Rob Kenney, a father of two adult children, has become a heartwarming YouTube sensation by cobbling together a dozen videos that have a touching purpose: As someone whose father walked out on his family when Kenney was a kid, he wants to use his channel — aptly titled “Dad, How Do I?” — to teach young people how to deal with basic household tasks that he had to learn on his own.
His simple tutorials, released on Thursdays, have garnered more than 2.1 million views and his channel has topped 1.3 million subscribers since it went live early last month.
The homespun handyman — whose Instagram bio says he offers “Practical Dadvice for Everyday Tasks” — covers chores such as fixing sink clogs and “most running toilets,” checking a car’s oil and changing a tire, ironing a dress shirt and shaving. His first video — “How to tie a tie” — dropped on April 2 and has been viewed more than 240,000 times.
Kenney’s drive to pay it forward comes from a dark period in his upbringing. One of eight children, he says he grew up in Bellevue, Washington, in a home rattled by “dysfunction” and fractured by an acrimonious divorce when he was a teen, according to an interview with Shattered magazine last month.
“He got custody of us, but he didn’t really want us. I think he was kind of done by that time,” Kenney says of his father.
Now he’s putting his acquired knowledge out into the world in hopes of making it a better place — or at least easier to navigate.
“The pain is pretty real in our world, and hopefully, this’ll help alleviate some of it,” says Kenney, whose videos could come in handy for many holed-up people surviving on their own during the coronavirus lockdown.
“It’s more than just how to fix things; it’s how to manage your life and ‘adulting’ questions,” he continues in the video. “We thought maybe it’d be beneficial to a few people, and I thought if I could help a few, then I’d be happy.”
It seems to be working. Hundreds of comments grace his posts from fans who find his know-how useful.
“I’m watching this cuz’ I’m 24 and my dad promised to hang a shelf in my bedroom,” says one commenter on a video about doing just that. “It has been 12 years now.”
“My father passed away when I was about 7, and literally never got to teach me any of this,” says another on Kenney’s tie-tying tutorial. “Funny to say that after all theses [sic] years, but anyway I busted [sic] wanted to give you a BIG THANKS for making videos like this for people like me.”
Kenney also made a “heartfelt” appreciation video to supporters, which he posted May 19 and titled “THANK YOU!”
“You guys are amazing,” says Kenney, who adds that he just wants to “empower” viewers.
“Please know I don’t think I’ve cornered the market on how to fix things. You know, just being a dad and … stuff comes up and I’ve just gotta figure out how to do it.”
He says he’s also heard comments about being the “perfect dad,” but he instead says he’s “an internet dad.”
“Please understand I didn’t always do everything right with my kids,” he says in a particularly reflective moment. “If I fail, if you’re gonna fail as a dad; it’s part of the human experience. You aren’t gonna always do things right, so I think it’s very important to ask for forgiveness and not pretend that you’ve got it all figured out. ‘Cause your kids are gonna find out sooner or later that you don’t have it figured out when they grow up, right?
“They don’t remain little for long; the window that you have them is such a short time,” he says.
He even tosses in a cheesy “dad joke” for good measure: “Did you hear the rumor about the butter? Well, I’m not gonna spread it.”
Kenney ends his message of thanks on an uplifting note, quoting a lyric by alt-rock group Switchfoot, who ask, “Is this the world you want?”
“Well, you’re making it every day you’re alive. And I really take that to heart,” he says. “ ’Cause it is true: if we all each did our own little bit, then the world would be such a better place. I know the internet can be toxic, and it’s sad that it’s that way ’cause it just shouldn’t be that way.
“We need to be kind to each other,” he says.