Need Each Other.”
Part of what makes Kenney’s channel so unique to me is his combination of simplicity and sincerity. Not only does he teach necessary life skills, but he also does it in the best dad manner through a variety of stories, advice, wisdom, and his ever-present “dad jokes.” One of my favorites is when he begins a video about how to use a stud finder in the home and says, “Today, I’m going to teach you how to use a stud finder. If you came here looking for help finding a boyfriend, that would be a different stud finder.”
As a former elementary teacher of thirty-one years, I admire what Rob is doing and his approach. I look at him and think, Rob Kenney is a guy who gets it. He understands his role as a teacher to the next generation. The most important job of any educator or parent is to make your children feel safe and loved. If you’ve got that down, then you’re halfway there when it comes to teaching and learning. I hope that some of the most valuable life lessons I taught my students went far beyond basic math or writing skills.
One of the most impactful parts of Kenney’s story is his lessons regarding forgiveness. Rather than hang on to his anger about being brought up in a dysfunctional family, Rob tried to make peace with his parents when he became older. He never got a chance to mend fences with his mom before she died, but he was able to spend quality time with his dad and forgive him before his passing. One of Kenney’s main teaching points is “nobody’s perfect.”
One gets the sense that this whole experience has been a bit overwhelming for Kenney, but he continues to put out “dad videos.” As of today, Kenney has 2.98 million subscribers. He has tapped into an obvious need. He has plans for a book that will be released later this year. I am honored to be one of his followers, and I invite you to join me.