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Actor Ben Falcone learned a lot about being a dad from his own father, Steve Falcone. For a while, Ben's mother worked and Steve was a stay-at-home dad. (He eventually landed a job at a local community college.)
"In that interim, it was tough," Steve says. "Of course it was tough. My wife was a genius at making do, feeding us beautifully with very little money."
It was tough for Ben, too. Getting dropped off by his dad at school in their $100 car was mortifying. Then one day, something happened that changed his perspective: He was about to get beaten up by school bullies when one of them stopped short. He'd seen the car and took pity on Ben because he was "poor."
Ben says, "I think the irony of this crappy, crappy car saving me from a for-sure horrible beating ... has definitely colored who I am in some way."
In fact, Ben often told stories about what it was like growing up with his dad. "I would get laughs at parties doing it," he says. "... Then, hitting middle age, or wherever I am right now, I think I started worrying that I would forget the stories."
So he decided to write them down. His new book is called Being a Dad is Weird. In honor of Father's Day, he and his dad spoke to NPR about the funny of side of fatherhood.
On their advice for fathers
Ben: The main thing that I really think about in terms of being a parent is love your kids and show up, and that's sort of present in all of the chapters. Probably one of the chapters I think about is "Always Support Your Children" — even when they lose their way and take their waiter job way too seriously, which is something that I did when I was struggling. ...
Steve: Don't sweat the small stuff, you know? I don't believe there is a manual that comes with parenting. The biggest thing is what Ben has said. If I could, [I'd] tell every parent there are no part-time parents. You've got to be there 24/7. And once you've done that, you'll know your kid, your kid will know you, and you'll know what to do.
On a memorable father-son moment
Steve: I also said to my sons one time, "I know you're going to drink, but if you're in a bad situation call me." Ben was out with a bunch of the guys and they were really ripped. And he called me and I came and got him. And I was really proud of him for having the guts to [say], "Take me home, Dad. This situation's out of hand."
Ben: By the way, that situation, I was at [a showing of] Back to the Future 2 and just seeing Michael J. Fox riding around on that magic skateboard ... got my tummy real upset. So I barfed in his car.
When he says he's proud of me, he was proud. But I did have to clean up the barf.
On Steve's favorite story from the book
Steve: Ben and I, we'd gone to Key West and we're on our way back. And I said to Ben, "Oh, don't you love [that] the sky's bigger here?"
And he said, "Really?"
And I said, "Yeah, sure."
He said, "Why is that? ... Because we're closer to the equator?"
I said, "Yeah."
He said, "Pop, are you full of s***?"
I said, "Yeah, I think I am."
And he said, "About everything?"
I said, "Sometimes."
Radio producer Ashley Young, radio editor Jennifer Liberto, digital producer Nicole Cohen and digital intern Sydnee Monday contributed to this story.
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