Briace Stubbs leaned down to eye level with his son and wiped the 4-year-old's nose. The little boy laughed and swatted his dad's hand away. Stubbs leaned in and patted his boy on the shoulder.
Stubbs walks his children — first-grader Donajha and pre-kindergartener Bravion — into school every day, but this day was special.
Friday morning was the inaugural Take Your Child to School Day at seven Oklahoma City schools. Nearly 300 fathers or father figures took part.
Fathers and father figures dropped off students for the special event Friday morning at Douglass Mid-High School, Edwards Elementary, Edgemere Elementary, KIPP Academy, Martin Luther King Elementary, Moon Academy and Parks Elementary.
Stubbs was one of about 80 dads at Martin Luther King, 1201 NE 48.
“If you have a male role model in your life, it's important, especially these days,” Stubbs said. “I bring them to school every morning. ... It makes them feel more confident.”
Donajha, 6, said it makes her happy that her dad brings her.
“I like when he does that,” she said. “If he doesn't come with us, I'm kind of freaking out. It feels good that he comes with us.”
The dads dressed up in suits and ties and dressed down in T-shirts and shorts. They put on stickers that read “I Took My Child to School Today.”
One man with graying hair held hands with a girl who barely came up to his waist. He carried her purple backpack covered in hot pink hearts and peace signs.
A tall girl with braided hair tugged at her dad's collared shirt, prodding him to hurry to the cafeteria to get breakfast.
“The kids are so proud,” Principal Ethel Grubbs said. “They're so excited when their dads are in the building. If you've got somebody to encourage you, you work so much harder. It really makes a difference.”
Students picked up breakfast in the cafeteria and took their dads to class. After a few minutes in the classroom, dads met in the school library.
The dads heard from event organizer Calvin Williams, director of fatherhood services at Public Strategies, an Oklahoma City-based company that offers a program called TRUE Dads Oklahoma. TRUE Dads is a series of free events and workshops to support fathers.
“Fathering is hard, last time I checked,” Williams said. “Most times you don't know if you're doing it right or well.”
Williams encouraged the fathers to support one another and be active with their children. Afterward, Williams said he hopes the dads realized how common the struggles and pressure of fatherhood are.
“Very quietly, these men were strengthened,” he said. “The fact they aren't alone means something.”