Kids Don't Listen, They Imitate

Jun 10, 2020

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Jeff and his dad, Richard Krasno, explore the complexities and joys that define fatherhood. How does your experience as a child affect the way you parent? And how can life's ups and downs shape the role a father plays in his children’s lives. This is a conversation about the power of love to turn unexpected challenges into unique and meaningful relationships.

Richard Krasno: I'm Richard Krasno, and I'm noted mostly for being father of Jeffrey and Eric Krasno these days. I'm semi retired. I had a career as a philanthropist, and as a professor, and as a government servant interested in international affairs, and mostly in healthcare and healthcare policy.

Jeff Krasno: I've often equated having my own children as, you're sort of moving from being the nucleus of your life to an electron. You're moving from sort of the center of the universe to this thing kind of spinning outside looking in. What was your expectation around being a father, and how did the reality meet that expectation?

Richard Krasno: Well, I guess with the first child you don't know very much what to expect. I was an only child, so that made it even more complex. I guess, people who aren't the only children get to see how parenthood works in their own families. I never had that tree. I can tell you a little bit about my dad since we're talking about Father's Day, if that's helpful.

Richard Krasno: For me, the sad fact is, excuse me, that he was almost invisible to me as a young and only child. That was of course, because, my parents were divorced when I was, I think, eight years old. Although I saw him periodically throughout my adolescence and my young adulthood, his influence on me was marginal. I didn't have a lot to go on remembering what a father did with young kids in a family.

Richard Krasno: I kind of was playing it by ear as it were. Just to be clear, my dad was a gentle and sensitive man, and those are qualities I admired and remember. I attempted to emulate them as a father. That's one thing I do remember. I never felt abandoned by him, but I have to admit that I... I guess the best way to put it is, I was saddened by the fact that we lost a lot of time that we might've enjoyed in my early years, and things I might have learned about fatherhood if he had been around.

Jeff Krasno: I mean, maybe he was a really influential... His absence was as influential a teaching to you as his presence might have been. Obviously, when my mom, when Jean, your wife, when you guys broke up and left, I mean, I have to imagine, though I don't really know, that your commitment to fathering Eric and I was very influenced by the fact that your dad had left, and that you didn't want to do that to your kids.

Richard Krasno: Absolutely. One of the things I thought about a lot when my dad left was that I would never let the circumstances that I had gone through as a child of divorce affect my children. I tried very hard to fulfill that promise to myself, but as we both know very well, it was not to be.

Richard Krasno: I guess from my point of view, it never occurred to me that all of a sudden that I would become a single dad and the primary caretaker of two sons. In the midst of all that, there were [inaudible 00:10:18] legal issues, logistic issues that came up with the divorce. I had a demanding full-time job. Having sons seven and 13 years old, which I think was about what you were that time, and for which I would have had pretty much total responsibility, was frightening to me frankly. But, what drove me then, and I think what continues to drive me, is the importance of parenthood, and how damaging the consequences of divorce can be in so many cases

Richard Krasno: I did that. I think I inherited a difficult burden, and I think you guys sure did. I wish I could have changed that, and I'm sure your mother feels that way. The burden can be transcending to some degree, but it takes a lot of attention and dedication, and help, counseling or whatever. Very specifically, in our case, in our family, it caused me to certainly become a more attentive…

Richard Krasno: …father almost by necessity, but also by choice. And, and I think it also caused me to be a close friend to you guys in a way that fathers and sons normally don't interact. But I have to also admit there were inevitable mistakes that I made that I would not repeat

Jeff Krasno: I mean I used to say that before I had children, I had three theories about raising them and now I have three children and no theories. But I think that that is very applicable to your situation. Not only because you had a period of estrangement from your father, but that also just in a historical context, and it might be a little more prevalent now, but for a father to have essentially full time custody and responsibility for his children and also be the principle bread earner is very, very rare. And there is no guide for that plan.

Jeff Krasno: So when I think back at that time, I mean, and we were all in it together, right? So that we established a relationship that was honestly very unique. It was obviously very, very close because out of necessity almost, but also it was one that bordered on friendship almost more than the traditional sort of authoritarian or disciplinary father figure.

Richard Krasno: No question about that. No question.

Richard Krasno: The circumstances kind of forced us to spend almost our free time together. For this, which I now consider a precious luxury, it wasn't easy at the time, but you know, I remember bringing you guys on business trips to South Africa and I think we went to France and we went to Israel, came down here, visit my folks.

Richard Krasno: We did a lot of things that fathers and sons don't do and we went to Grateful Dead shows together.

Richard Krasno: And I admit, as you said, these are just a few of the events that I mentioned and they would not likely have occurred that we raised each other, and we did raise each other, in a traditional family, which is exactly what you pointed out.

Richard Krasno: And the interesting thing is for me as I approach 80 these experiences provide me now with really precious memories and I savor those, as much fun as they were when we did them, they're as much fun for me now as I think back about them.

Jeff Krasno: Do you remember when we were in Israel on Christmas and we walked in the old city and it snowed?

Richard Krasno: Yes. And it snowed very rarely. I do remember. I also remember we went to the Mayor, Teddy Kollek's, office. He was the Mayor of Jerusalem at that time and he had this fancy office with hundreds of teddy bears, all from his office.

Jeff Krasno: I remember shaking his hand and he had the biggest hand. That's all I remember.

Richard Krasno: He was quite a guy. Well you know the point that you make, post-divorce didn't change my understanding of my role as a father. It's not necessarily an effective prescription for effective fatherhood, but I mean, I think I can, in balance, I think ... and I'm confidant for you and your brother, you weren't raised in all unnecessarily and exclusively a loving but also unusual environment, but also one that gave you and Eric the strength of wisdom to be the great parent that you are and I hope Eric will be someday. I'm still counting on him.

Jeff Krasno: Well, yeah, I mean listen, it's like you don't choose what the world does to you, but you can choose how you react to it. And overall I think we did a very good job. I certainly took a lot from that time well now that I have three daughters and think about it all the time, and the last thing they ever do is listen to you, but they will imitate you.

Richard Krasno: Well, I hope you're right. I think it's very important and its makes all the difference in my life. You and Eric have been so wonderful, supportive and I love you deeply. Both of you.

Jeff Krasno: I love you too, Dad.

Jeff VO: What does it mean to you to be a parent? If you are a father, grandfather, or even just a son or daughter, what does it mean to keep open, honest lines of communication with your family?

It’s easy to get distracted by life. And sometimes there might be great distance between us which can make face to face contact with our loved ones difficult. But I hope you can start to feel, even as we’ve done on today’s episode, that anyone is only ever a phone call away.

Most people tend to think that by the time they’re an adult, they’ll have life all figured out. But even as you heard between me and my Dad, life is always a winding river of new experiences, both wanted and unwanted. And it can start to feel overwhelming not knowing how to plan for its twists and turns. But between the two of us, the clearest line of communication we always shared was one of love. Perhaps it was born out of a necessity of his needing to care for us, but he always found a way to make spending time with us not just possible, but a priority. And in the end, inevitably, the winding rivers of our separate lives are always flowing into one another. Always becoming one.

I have been your host Jeff Krasno. Thanks for letting my Dad and I share our story with you. We hope, however you celebrated, you had a very happy, and loving, Father’s Day.

See you soon.

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