Aaron Johnson and Cliff Knopik, the odd couple of young parenthood, sit together in Johnson’s Puyallup dining room while his newborn daughter, Brooklyn, sleeps in a bedroom nearby. His wife, Heather, makes dinner in their small apartment kitchen.
A laptop, two microphones, and a soundboard clutter the round table in front of them, as they settle in for a half-hour of Who’s Your Daddy, a radio show-like podcast of not-so-typical guy talk: choking hazards, umbilical chords, creepy children’s books, and breast feeding in public. Nothing’s sacred for these two young fathers who feel their quirky take on parenthood is worth sharing.
Aaron and Cliff met at church and quickly discovered they had a lot in common, including parenthood, funny bones, and degrees from Washington State University. Johnson graduated in 2003, and Cliff earned a social sciences degree in 2004 through the Distance Degree Program.
Creating a podcast that they transmit on the Internet was Aaron’s idea. The medium has been around for several years, but over the past year it has gone mainstream. “I thought, man I really want to do one,” says Aaron. “I like that it’s free and not regulated.” And “all you need is headphones, a mike, and a way to record.”
He started to think about what was interesting and important in his life, pondering a subject he’d like to discuss and explore in front of listeners. The fact that he was on his way to becoming a father was paramount. There aren’t a whole lot of resources just for guys out there, he says. And with what there is, you still have to become your own expert, he adds. It also helped that his friend, Cliff, had two young children, a healthy sense of humor about parenting, and radio know-how.
So in August 2005, they kicked off their show with their first broadcast, tackling the topic of baby furniture. That first time, Cliff wondered what to expect from Aaron when they turned on the mikes. “But then Aaron said, ‘Welcome to Who’s Your Daddy. This is not a show about who your daddy is,’ and I knew the tone,” says Cliff.
When they’re not parenting or podcasting, they’re working. Cliff is a Web manager for a cable and networking supply company. Aaron is working construction while looking for a position that would allow him use of his criminal justice degree.
For both, this podcast is a weekly obsession. As they go through their days, they make notes on their experiences, creating fodder for airtime. But that doesn’t mean they don’t ad lib. “Once you hit record, it’s amazing what you think of,” says Cliff. On the day we visited (Episode 15) Aaron decided mid-broadcast to share a special souvenir—his new baby’s umbilical cord scab, which had fallen off during the week, and which he had saved in a sandwich baggie. Cliff picked the baggie up and pronounced, “Holy cow . . . I hope it’s Brooklyn’s.” And a whole conversation was sparked about umbilical cords.
Aaron and Cliff give voice to an oft-unheard sector of society. At first they wondered if they were the only two fathers on earth who cared about things like getting your kids to eat vegetables, Santa, and the Promise Keepers convention in Tacoma. They soon found that their effort was attracting listeners from around the world. “I look at it as kind of an escape for the other fathers,” says Aaron. But it’s also an escape for them. “This is my one hobby right now,” says Cliff, as he packs up his gear and gets ready to drive home to his wife, Kree, and children, Emmy and Orion.