Meet a Dad: Author & TODAY Show Co-Host Craig Melvin - Dallas Metro Moms

Journalist Craig Melvin is familiar to viewers of NBC’s TODAY show as co-anchor of the must-watch morning program. But to his son Delano (10), and daughter Sybil (7), who he shares with broadcaster Lindsay Czarniak, he’s Dad.

Craig is also the author of a newly released children’s book, I’m Proud of You, a celebration of the small, but important milestones in a child’s life. The CT-based father says he hopes his children view it as a testament to him noticing each special moment: “This book is a living document that I’ll hold up to them when they’re teenagers to show that I was paying attention and that I’m so proud of them for all of the ways that they’re growing.”

In his Meet a Dad interview, Craig Melvin gives us his take on gentle parenting, putting his phone away around the kids, and the advice that has carried him through fatherhood.

Craig Melvin's new book

I’m Proud of You is all about celebrating milestones.  What is it about the small moments in parenting that you want to elevate?

I found that I was starting to miss the small moments or take them for granted.  So I decided to document the micro moments that we have a front seat to as parents, like tying a shoe for example.  You see your kid work at it for months.  Then one day they tie their shoe and you celebrate and say, “You did it!”  Or there’s trepidation about climbing a diving board and they work up to it and you see them jump…and then you can’t get them off the diving board.  I like to catch them in the moment and say, “Oh my goodness, I remember when you were scared and now you’re so confident!” I wanted to document these milestones both for myself and to encourage other parents to stop and recognize them as well.

I also wanted to recognize the emotional development I was seeing in my kids.  We want our kids to become productive members of society and we think we’re doing it right, teaching them sharing and generosity and kindness. Again, I like to catch them living out these values and say, “Wait, did you just empathize? Did I see you being kind to your sister?” So I wanted to shine a spotlight on the emotional growth happening as well.

You’ve been open about trying to be the father to your children that you didn’t have growing up. What encouragement would you give to parents working to break generational cycles?

As a society we tend to overcorrect, and as parents that’s also true. We live in an age of gentle parenting. I didn’t experience this. I knew my parents loved me but they certainly didn’t tell me every day. Their love language was food, shelter, clothing, and a safe home. Because we didn’t hear it as often as perhaps we should, we now tell our kids we love them and that we are proud of them all the time.

My wife and I try to couple some of the gentle parenting with the parenting of yesteryear.  It’s a delicate dance. Sometimes, I worry that we are raising snowflakes…where’s their resilience? I counter that by telling them stories of my childhood. My parents didn’t take a poll before dinner to gauge what would be served. This idea that we care about all of the opinions and feelings doesn’t work all the time. Some days we care and some days we cannot. I like to remind them that they can’t weigh in on everything because they don’t have a job to pay for it. There’s space for their feelings and emotions, but ultimately, we are the parents.

Give us a glimpse into your family dynamic. Are you the strict dad or the fun dad-or both!

A little of both!  My kids would say that too.  I am the fun dad, dancing with my daughter and playing roller coaster and throwing the kids in the pool. I’m also the dad who stands firm when it’s time to go to bed. When my wife travels for work, they moan about my bedtime routine because there’s no negotiating for more time.  I need to be awake in 6 hours for work!

I remind them, “I love you.  My job is to keep you safe and healthy.  That’s what I’m charged with.  Everything else is gravy.  If you’re happy, I’m happy.  But your happiness isn’t what’s keeping me up at night…your health is. I’m your father, I’m not your friend.”

I think bad things can happen when kids view parents as their friends.

Craig Melvin and his family

Your career is exciting and also demanding. We ask moms all the time how they balance a family and career, so we want to ask you the same thing: how do you make it work?  And how do you create uninterrupted time together?

The answer is that we enjoy a lot of help, from babysitters and others. When I’m home I’m physically present. Yes, I could do some of the tasks around the house that we pay people to do, but ultimately, they take me away from the kids. My time is my most valuable asset.  Where the kids are, I want to be. The phone has become an appendage in our lives, so I do my best to keep the cell phone at bay in the house.

What’s the dad advice that you lean on over and over again as your kids grow?

“This too shall pass.” My grandmother used to say it all the time and now I know better what it means. Things are never as bad as you think and, conversely, they’re never as good. I use this advice to guide me personally and professionally. If a chapter is being written that you don’t enjoy, just give it time and a new chapter will take its place.