The importance of reading, one-on-one time, and plain old silliness
Anyone who’s ever found themselves in a car between 5:30 and 10 on weekday mornings will probably recognize the voice of Yukon Jack. The no-nonsense co-host of The Worst Show Ever, on 100.3 The Bear FM, has been known to sound off on a variety of topics, most famously in his daily commentary segment “My Big Yap.”
But for the 19 hours each day where he’s not on the air, Yukon Jack transforms back into Paul Brown (Radio and Television – Radio ’00), a 43-year-old father of two young boys who are as rambunctious as he is.
“Everything in my house is sticky or chipped,” he says. “And I’m not going to fix any of it until they’re 18.”
In addition to raising McLeod, 7, and Jones, 5, Brown also runs month-long programs through the Edmonton Public Library called Daddy Bootcamp. Rather than strictly how-to classes, these are Brown’s way of helping fathers and their children find ways to play, read, make crafts, and generally spend some quality time together.
Brown started the program around the time his own kids were born, spurred by a chance introduction to an EPL manager – after decades of practice goofing around with elementary-school students during Read-In Week.
“I’m kind of positively stunted at about nine years old,” Brown says. “So I relate well with children.” But over the years he’s learned a lot about how to be a good dad, too. Daddy Bootcamp will return in the fall; in the meantime, here are some of Brown’s best parenting tips.
1. Reading is key
Over the past few years Brown has done work for the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation, which raises money for programs like full-day kindergarten. That’s where he first witnessed the importance of early learning – especially when it comes to reading and literacy.
“What a life skill it is to be able to sit down with a book and focus,” he says. “Exposure to words is everything,” says Brown. “It gets the brain thinking, and learning, and developing.”
2. Don’t be afraid of silliness
At Daddy Bootcamps, Brown is surrounded by dozens of kids (including his, who go every time) and dads of all ages, each working on crafts and activities while he stands in the centre and plays the role of host and facilitator – or, as he puts it, “the big dumb silly dad.”
He does this on purpose. Brown has noticed that many dads seem scared of acting like a goofball in front of their kids, presumably out of fear of embarrassment.
“If there’s one takeaway I’d like dads to get, it’s that nothing is embarrassing.”
“If there’s one takeaway I’d like dads to get,” he says, “it’s that nothing is embarrassing.” Being silly with your kids, and maybe showing them a side of yourself they haven’t seen before, is a great way to get them to open up.
3. Find time for one-on-one time
These days, we all live busy lives. Which is why it’s more important than ever to remember to carve out quality time with your kids.
For Brown, it’s a matter of choosing your moments. “Mac has basketball tonight,” he says by way of example, “and my wife will take him to that. It’ll be me and Jonesy at home alone.”
“Because they don’t [care] what they’re doing. They’re just happy to be with you."
He also treats chunks of time that might seem boring, like running errands or taking one kid for a haircut, as a prime hangout opportunity. “Because they don’t [care] what they’re doing,” he says. “They’re just happy to be with you. Squeeze it in wherever you can.”
4. Screen time can be your friend
Perhaps the sharpest double-edged sword in a parent’s toolbox, screen time can provide both a period of calm and a lingering feeling of guilt afterwards. Brown and his wife have set boundaries on how their kids use screens: they aren’t allowed to bring them out in public, for instance.
But he’s quick to acknowledge that screen time, used the right way, can actually bring parent and kid together. “One thing we did early on – and I don’t know if this is in the manual or not, but I like it – is I cracked out my old Nintendo GameCube and dusted it off,” he says. “I play with them.”
It’s become an unlikely cross-generational bonding moment. Games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker force dad and son to use their brains to solve puzzles together. Brown’s beloved WWE Day of Reckoning 2, meanwhile, lets them goof around by creating custom wrestlers in their likenesses.
5. Whatever you do, savour it
The best present is your presence. This is the kind of cliché that Brown normally rolls his eyes at, but now that his boys are growing up, he marvels at how fast the time goes – even if it feels like any given day is never going to end.
“My dad used to tell me, ‘Never wish for time to pass,’” Brown says.
When he was young, Brown and his dad would go watch Stampede Wrestling at the old Northlands AgriCom. They’d arrive early, and Brown would wish out loud that it was 8 p.m. already so that the matches would start.
“My dad used to tell me, ‘Never wish for time to pass.’”
“And I would get in [trouble],” he says. “I wanted the wrestling to start. My dad wanted that hour with his son: sitting there, looking at people, just hanging out together.”