News & Politics

The Blogger Beat: DC Urban Dad

This week, Matt—a.k.a. DC Urban Dad—talks about fatherhood, running, and, of course, his adorable 14-month-old daughter.

DC Urban Dad's Matt with his daughter, Mini-Kamp, outside their Mount Pleasant home. Photograph by Chris Leaman

Daddy blogger Matt likes to keep his last name under wraps, and he won’t spill the beans about his daughter’s first name, either. So he calls her Mini-Kamp. “One of my coworkers came up with the moniker before she was born,” he says. “She just said, ‘So when is the little Mini-Kamp due?’—referring to my last name. It just fit.”

On his blog, DC Urban Dad, Matt documents his day-to-day life as a first-time father—and all the joy, mishaps, and hilarity that go along with it. He says the blog started as a way to keep friends and family up to date on his wife Amy’s pregnancy and, once Mini-Kamp was born, to post pictures of the latest addition to the family. Then other parents started reading the blog, he says, so he’s kept it going for nearly two years.

Matt’s latest venture, which he posts about on his blog, is a weekend running group for dads with stroller-bound tykes called DC Dads on the Run. “It’s our time to talk about work, sports, raising kids, politics—you name it,” he says. The group can usually be spotted Saturdays or Sundays on Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park or at Hains Point.

We caught up with Matt, a Mount Pleasant resident, to find out what it’s like to be a parent in Washington. What’s his favorite kid-friendly (and free!) activity? Where does he go for an adults-only date? And how the heck does he pass those middle-of-the-night-when-Mini-Kamp-won’t-sleep hours? Read on for his answers.

Number of kids you plan on having:
“When we discussed kids prior to getting married and even during, we always thought we’d have two. Even though my wife and I both come from families of three, two seems like the perfect table. Plus, it’s the right ratio of parents to kids. I know some people say it’s not a family until you’re outnumbered, but we’ll stick with two.”

Name you’d give a boy:
“I grew up with two sisters. My wife has two sisters. All of my dogs except for one have been females. I’m destined to be surrounded by women. Plus, I’m comfortable and look good in pink.”

Number of hours of sleep lost since becoming a dad:
“Honestly, who the heck knows? Let’s go with . . . a lot. Now I know what my parents went through. You lose sleep when she’s up and not asleep. You lose sleep worrying about her when she’s asleep. But hey, the trade off is worth it.”

How you passed the middle-of-the-night hours when Mini-Kamp was born:
“Watching bad movies and infomercials. Surfing the Net. Writing. Reading other blogs and commenting. Tweeting. Wishing I could sleep.”

Best thing about being a dad in Washington:
“This city really has the best of both worlds. It’s got all the perks of an urban environment—shops, lots of restaurants with outdoor seating, and public transportation—along with the perks of suburbia, too, such as small neighborhoods, parks, grass, and greenery. We have the museums, the arts, history, trails, diversity, and the Obamas. It really is a great place.”

Your thoughts on urban living with a family:
“I never really imagined myself having a family in an urban environment. I grew up in eastern North Carolina. The biggest shock about moving up here was the different sounds. I can remember heading back to North Carolina, rolling down the windows late at night, and hearing crickets. You don’t get that in DC. You have to really work to find that.”

Most sanity-saving toy at your house:
“We have all sorts of toys, books, and dolls. We’ve even spent a fair share of cash on fancy European toys. And what does she love? A $2, run-of-the-mill plastic ball from Target. It’s true what they say about kids: All they’re really interested in is the box or the wrapping paper. It doesn’t take much to get their imagination going.”

Most obnoxious toy you wish you could return:
“We have a singing duck that she loves that sings a variation of the chicken dance. Honestly, listening to that over and over is my personal version of hell. Oh, also this past weekend we got our first Elmo. The chattering Elmo. I have officially started my love/hate relationship with that furry little beast.”

Favorite daddy/daughter running route:
“When I’m with the other daddies, we take over Beach Drive—there’s lots of room to run and the comforts of shade—but if I’m on my own, I prefer running at the National Zoo. I start from the very bottom and run all the way through to the top, weaving in and out of traffic. It feels like it’ll never end and you have plenty of obstacles to weave through.”

Favorite rainy-day activity:
“Nothing is better than spending a rainy afternoon snuggling on the sofa. I’m looking forward to afternoons of laying on the couch watching football. Unfortunately, Mini-Kamp will be cursed to be a Skins fan just like me.”

Three can’t-miss things to do for free with kids in Washington:
“What we look for are places where our little one can roam free, where she can cut loose. We live near the zoo and love to head over to the Pizza Garden. It’s covered and has plenty of room for her to play. Speaking of room, nothing beats the National Building Museum. It’s perfect for parents looking to wear their children out while letting them be creative, too. Another great location is the National Arboretum, where your child can feed the koi.”

Best restaurant for a night out with kids:
“You know, this city really does have a number of restaurants perfect for the kiddies. Open City, 2 Amys, Cactus Cantina, Dino. Still nothing beats grabbing the stroller and walking down to Tonic in Mount Pleasant for a burger and a beer, then chicken strips and tater tots for the Mini-Kamp. Seriously, tater tots: Is there anything more perfect? I’m now starving.”

Where you go for an adults-only date:
“My wife and I try to find at least one night a month to have a date night. It’s important to keep that bond tight. The last thing I want to do is wake up when our kid is off at college and look at my wife and be like, ‘Um, who are you?’ However, without family close by and the lack of free childcare, a date night gets pretty expensive. If we do get out, a good dinner and a movie is on tap—say Bardeo and then a movie at the Uptown. Maybe some dessert afterward at Dino. That’s the perfect night.”

Best way to unwind at the end of the day:
“A good beer over dinner is a nice way to chill out, but that usually puts me right to sleep. I know it sounds corny, but I’d rather take a walk around the neighborhood with the family. We’ll walk down to Heller’s Bakery and get a few cookies for dessert then head home.”

Favorite local parenting blog besides your own:

“I have four, actually: A Parent in Silver Spring, Rude Cactus, Scary Mommy, and Sarah and the Goon Squad.”

Next week, we hit the kitchen with Mary Cunningham from the Arugula Files. We talk farmers markets, home cooking, and how to make the most of leftovers. Come back on Wednesday for the interview!

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