When we think about ideal fathers, many of our minds focus on iconic television dads—Mike Brady from “The Brady Bunch,” Carl Winslow from “Family Matters” or the now incredibly popular and tear-inducing Jack Pearson from “This Is Us.”
But what does it look like to be a father in the 21st century and tackle today’s real-life challenges? What’s the secret ingredient to raising healthy, well-adjusted kids who aren’t consumed by smartphones and social media?
For Terrence Miles, Sr. and his wife, Brecea—of Slidell, La.—successfully raising their four sons (all under the age of 12!), includes lots of love, engagement and an annual family vacation that includes attending the National PTA Convention & Expo. While a National PTA Convention may not seem like a typical family vacation destination, Miles and his family use the event to bond, connect, learn and bring valuable lessons back to their community.
For Miles, education and parental involvement were natural cornerstones for building a strong family. “My wife and I are both children of teachers. My dad is a retired teacher, and my mother-in-law is still in the classroom. We’ve
seen firsthand the results of parental involvement in a child’s education,” said Miles. “So it was very easy for us to follow in our parents’ footsteps when we started our own family. I believe it’s extremely vital to be involved because there are so many other distractions for kids now.”
Terrence and Brecea began their PTA journey six years ago when their now 11-year-old twins, Timothy and Terrence, Jr., were in kindergarten at Bayou Woods Elementary School in St. Tammany Parish, La.
“We showed up for a PTA meeting that had about seven members,” Miles said. “Most of the previous board members were gone and they went down a list of available positions. I raised my hand and said, ‘I’d love to be involved.’ And just like that, the person leading the meeting said, ‘Okay, great. You’re going to be our president.'” Miles’ first task as PTA president was getting more parents connected with their children. This issue was close to his heart.
“Today’s kids spend a lot of time in front of video games, i-Pads and smartphones,” he said. “It’s extremely vital for parents to still make sure that they’re playing that major role in their kid’s life and education.” Another big initiative Miles focused on during his PTA presidency was getting more fathers involved.
“Over the years, I would often be the only male figure or one of a few men who showed up for PTA activities,” said Miles. “My focus was to make sure that we took the time to figure out different ways to get fathers connected, from our Donuts with Dad program to offering both daytime and evening events to keep them engaged. I really wanted to give them an opportunity to connect when it was well suited for them.”
Miles and his PTA board also focused on engaging older members of the community with an annual Grandparents’ Breakfast during the holiday season and several successful back-to-school supply drives.
Terrence and Brecea have both served as vice president of their local PTA and in other leadership positions including secretary, treasurer and hospitality secretary. Outside of their PTA board roles, the Miles duo set a high bar for the other parents at their sons’ schools—they have attended every single field trip with their boys.
The couple is so popular and dependable that the teachers at each of their sons’ schools—Bayou Woods Elementary for their younger two sons, Talon, 8, and Tyson, 6, and now Carolyn Park Middle School with their 11-year-old twins—wait for them to return their permission slips so that they can set up groups of kids with each parent.
While he and his wife enjoy adding this extra layer of parental involvement with their sons, Miles admits that he’s just trying to be the hip dad.
“My sons still enjoy hanging around us for now, so we are going to try to be cool for as long as we can,” said Miles.
As Terrence and Brecea saw the positive effects of their PTA involvement in their sons’ lives, they decided to take
their involvement beyond their local community and attend their first National PTA Convention as a family in Austin, Texas in 2014.
But how exactly do you get four elementary-aged kids excited about attending a national leadership convention?
“Well, that’s easy. They don’t have a choice,” Miles laughed. He believes the National PTA Convention & Expo has
allowed his family to learn and grow.
“It gives us an opportunity to meet people from other parts of the country,” he added. “It gives our kids positive exposure and an opportunity to build a foundation, and hopefully one day they will understand the importance of getting involved in their child’s education, too.”
Miles always ensures that he makes the convention experience enjoyable for the entire family. During the convention in Orlando in 2016, Miles and his wife extended their stay to take their boys to Walt Disney World, and in every city,
they enjoy taking in as much local cuisine as possible.
“My boys have a very disciplined schedule at home, so I love being able to take our sons out of their normal routine,” Miles said. “The energy and the vibe of [the national convention] is so positive and exciting. It’s a great thing for my sons to see.”
In addition to the significant impact on his family, Miles also uses the National PTA Convention as an opportunity to
“It’s such a great boost after you’ve had a long year. You’ve planned, you’ve built your budget, you’ve done fundraising, and you’ve been volunteering for hours on end,” said Miles. “Being able to go to the national convention gives me an opportunity to get away, meet some new people, get new ideas and come back excited for the next year fueled with all of this great ammunition.”
Attending National PTA conventions also give Terrence and Brecea the opportunity to find solutions for their local PTA initiatives.
“Sometimes it feels like you’re the only person in the whole world going through one issue or you’re the only people
who can’t figure out how to work their budget,” said Miles. “After going to the national conventions, we now have a
greater understanding of the principles that the PTA is built on. We come back home with a greater voice for other
Miles also notes that it has been a great learning opportunity for him to experience voting process during the general meeting during the national convention.
“Sometimes on a local level, we think we have an understanding of the bylaws and standing rules, but to be a voting
delegate and to have an opportunity to add your voice to a resolution is something that you don’t want to miss out on,” he added.
While Terrence is already getting his family’s plans in gear to attend the 2018 National PTA Convention in his
hometown, New Orleans, the devoted father says that the best part of being connected with the PTA is simply being
known and recognized by his sons’ friends.
“Our boys love for their friends to know our names,” said Miles. “We’ll be out at Wal-Mart or the grocery store and we’ll hear ‘There’s Mr. Miles!’ or ‘That’s Mrs. Miles!’ The PTA has been such a great avenue for my wife and I to be actively involved in our sons’ lives and we know that being connected to our sons’ education will pay off for years to come.”
Leah Lakins is a writer, editor and founder of Fresh Eyes Editorial Services. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.