There’s a joke in my family about the time when I—all of 19 or 20 years old and living in an apartment with my own kitchen for the first time—emailed my dad to ask him, “What’s a marinade?” To this day, I also still have a copy of the very kind, very detailed instructions he sent me for how to make mashed potatoes.
“If they appear too stiff (like paste), add a touch of milk,” he wrote to me. “By that, I mean no more than a couple of capfuls—just enough to get it wet. Add any additional milk sparingly, because once it’s in there, you can’t take it out, and you don’t want runny potatoes.”
This is an important part of parenting that can often be overlooked—we need our parents to raise us to be able to go out on our own and function in the world, but once we leave home to do just that, we realise there are loads of little skills we still need to learn. What do you do when your faucet leaks or your car battery dies or you have to hand-wash a shirt for the first time? If you’re lucky, like me, you call your mum or dad. But if that’s not an option, the “Dad, how do I?” guy is trying to help fill the gap.
Rob Kenney told Shattered Magazine that his own father abandoned him decades ago when he was a teenager. He started his “Dad, how do I?” YouTube channel in April as a way to help and support young adults whose parents are absent from their lives:
“My goal in my life was to raise good adults,” Rob said. “I never wanted to be wealthy. I never wanted to be necessarily successful. My goal in life was to raise good adults—not good children but good adults—because I had a fractured childhood.”
Once he accomplished that goal in his 50s, Rob realised he still possessed a lot of wisdom, learning and insight—useful tools for the younger generation. Rob always wanted to make a series of videos detailing important lessons not taught in high school—lessons like ironing a shirt.
Kenney has posted about a dozen short video tutorials so far, on topics ranging from personal hygiene to minor car and home repairs. Here are some of my favourites:
Kenney also likes to throw in a good dad joke on occasion, such as during the “how to use a stud finder” video, which he opens with this line: “OK, so today, I’m going to show you how to use a stud-finder. If you came here looking for help finding a boyfriend, that would be a different ‘stud-finder.’” An excellent dad joke, that.
He is also disarmingly genuine, which is likely why the comments under each video are filled with touching stories of appreciation from viewers who lost their own parents at a young age—or are estranged from them—and were never taught some of the basic skills Kenney is trying to impart. One commenter described him as “the Mr. Rogers for adults that we didn’t even know we needed.”
Kenney releases a new “How To” video every Thursday and has announced he’ll soon start a “Tool Tuesday” segment, in which he’ll highlight different tools and their uses.