'Today' Show's Craig Melvin Says Reconciling with His Dad Helped Him Break Unhealthy Parenting Patterns

Of award-winning news anchor Craig Melvin's numerous interviews, his toughest conversation was the one necessary to reconcile with his father so that he could be a better dad to his own kids.

When Today co-host Craig Melvin started the process of writing his book, he gathered recorded conversations with his dad, who struggled with addiction Melvin's whole childhood. In one of the conversations, Melvin's father talked about his own childhood and his relationship with his father. Through those stories, Melvin realized that his imperfect father was still "exponentially better" as a father than his grandfather. That's when he realized that unhealthy parenting behaviors, absentee fathers, addiction—it's all part of a cycle.

"Oftentimes, we expect people to be a certain way when they don't have the tools to be the thing that we want them to be—the person that we want them to be," Melvin said in an interview with Kindred by Parents. "We want every guy to be a great dad. Well, if you grew up in a house with no father or no father figure or dad, how is it reasonable to expect that you can be a great father? If you can't see something, it's very hard to be something."

The award-winning news anchor and father of two with wife Lindsay Czarniak was determined to end the cycle for his own children, Delano, 8, and Sybil Ann, 5. Melvin spoke candidly with Kindred about his book, Pops, Learning to be a Son and a Father, as well as his father, addiction, forgiveness, fatherhood, and reconciliation.

Melvin wrote Pops during the pandemic and credits the book writing process as being cathartic and "cheaper than therapy." A considerable part of the book looks at addiction and what it does to families and the story of Melvin's family, particularly how it impacted the dynamic between himself and his father, Lawrence Melvin. It also digs deep and looks at families, how complicated we all are, and the things that lead to the complications. Many families, of course, can relate to the book. For Black fathers who can see themselves in Melvin's story of his upbringing, the book emphasizes a context often glossed over when the conversation is about fatherhood.

Culturally, Black Americans have long valued romantic partnerships, marriage, and children. However, institutional and structural barriers often prevent them from being able to realize these values, particularly for those who have low incomes.

"I got to a point where I felt terrible for my dad and sorry for him," he said. "I came to see addiction for what it is: a disease that is a weakness. Then, the way I viewed my dad started to change."

And with that, he started to forgive him—not for his dad.

"I had to forgive my father for me, because what had started to happen is I was angry. I was annoyed all the time with him and with my mother for putting up with him," he says. "I was annoyed by him directly and indirectly, and our relationship was, it was a cold war." More importantly, it wasn't the kind of relationship Melvin wanted his son to see.

"That was part of my motivation. Years ago, my therapist said, 'when you have kids, one of the chief goals is just to not screw them up. You don't want to put all the baggage that you have on your kids," he said. That bagage, he said, showed up in the way he interacted with his kids. He found himself interacting with them in ways that he says were unproductive.

"I had to break that cycle. And part of reconciling with my dad, it helped break the cycle."

Once Pops was published, Melvin quickly learned how many people see themselves in his story. Either they were an addict themselves, loved someone who's an addict, or they lost someone to addiction. Melvin receives tons of emails from people who relate to his story, or they will see him out on the plaza or at the airport and walk up to him to talk about it. He's proud of Pops and how it encourages families to talk and heal. And while he's also very proud of his children, his work, and his marriage, he's really proud of the work he's done with his father to heal their relationship and, ultimately, their family.

"It is very difficult to overstate how estranged we had become and how estranged he had become from the rest of the family," he said. "I'm proud of the fact that we brought him back into the fold, and he is the kind of grandfather that I wish I'd had as a father. He's making up for lost time in a big way."

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