Lenn Kaptain was looking for a way to bond with his kindergarten-aged daughter when he signed up for the YMCA’s Y-Indian Princesses program. Known today as the Adventure Guides, the three-year experience is designed to strengthen the relationship between children and their fathers.
(ABOVE: Lenn Kaptain poses with his book, 13 Years of Tigua. Photo by Bianca R. Montes)
Kaptain, who had done a similar program with both of his sons, said he signed up for the outdoor-focused program with his daughter because he quickly realized how different his relationship was with her compared to his boys.
“Dad’s need to be more involved with their daughters and they’re getting further and further away from that,” Kaptain said. “I just wanted to be there.”
September 2003 marked the beginning of something special for Kaptain and the group of eight other fathers and daughters that made up Tigua – the tribe’s name. That first Sunday morning, driving home from Possum Kingdom Lake with a sleeping daughter in the front seat, Kaptain reflected on how the girls were quickly becoming sisters, “but unbeknownst to the dads, we were in the early stages of brotherhood,” he wrote in the opening chapters of his book 13 Years of Tigua.
What he didn’t anticipate on that ride home was that he and the other dads would go rogue before spring.
“The only thing that matters in this whole world is relationships with your family. I just want us fathers to be there.” -Lenn Kaptain
The YMCA program, which continues today, is scheduled around three annual events; a daddy-daughter dance and campouts in the spring and fall. Planning that second get-together proved troublesome for the busy fathers, and Kaptain said trying to match their availability with the upcoming spring campout was like nailing Jell-O to a tree.
However, that’s not where their story ends. It’s kind of where it begins.
Instead of letting go of the opportunity to teach their daughters about sleeping under the stars, hunting, and jumping over fires, the dads decided to go at it alone. Their decision went far beyond the third-grade cutoff of the Y’s program and formed a tradition that’s spanned 16 years and lingers with a couple of the fathers at 5 a.m. coffee get-togethers twice a week and an annual campout now that the girls are in college.
In his book, Kaptain recounts the twice-a-year renegade campouts the fathers planned, the father-daughter dances that followed, and how a loosely knit group of giggling kindergarteners bonded with their dads.
It wasn’t always easy, he said.
“It’s like I said in the book when they’re young girls we want to keep them close and pretty soon time takes them out of our arms,” Kaptain explained. “You don’t realize it’s happening until it happens.”
Kaptain first decided to write the book to preserve the memories. However, much like his camp story, the book evolved to so much more. He wanted to encourage dads to spend one-on-one time with their daughters in a small group of like-minded dads and to illustrate the significance of the dads forming long-lasting relationships.
“The only thing that matters in this whole world is relationships with your family,” he said. “I just want us fathers to be there.”
On Sunday, April 7 a book signing will be held at the Tom Thumb in Snider Plaza from 2:00 to 4:00.