Our 838th Dad in the Limelight is Actor Michael Fishman of the sitcom Roseanne. I want to thank Michael Fishman for being a part of this series. It has been great getting connected with him and now sharing Michael Fishman with all of you.
1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)
My name is Michael Fishman, I am probably best known by most people for playing D.J. Conner on the television show Roseanne. Although, in many circles I am better known as a Dad, Husband or Coach.
2) Tell me about your family
My wife, Jennifer and I have been together 19 years. My son Aaron is 18 and graduating from high school, and my daughter Isabelle is a freshman.
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
The largest challenge for me as a father is balancing my responsibility to be guiding disciplinarian, with my preference to be fun loving clown at home. I love to play around with my kids, go on adventures and spend time together but its imperative I have high expectations for them.
When my kids were little my wife was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease. It required us to alter how we organized our house, and ultimately in many ways it pushed them to take on greater awareness and responsibility at times.
I ask my kids constantly what they think, how they feel, and what their goals are. Then I really push for them to excel and surpass them. I really check in often. making sure they are on their own course, with my guidance.
I push education hard. Trying to balance the desire for them to be their best, with the reality that we all have strengths and weaknesses can be difficult. Really learning what areas they excel at, figuring out what is full effort versus natural childhood distractions.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
Be your best version of what you think a father should be. No two kids are the same, two households are never exactly alike. I know I have made a ton of mistakes, so I get a little nervous giving other Dad’s advice. Here is what I try to do:
- Talk often and openly – admit my mistakes
- If you want to know what is going on, you have to listen. I bite my tongue a lot! My kids don’t think so though.
- Treat your partner well – I want my kids to know we are a team, and respect is mutual
- They might marry someone just like you one day
- Play with your kids – I always wanted to do more things with my Dad. I try to be an extremely active Dad. I figured being a super young Dad, I didn’t have as many resources, or as much life experience so I dedicated time and energy. Doing things together at any age is powerful!
- You earn trust when you’re teammates, gain bragging rights when you compete, reveal character in success or defeat, shared time is memories you never forget.
- Teach them early!!! – Kids are sponges.
- My wife is my hero because my kids academic success is undoubtedly due to her dedication when they were little. She read to them constantly, went over letters, numbers, basic math, basic reading, the foundation is what they build on. I teach concepts, life skills, and large ideas. We talk about everything and anything – I am often the most uncomfortable.
- Don’t mettle in their friendships or relationships – We all want to know but let them tell you
- I don’t choose my kids friends, or their love interests. My job is to model healthy relationships, then try desperately to see how they feel, and make sure their relationships are positive. I point out things people do toward them I am uncomfortable with occasionally but for the most part I try to just encourage them to value themselves, and eliminate those who don’t.
- Be silly – Often as a Dad we are protectors or disciplinarians
- We dance, tell jokes, make fun of things, I occasionally like to try and embarrass my kids in public if their giving me a hard time. I grew in the Conner household, not a lot of shame here…
- Notes – I send my kids emails, leave them notes, and text all the time
- Maybe it is something that inspires me, makes me think about them. My son gets science articles, biology topics, and college info. My daughter gets pictures of animals, nature, or strange people. Both get sports quotes, baseball/softball videos, or schedule updates. I want them to know they are on my mind, and I share anything I think they might be interested in.
- Goals – Help them set goals. Help them surpass them to be successful
- Small goals get things started. Medium goals change habits and big goals change lives. Their small goes should lead to the medium ones, mediums are portions of large goals.
- Eat together – We make meals family time
- This one is hard, especially depending on jobs and schedules. Some nights we eat dinner at10 PM just to be together. We unplug, turn of distraction, and we never complain about the food. We all cook, my wife does the majority, but we agree not to lie about liking it, but value the other person’s time, effort and kindness.
- BE AFFECTIONATE!!! – Hug your kids, cuddle, put your arm around them, show them love.
- I know this sounds strange to many men. My Dad wasn’t overtly affectionate with me, but affection has a powerful impact on life. Humans are communal, social beings, positive physical contact is important. My son went through a phase when he didn’t want affection. That said, I have always gotten a hug every night before he goes to bed. My daughter too. I want the last thing they feel each night to be the fact that I love them. Especially if I had to be a tough Dad that day. Some days I might need that hug more than they do. There is something special about when you disagree but at the end of the day you come together.
5) How have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
You have to set priorities, boundaries, and have a clear hierarchy. For me my kids come first. They always have. They didn’t choose me, or to be here. I made that choice for them, so I feel I owed them a level of dedication befitting the monumental annoyance of being stuck with me for the first eighteen years of life. My reward if I do it right is they choose to come back and spend time with me after their free.
All kidding aside, during production there are times I am not home a lot. We work long hours on some projects. A few times when my kids were little, my wife drove my kids to me during my dinner break so we could share a meal. Occasionally, I travel for work which means we have to find our time through technology. I have been home most of my kid’s childhood. We lived below our means on a budget so I could be home more.
Working as an actor, your job is very public. When my kids were little I was very selective about what I did because I wanted them to have a largely conventional childhood. Sometimes people push the boundaries of public and private life. I love fans, I appreciate their support, understand their excitement, but kids should be insulated and respected. Positive, kind people, are always welcome and can teach us a lot.
I try to include my kids in almost everything. They never saw me do improv or stand up because the venues required them to be older, but we do almost everything together. I think the easiest way to balance most things is to include your kids in it. Most often if my kids can’t go, or I am not comfortable with them being there it largely isn’t a great idea in the first place.
We go to a lot of sporting events, I coach, we hike, travel, take road trips, explore new places, pretty much everything I want to do I just find a way to make it for the whole family. Some things I had to wait to share, it made me value that experience together even more.
6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
It will sound cliche but it goes incredibly fast! People tell you how fast but with one about to leave for college and another right behind him I wish I could hit the pause button. I try to immolate others successful people, especially parents who do well with their kids. I am still working on patience. I think my friends who are older taught me to let some things go. To have priorities and not fight every battle.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
It is the greatest, hardest, most powerful experience of my life and I wouldn’t trade a single moment of it. Having older kids you realize how even the moments you dreaded during, often become great stories you love to share later.
Lots of people have kids, it takes a special kind to be a parent. I have coached and helped a lot of kids from single parent homes, or being raised by their grandparents, caring people in your life make a huge difference. I wish as a society we valued good parenting as much as we do fame, fortune, or freedom. Good parents make the world better one moral, kind kid at a time.
8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
Kids will teach you things better than any other form of knowledge. They each see the world differently without the restrictions of adult conformity. My job is to be a guide. I love to take kids to do something for the first time. Our family lives to share firsts. We often take our kid’s friends to the first time trying various types of food, their first big hike, or a new adventure. It reignites our passion, gives my kids perception of things they might take for granted, and opens the world to another child.
I am tremendously lucky. I have been able to shift my schedule, work multiple jobs across many fields to make sure I was mostly home for my kid’s childhood. I have gotten to share the world as I know it, and it continues as they become adults.
One of my favorites is road trips. One on one for youth sports tournaments, all four as a family, that time out driving, stuck in small proximity always becomes memorable. I’m privileged to have coached my kids in sports we all love. Team vans full of kids, along with my kids… I just love to listen to their perspectives on the world and be a fly on the wall as the driver.
I love the way my kids eyes light up with the spark of excitement, I’d go to the ends of the earth to see it. Yet there is one thing more beautiful as a Dad, the look in their eyes when they tell you they love you, and you can feel the depth at which they mean it.
If you have any questions for Michael Fishman, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!