Babynado! Ian Ziering on Being a Dad
Sharknado star Ian Ziering discusses his best role yet: fatherhood
Ian Ziering rose to fame on Beverly Hills 90210, but these days everyone is talking about how he saved Los Angeles from man-eating sharks in the instant cult classic, Sharknado. Despite that, it’s his role as father to his daughters, two-year-old Mia and four-month-old Penna, that means the most to him.
I recently got a chance to chat with Ian–father to father–about why Disney princesses are great, what it was like to become a first-time father at the age of forty-seven, and the honor of being named DaddyScrubs’ Daddy of the Year.
Mike: Both of your daughters were born on April 25th. How did you manage that?
Ian: It was serendipity at its finest. My oldest was born a week early and my youngest was born a week late. The stars aligned and I had two babies born on the same day. I think it’s kind of a blessing.
Mike: How do you think your daughters will like it? Handling birthdays might be tough.
Ian: I think it’s going to be another layer on the bond they’ll always have. They’ll share birthday parties up until the point my eight-year-old doesn’t want any six-year-olds at the party. In time they’ll embrace it as something special.
Mike: We both have new babies. What do you think are the biggest challenges of having two kids in the home versus one?
Ian: The biggest challenge is making the older one understand how delicate the younger one is. Mia, my oldest, is so affectionate and outgoing that she wants to share all her toys and hug her sister all the time. I find myself saying, “Don’t squeeze her so tight, honey,” and “She doesn’t need to have all these toys in her crib right now.”
Mike: My daughter, Annabel, does the same thing. She’s constantly hugging her brother.
Ian: You have to help her understand that her brother is new and fragile. Tell her that she used to be small like this, and when she was you were very careful with her, too.
Mike: I watched the video of you on the DaddyScrubs website and could see from it that you had a good relationship with your father. Was there something you learned from him that has helped you in parenting your girls?
Ian: My father was an amazing man. He infused in me a work ethic that helps me realize I must do whatever it takes to be a successful parent. He worked three jobs to support his family.
Mike: He must have been very busy.
Ian: There were some of my basketball or baseball games that he had to miss because of work and I never really understood the sacrifice he was making. I only saw it from my perspective. Now as a father myself I don’t want to miss one moment of my child’s accomplishments, and when I do travel I miss them so much it hurts.
Mike: You definitely understand your own father a lot more once you become a father.
Ian: Yeah, I just thought he was working! I knew it wasn’t a choice, but I never realized that he, of course, wanted to see me hit that triple at Redwood Field in West Orange, the only time I got a hit in Little League. I know if I put myself in his shoes it would have hurt and disappointed me to miss it but that’s the sacrifice we make as parents.
Mike: Do you think fathers are different today than those of past generations?
Ian: I think the role of the father in today’s society is ever changing. I think the economy affects things. A lot of times fathers are out of work and the mothers are working or both parents are working, and because of that the dynamic of family has changed, but any time you can bring the family together is a way to help the family thrive. Meeting around the dinner table, for example. Irrespective of who cooks the food, it’s more important that you’re all together. Reading stories at bedtime, whether it’s mom or dad, just as long as it gets done. Whatever you can do to further build the bond with your children is going to be rewarded tremendously. I take my daughter to dance class – only because I have the time to do that – but there are also times each month when I must travel and my wife steps in to do the things I would normally. You do whatever you have to in order to make things work.
Mike: You became a father for the first time at forty-seven. Was waiting to have kids a conscious decision or is that just how life happened?
Ian: When I was dating my high school sweetheart I thought we would be married and have two or three kids by the time I was thirty. So, I wanted to be a young dad, and I was married at thirty-three. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out, we never had any kids, and here in Los Angeles it was very difficult to find a woman who shared my morals and values. When I met my wife I was forty-six and it was love at first sight. Every day my love grew deeper as I found out about her family values, that her parents were still together, that she wanted kids. So we fell in love, got engaged, got married, and a month later we were pregnant!
Mike: Do you feel you’re better suited to parent now that you’re a little older?
Ian: I feel that I have more patience and a greater appreciation for my children as an older man. If I became a dad at twenty-five or twenty-six I may not have gotten “all the sillies out,” if I can use a line from one of my daughter’s shows.
Mike: Yo Gabba Gabba! That’s a popular show in our home too.
Ian: Basically I’m just embracing fatherhood, enjoying every moment, and feeling blessed to have two daughters at whatever age.
Mike: On Beverly Hills, 90210 your character, Steve Sanders, and his friends often acted a lot older than they were, going to parties and drinking, and many teenagers today are acting even older. Have you thought about how you’ll parent your girls when they’re teenagers?
Ian: The only way to combat those things is with proper parenting. There are so many negative influences that you have to be proactive with your kids by spending time with them, nurturing them, and teaching them right from wrong.
Mike: Exactly. And if you don’t bring up difficult subjects, such as drinking and sex, they’re going to learn about them from their friends which isn’t advisable.
Ian: Right now our daughter loves all the Disney princesses, and my wife and I love that because they’re very strong women. Who’s the redhead?
Me: Merida. I’m not ashamed to say I know all of the princesses’ names.
Ian: Yes, Merida. She’s a very strong woman, and we like that. My daughter loves all these princess characters and they’re such good natured, good values characters that we’re guiding our daughters toward them. When less positive influences are introduced they’ll know the difference.
Mike: Sharknado was the first major project of yours since you became a father.
Ian: And it’s a family movie! The objective of my character, Fin Shephard, was to save his family. He has to patch up the holes in the relationship with his daughter and rescue his son, so it was very much a family movie.
Mike: We’re you able to draw on your own experiences as a father in playing Fin considering he was a dad?
Ian: In the need to provide and protect for your family, yes. The super hero gene lays dormant in every father until there’s some situation that makes it burst out. Obviously there was a sharknado that caused Fin Sherphard’s super hero gene to be activated, and he did everything he could to protect his family.
Mike: I love what you just said about every dad having a super hero gene.
Ian: Oh, yeah, man. The first time mine got activated was when we found out the sex of our daughter, Mia. We were in the sonographer’s office and the sonographer said, “Would you like to know the sex of your child ?” We said, “Yeah, please,” and he said, “Congratulations. You’re having a daughter. Here’s her vagina. I’ll take a picture of her vagina for you.” My first thought was, “God, never allow those words to be spoken again!” But then I thought about the way the sonographer said that and it kind of made my super hero gene activate. It didn’t sit right with me, so I pulled the sonographer over and said, “I know this is a professional, clinical environment but you might want to choose your words a little differently.” It just set me off, sparked my super hero gene.
Mike: Let’s talk a little about being named DaddyScrubs’ Daddy of the Year. That’s exciting, huh?
Ian: I’m very flattered. What an honor to be recognized as Daddy of the Year. I have to give a nod to my own father for being such an incredible role model.
Mike: On the DaddyScrubs website it says you’ll use this year to raise awareness about the importance of a dad’s role in a family, give back to underserved children, and campaign to bring fathers back to the dinner table. You mentioned the need for families to eat together earlier. Why do you think that is so important?
Ian: Eating together was such a huge part of my life growing up. My brothers were older so we were all doing different things during the day, but at the dinner table the whole family came together. By eating together you can share experiences, laugh, and strengthen the family bond. That’s getting lost a little bit in today’s society.
Mike: It’s been great talking to you, Ian. You’ve got some terrific insights into what it’s like to be a parent today.
Ian: Thanks, Mike. And if any of the parents want to contact me @ianziering on Twitter I’d be happy to further the discussion there.
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