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NPR's Scott Simon reflects on fatherhood, lessons learned and precious moments


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Geoff Bennett: Now to our weekend spotlight. And on this Father`s Day, I can think of no one better to talk to than Scott Simon, author and host of NPR Weekend Edition Saturday.

Earlier in my career, I worked with Scott as a weekend edition producer and editor. And few people have spoken as honestly and openly about the joys and challenges of fatherhood as Scott has. We sat down together at NPR recently, and he shared his perspectives on being a debt.

How has being a father changed you?

Scott Simon, Host, NPR "Weekend Edition Saturday": What I discovered is from the first moment when you hold your child and it only expands, your heart leaps out of you, your heart leaps into them, they carry around a part of your heart. If they`re cold, you`re cold too, if they`re frightened, you`re frightened too. If they`re hungry, magically, you feel hungry, too.

You`re never alone again, in a way that you may have will once felt in the world. Even before. I think we held each of our daughters when we saw their pictures, when they came from the adoption agency in China, I think we began to feel that way. And then to hold them I can`t explain it. But there`s almost like a magical transference. It goes through your heart, it goes through your arms, your holds them, and you feel they`ve just absorbed a part of your heart.

Geoff Bennett: You know, I`ve always thought that as your kids get older, they need you less. I have a son who`s nine now. And I`ve realized that that`s not the case at all.

Scott Simon: Absolutely.

Geoff Bennett: Actually, as they get older they need your more.

Scott Simon: Absolutely true. We discovered that also. We thought you know, I mean, there are ways in which I mean they can or they can make sandwiches by themselves. They certainly can, you know, can handle the remote control.

But in all the important ways they need you more than ever. They`re encountering more in life. They have more questions, they have more, I think they have more anxiety. She knows that world grows larger.

One of the things that we have to adjust to in terms of being a parent is to understand as they grow up the days when they just kind of toddle across the floor and hold up their hands and ask for your help for the most part that`s gone. They have different ways of asking for help and we have to learn to recognize the signals in the language, and be of what help we can without lecture.

Geoff Bennett: What are your greatest joys as a dad?

Scott Simon: My greatest joy as a father is to see our children growing up and growing independent, and becoming brilliant, as far as I`m concerned. But also every now and then needing me for something and remembering where I can fit into the world.

And one of the great joys you realize is that you need them. It`s not a one way relationship. You work for their smile. You work for their joy. You work to try and do what`s right, for them and for the world. And I actually think -- I think that`s a great motivating factor.

Geoff Bennett: I feel like kids, when they have ambitious parents will pick up that ambition. Kids who have resilient parents will pick up that resilience. But I found it harder to instill empathy in kids, how have you done that?

Scott Simon: I think the most important thing, and it came hard. I`ve learned about being a father and learned about being a parent is you can`t really teach anything, the only thing that counts is your example.

Geoff Bennett: Wow.

Scott Simon: Your children will see what kind of person you are, your children will see what kind of values you have, your children will see how you treat other people, your children will see how you treat each other in an intimate marital relationship. Your children will see how people react to you.

The whole idea do as I as I say, not as I do. That doesn`t work for children. They know the difference. They`re not going to let us off that easy. And I think that`s fine. I think children help us to be maybe better than we set out to be because we want to be that in their eyes.

Geoff Bennett: Your girls are 15 and 19. As you think back, what are some of the moments that just bring a smile to your face?

Scott Simon: Elise, our oldest daughter was four when we adopted, our youngest daughter who was I think seven months old. And we got this little picture from the adoption agency of this little girl, of this baby. And we went to China for our second time. And they said, you know, stay in your room, they knock on the door, and they bring in this little girl, this baby.

And maybe because she was like three or four months older than when we got the picture. They put her down on a table. And my wife said, Are you sure she`s the right one? And her oldest daughter reached out her hand. And she took the hand of this little baby, her new sister and said it doesn`t matter. And of course she was right.

Geoff Bennett: Yes.

Scott Simon: And my wife and I looked at each other like what did she learn that goodness? Where did that come into her heart? We stayed in a hotel room once it was in the early days when the in-house coffee makers were just coming in. And I thought this was great. I mean, we`re called this is great.

So act like after two days, wherever we were -- we get into the cab and our oldest daughter was then hauling around a little pink backpack with Hello Kitty on it. And we pick up the backpack when we get into the cab to go to the airport. And it`s much heavier than usual. What`s in there, you can see where this is going. And we unzip the backpack and she`d put the coffeemaker in there.

And I will never forget her smile like you like the coffeemaker. See what I did. It was it was just hilarious. I think what happens when you have the vision of a parent or a father is that you see your children as being all ages at once. I mean, I look at our 19-year-old and our 15-year-old and I know they`re just about grown, and I hope I recognize them as adults.

But also, at some point when I look at them, they are always the two and three and four-year olds that I remember. You don`t forget that. You see them as being at all ages at once. And that`s something that`s very precious.

You know, there are times I think particularly over these past two years when I haven`t been -- I`ve been anxious, I haven`t been able to get to sleep. I`ve been worried about this or that. I confess I think about our daughters and I think about some of those wonderful when some times when they were just discovering the world and I might have been around to help and the memory of them and their presence in my life that I feel even now has put me in touch with a kind of joy and a kind of relief that gets me through the next shower.

Every now and then our daughters kid me a lot. And I think that`s great. But every now and then I hear from another parent, you know, your daughter`s really think you`re OK. And I just think, well, I think that`s the biggest compliment I`ve ever had.

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