Our guest today is best known as host of CBC, the debaters. He is a multiple award winning stand up comedian and author of "The Book of Letters I Didn't Know Where to Send," and most recently, "Dad Up!" Hey, Steve, thanks for joining us on "Sister On."
Steve Patterson 1:02
Oh, hi. Thank you for having me. It's nice to be an honorary sister.
How's your summer going? How was Montreal and I'm not spying on you or anything. I do know that your travel schedule is quite specific. Thanks to my friendship with your lovely Nancy.
Steve Patterson 1:16
Yes. Well, I should point out we didn't go to Montreal we went to Hudson, Quebec--got to give it a shout out. It's the English part of Quebec, just beyond the border. So a little a little easier for me to get around Scarlett's good at French but I'm not.
That's because your family is from around there.
Steve Patterson 1:35
My wife's sister lives there. Yeah.
Natalie 1:37 Okay. Cool. And I wanted to kind of give this little preamble because she doesn't actually know this piece. But it was actually Clifford, my husband, and Nancy, who connected us at the very, very beginning, back when they spotted each other across a crowded room of the Early Learning Center. And thought I want that kid to be friends with my kid. And Scarlett and Frankie are two little ones have never really looked back.
Steve Patterson 2:02
That's amazing. That's true. And I mean, Clifford's, the only Dad I've seen who literally carried his child on his back everywhere. He carried Frankie in a backpack everywhere. That was like a very dedication I tell you.
And it was it was like an image through the Junction. Actually, that's funny, because lots of people remember that very specific picture. Oh, that's a riot. Oh my gosh.
Okay, so it's really funny because my family--my parents with Simon and me--had a pandemic moment and we bought a farm. Yeah, decided to be farmers. But so it's Prince Edward County. But in Picton, I saw your book in the bookstore and then on like front and center in the humour section. How does that make you feel?
Steve Patterson 2:52 Well, I'm a I'm a big fan of the County and Picton and I did a show there a few years ago and brought Nancy, and her and her family came from Quebec to watch as well. And we just went around to wineries. I actually got my mother-in-law drunk. And she had to have a nap before showtime. So it was a big moment for me.
That's true wine in the afternoon--it does lead to the need for a nap. Yes. Okay, but so it's interesting because I do know you from listening to The Debaters--I actually listened to an episode this morning. It was the one set in Nanaimo and it was about gardening. You did so many seasons, so could you remember that?
Steve Patterson 3:36
Not specifically. Was it a good one?
It was really funny, actually. And your voice is so distinctive. But so now you're also a writer, I mean, book writer, I guess you've always were a writer. I mean, comedians are writers. But this is something new for you, as you explore this new chapter of your life as a dad.
Steve Patterson 3:58
Yeah, I did a book before called "The Book of Letters I Didn't Know Where to Send." This literary agent was in the crowd one night and I would read letters as part of my stand up and he just said, you should put those in a book, which should have occurred to me naturally, but it didn't. So having that literary agent has helped me get other things out. He just kind of sees, you know, sees what we can do and, and that's been great. This book was a little bit tougher to write than a bunch of bunch of letters, because I had to do it in the middle of the night when my children were supposed to be sleeping, But yeah, it's a nice because it's a different muscle than stand up.
But it was kind of his idea that you go take a stab at another one?
Steve Patterson 4:47
He's always asking me what I'm working on. And that prompts me to make up things about things I've been working on. So this one was pretty organic because I had to write about being a dad because that's what I was experiencing mostly, and then the publisher just happened to be looking for a parenting book by someone that would have a little bit of a following. So it just kind of all came together.
That's a good when it happens naturally like that. Do you want to read something for us?
Steve Patterson 5:19
Like anything in the news?
Anything so we can hear your voice! No, specifically, your book!
Steve Patterson 5:32
Nance told me you guys might want a reading. And then I thought, well, I've done a couple for a couple different places, but I've never done this one. And this story actually occurred in the Junction. So I thought I might as well. It's about bullying. It should ring true, I hope. Sometimes you have
I like! to deal with bullies the old fashioned way. Like the time Scarlett and I were at the local playground where lots of the neighborhood kids go. Most of the kids know each other. But there are always a few new faces. On this particular day, there were a handful of kids around, including one rather large boy who may have been five or 15. This oversized little guy had declared himself king of the castle and was standing at the top of one of the slides, not letting other kids go down or come up. Now I know kids are not technically supposed to go up slides. But if you always abide by the rules, you'll always be letting the man keep you down, man. Anyway, as several little children tried to get to the top of the slide, this little big bully would put out his arm to stop them. He wasn't punching or hitting, but he was pushing. Some of the kids were starting to cry. I was getting ready to intervene. I intended to politely ask the little shit: 7:03 "Sorry, if you wouldn't mind letting some of the other kids on the slide," when Scarlett took it upon herself to step in. She approached stealthily from behind the bully, keeping low to the ground, the default position for a four-year-old. Then, when he was looking the other way, pushing other kids, she calmly but firmly kicked him in the arse. As a matter of fact, she kicked him in the hours hard enough that he flew over the slide and beyond the kids he had been pushing, landing face first in some woodchips on the ground. The other children cheered as they made their way to the top of the slide. The little bully, unhurt except for his pride, started to cry, making the woodchips he had landed in stick to his face. His mother, who had been sitting on a bench looking at her phone oblivious to everything, looked up and asked what happened. The bully pointed at sweet little Scarlett at the bottom of the slide and said, "She kicked me!" The mom looked at Scarlett's smiling face and then at mine and realized the similarities. "Your daughter pushed my son," she said. To which I happily replied, "I don't mind." It was a lovely moment for all of us, except the bully and his mom, which somehow made it even lovelier. Now, I'm not saying that all confrontations with bullies can be solved with a quick witted line or an even quicker kick to the arse. As kids grow older, they grow more sophisticated. And sadly, these days the bullies don't have to step away from their computers or phones to do the bullying. They do it anonymously online--the most cowardly type of bullying there is. I didn't realize we would have to start teaching Scarlett to deal with bullies as early as kindergarten. I was hoping she wouldn't know what bullies were for at least a few more years yet. But in reality, bullying starts early. And if it's not stopped in its tracks, it gets worse. So even though I'm a dad who grew up the youngest of five sons, and I'm now raising two daughters, I'm going to make damn sure my girls learn the lessons that my dad taught me. One: 9:18 Don't be an asshole to others. Two: Don't start fights, but know how to finish them. And do it with repartee wherever possible, or a firm kick to the arse when absolutely necessary. And the third lesson is the one Scarlett taught me that playground bully and hopefully his mom that day. Never underestimate a little girl with a big smile, and an even bigger kick. I should have asked if I could use a couple of those words before I read it. Sorry, I didn't realize pretty salty, pretty salty. What, is this a sailor show?
Our podcast is new so we don't know if we like those words. But I think we do. Okay. I think that's really great. And I love your response: 10:03 I don't mind! Did that actually happen?
Steve Patterson 10:11
That's actually a call back to something Scarlett did to me when I told her not to do something earlier. She said, "I don't mind coming down the stairs."
Right, I remember that now. Also, that's a fabulous passage. Excellent story. It's interesting, because our dad is actually Irish.
Steve Patterson 10:39
Yes, thank you. So our grandparents are Irish, of course. And his stories about his experiences growing up with Irish parents is interesting, because they were, you know, very hardworking. Not very emotional, like, didn't express feelings. And it's interesting, your exploration of your dad, mostly, I guess, but you had Irish parents--you are of Irish descent. So we were curious about how much of your parenting, and you touch on this a bit in the book, is kind of a reaction to your Irish upbringing. Do you feel it's a reaction or I mean, often parenting is a reaction, maybe we don't even mean it to be, but we're trying to be different or try to do the good things we saw. I don't know if you could talk about that a little bit.
Steve Patterson 11:34
I think in my personal experience, and it became very clear as I was writing the book that I sort of want to dad in a very different way than my dad did. And it's really not a slam to him, it was a different time. And I do believe that in a lot of ways boys have to be parented differently than girls. And I'm not trying to draw a system. I'm obviously all for girls included in everything. As a young boy in the 70s, my dad, you know, with five sons didn't really didn't really think too much. And now I'm parenting two girls and I don't know. We never really had girls in the house. It was all boys. And I really feel bad for my mom looking back.
I mean, it's a lot of boys.
Steve Patterson 12:16
Yeah, it's a lot of boys. And I think that, you know, little things, like, just expecting that I would want to be into, you know, activities like bike riding and all the different sports and so many people don't think that maybe their girls will want to be involved in that. And why wouldn't they? I mean, Scarlett went out on the Vine playground--again, near our neighborhood--and just became this great little skater. Without me teaching. Just hours on her own, getting the feel for it. And then boys were playing hockey one day, and she wanted to play. They didn't want to let her play at first. And I gently convinced them to, and it turned out that she is one of the better players. And turns out she loves hockey. So I think that hopefully stereotypes are falling now. And especially when you watch things like the Olympics and the women vastly outperforming the men. Yeah, if anything, the boys should have to come crawling for funding. And we should give it all to the women because they seem to be winning everything.
That's true. Yeah. Hey, in Chapter 18, you talk about--I can remember it very well--it's called "The Kids Are All Right."
She's an academic, so she can't put that away--page numbers.
It's ture. But anyways, here we go. So in Chapter 18,
Steve Patterson 13:36
Of course! you develop a little bit more about the sisterly dynamic. Because obviously we've talked about Scarlett, but then Nora came along. And I was really struck by that, because you describe a point where Scarlett wrote a song for Nora, which was pretty wonderful. But even as Becca and I are sitting here as sisters doing this project together, and I'm the elder sister, and at the same time, and you know, we can go down that road at many different points here where Rebecca has taught me many things...I'm wondering if you're already seeing Nora becoming the wizened elder? No, you mean Scarlett? No, Nora. I'm wondering if you're seeing any sort of role reversal stuff in terms of Scarlett being taught something by her little doll. Oh, that's interesting. I mean, right now, there's enough of an age difference in there so young Nora just accepts that Scarlett can at this point still win with brute force in an argument if she had to. I don't want it to come to that but that's certainly how my brother and I resolved everything, and it didn't go well for me for many years. But I think that Nora, you know, I touch on the fact that she's just coming out as less empathetic and I acutally mean that in a good way. Scarlett, like her mom, takes on everyone's feelings around her and wants to be friends with everyone, which is not a bad thing. But Nora literally couldn't care less. And I can tell it's not just a phase, she's going through, she's gonna do what she wants to do. And, you know, if someone doesn't want to sit beside her at some point, that's their problem, not hers. And I don't see that changing with her. It's just she's totally different at her age than Scarlett was. So hopefully, she'll be able to teach her a little bit of that, you know you don't have to have everyone like you. Because sometimes it's their problem, not yours. And I think that's an important thing to have in life and Scarlett's really, really ope and, I don't want her to, you know, not be open to everyone, but if you meet Scarlett at the park, within two minutes of meeting her, you'll know where we live, you'll know the names of all our family members, what we're doing that week, and if she has time, all our banking information. So it's a little too open. We're trying to work on that. She's just so open to the world. And I don't want to close her, but also at some point you've got to know when people aren't worth it. Which is maybe not a good lesson here. And I didn't realize you two were sisters sisters, I thought it was a colloquial sisterhood. But you're sisters sisters.
Sisters sisters! So actually, I wanted to say to you Nat, you're older. What have you learned from me--the younger sister?
Oh, man, like so many things. I mean, obviously I'm a teacher. And I like to call myself an academic at some level--I've done that kind of gig a bit. And Rebecca is an artist and a writer and a producer. And so I've learned so much about life through Rebecca's eyes. We were just joking before you got on Steve about a friend of ours who we had both taken a course with at one point and Rebecca was like, you know, I always knew that I could do what she did. We both got the same marks. And I was like yeah, and I always knew that I cared less. Yeah, I didn't actually care that my mark wasn't as good as hers. I'm really feeling what you're describing with Nora and Scarlett and me with Bec. I do remember when I was really a big fan of the "The Young and the Restless" and so I wanted to reenact like a really dramatic scene for like I guess myself, and so I made Rebecca at nine--she was seven--lock me in our backyard shed because I wanted to do a scene where I would like feel trapped and have to like bang on a window to get out.
That's very method.
And then Becca walked away from the shed and I really did have to bang to get out and I broke the window and Dad got mad at me and it was totally Rebecca's fault.
What did you learn?
I learned to take care of myself. You had to go get an apple or something and I had to figure that out. Okay Steve back to you. Just thinking older/younger and sticking with that. Do you think any birth order stuff in terms of like stereotypes around older being more responsible? Younger being more free creative? Are you seeing some of that with your girls already?
Also I've heard that older is higher IQ. I don't like to say that because I'm the younger one.
Steve Patterson 18:39
That part hurts, doesn't it? I mean, I'm the youngest of five so you can imagine it hurts to imagine where I am on that scale. Yeah. I don't know yet with with Nora. Scarlett's very artistic and creative actually. So I you know, I'll wait to see what happens with Nora. I've noticed that Nora is a bit more athletic even Scarlett's pretty athletic too. But Nora, for whatever reason, just can kick a ball already. Like she's just doing things that kids her age aren't even normally interested in, like playing catch. For real, like catching the ball and throwing it back. So I've noticed that. I don't know that she'll be and athlete. I mean, I'm a comedian and I find most artists of any sort seem to be the younger sibling for some reason. And my brother John, my oldest brother, is literally the most responsible person I know. So there's certainly something to be said for that. I think it's too early for me to tell with my girls who's going to go off on which which path
Yeah, you could just label them right now. Set them up for success!
Steve Patterson 19:50
Yeah, I won't do that. Like I will say that we went to a Discovery Center in Halifax before Nora came along when Scarlett was about three. And there was a stage at one of the centres--the Science Center Stage. And Scarlet went up to the stage and there was like a school tour going through of like fourth or fifth graders. And she just saw it was a stage. She knew that I performed on stage, she might have been four. And she just started directing people like she just was like, okay, the show is starting. And people were like, I guess this is part of the show and sat down. So maybe she'll be a director. Maybe that's where all this is going? I don't know. Right?
Well, and having a lot of empathy is an asset as a director.
Steve Patterson 20:51
I think so.
I find this is kind of interesting: so Nat is older, but I became the parent first. This is related to you thinking of yourself as an old dad, which you talk about in the book. But I find it interesting because I have an eight-year-old and a 12-year-old but having the 12- year-old makes me feel old. So it's like confusing. So I am the youngest, but I have the oldest child. And I feel like there's also in society now...I think it's kind of cool to have young kids, but not old kids. So my question for you is, you say you feel like an old dad, but you have young kids. So does that in a way make you feel younger? Like, if you follow my logic, and does that make you cool? Because if your kids are young you're good, you're cool. If you were a dad with like a 15-year-old, that would solidify your status as old dad. Did I just like, break open something for you? You can now be cool?
Steve Patterson 22:07
Well? Yeah, I've never thought of myself as cool in any respect. And I've given up trying to be, to be honest, which is nice. I mean when I'm walking around the hood, I'm not cruising. I've got two girls and a dog. And often if my flip flops are the only things I can wear, with my socks, I'm doing it. Now I get it. New dads, we're not trying to impress anybody. So there's less pressure for that. But I mean, I'm just chronologically an old dad. 50 with a two-year-old is a pretty big gap. But it does. It makes me want to be around a little longer and stay in shape longer. But I don't think there's a cool factor.
You're not seeking that out.
Steve Patterson 22:53
I'm not. I will say that whenever--I guess it's true with a lot of kids--but like Nora just puts things on cool. Like we gave her a hat and she just put it on to a tilt. And I'm like, well, who taught her that? I don't know why she instantly looks cooler in everything than I've ever looked in anything in my life. And I don't know where it came from. I don't know if there's an inherent coolness that came from Nancy's side, because it didn't come from mine.
Also I wonder if there's less pressure on dads. Like I feel like in the Instagram culture of Mom culture there's more pressure to look good while you're being a mom. Like even the fact that I'm thinking of cool and you don't worry about it so much. That either says a lot about me, or I think there's also something cultural. Like being a dad is more embraced.
Something to analyze. We're gonna work through this. Yeah. And you may show up in future episodes.
Steve Patterson 23:56
Do you guys want to get into a debate? I can moderate it. But that's sort of another gig of mine. Do Moms needs to be cool or not? I do think there's more pressure on Moms. You know, Nancy has talked about times when she's out at a store and Scarlett's, you know, wearing whatever she's wearing. She's dressed herself. And other moms have commented like, "Oh, that's a lot of pattern," or something. Whereas, I've literally shown up to a soccer game with Scarlett without her soccer shoes, and people are just like, "Oh, good for you. You've made it. You got her here." Yeah. So I think there's different standards for sure.
I do appreciate that in your book or you give so many kudos to Nancy. Yeah, shout out to the moms doing the the constant breastfeeding.
Steve Patterson 24:46
Yeah, I'm like in awe of moms of young children, especially since the last year there was no break from the children.
It's been relentless.
Good word. When I texted Nancy, to kind of get ready for this, she actually sent back, "Oh, I'm so excited for this. I would love to do something with my own sister." And then she said the girls had fallen asleep holding hands, which was just such a cute picture. But it made me wonder and I don't know how you want to sort of ponder this for yourself, but I have heard dads talk about jealousy of the bond between the mom and the kid, which certainly you actually sort of refer to the bond that Nancy has with the girls differently. But do you feel like there might ever be a point where you might be jealous of or have to navigate some big feelings around the bond between your two girls? Because at some point, they're not going to need you like that?
Yeah, because this is how we think. It's really big.
Steve Patterson 26:01
What's the name of this podcast again? You're almost useless. Right? Yeah. Thank you. This is like a thing. I mean, it's funny, because literally, just this morning, I dropped Scarlett off at a synchro swimming lesson that she's never been too. This is a new place I took her to. And, you know, they said, drop off the kids, but she's younger than most of them. So I was waiting outside with her and all the other parents left, except for one other parent. And Scarlett kind of looked at me like, why are you still here? And I'm like, well, because you're not inside yet. I just want to see you go inside. She's like, "Dad, I got it." And I'm like, "Okay, but you're six, like you're not 60." So I get it. But I'm also really excited for her to be independent. I just want her to know that I'm always there when she needs me. I know there will be a time relatively soon, I guess that she won't need me, but I've got a little more time. I probably gave Nora the gene of "everyone's okay on their own." The "I'll do what I can, but if someone has a problem, it's their problem. And I'll try to help if I can."
That's some good maturity. It's also a gift. That's amazing. It is interesting, though, how often I turned to my sister. So that's something to savor for your girls, which I think is so amazing.
Steve Patterson 27:34
I really hope they have that. And I mean, other than Scarlett trying to catapult her sister over the fence in a hammock, which I wrote about, they've been pretty good.
That must have been scary to witness. So are you all what will you be? Would it be your worst nightmare if one of them wanted to be a comedian? Or do you hope one of them goes into the arts? Dreams one way or the other?
Steve Patterson 28:16
I think they could do whatever they want. Selfishly, I'd love it to be something I can watch. Whether it's athletic or a performer, I'd love to just be able to be, you know, in the audience, cheering them on. What I guess I could still do if they're surgeons, they have those little
Yep, like on "Grey's Anatomy." theatres.
Steve Patterson 28:37
Yeah, I want them to be ON "Grey's Anatomy." I figure it'll still be running 25 years from now.. Actually, just Y&R is good becasue I've got questions about Victor Newman. He was already like a sharpey when I was watching.
What is his face? Just one wrinkle, I know.
Okay, yesterday, I was in Thornbury, Ontario.
Steve Patterson 29:06
Oh are we name dropping? Where were you?
Ha! Yes. And we went to this farmer's market and it was so sweet. Like, this guy was singing with his guitar. He could have been in his late 30s, maybe early 40s. And his lyrics were like, "I like you and you like me. I like you. And you like me," just these repeated lyrics on and on and on. If you were 20 that would seem cooler. But I look behind him and his dad is sitting in a camping chai,r just behind him. And it was so sweet. Like the dad there for him. Like, whatever. Maybe he doesn't even like the lyrics but he was supporting his son. I found that a very beautiful thing in Thornbury, Ontario.
Steve Patterson 30:00
You know, my dad wasn't crazy about the idea of me being a comedian when I told him I wasn't gonna go to law school as expected, and it took him a while to come around. But when he's come to shows and sat in the audience, it's been pretty great. It doesn't have to be that moment for everyone, but I'll be proud of them whatever they do. I just selfishly hope it's something I can watch. You know?
In the intro to our podcast, we talk about reframing as something that Bec and I do a lot of just in life in general.
Nat is particularly good at seeing things from a different angle. I try it.
I actually don't try, it sort of seems to be something that comes pretty naturally, perhaps to my detriment at times. But do you ever reframe your own bad parenting moments? Like, is that a thing for you?
Steve Patterson 30:52
Do you sort of mean forgive myself? Or look at it as a positive where it could have been a negative?
Well, I like that addition to it. I think it might have been more like looking at ir as a positive, but the forgiveness piece is fantastic.
Steve Patterson 31:04
Yeah, you know, I, I'm pretty good at forging myself, maybe too easily. I mean, maybe I'm the other side of it. Like I figure if everyone's safe when Nancy gets home after an hour or two away, I've done my job. If they're crying, they're crying, it means they're alive, you know. But I, honestly, I can only do as much as I can. And I think everyone needs to forgive themselves a little bit more. As long as you're trying your hardest, obviously, you know, doing your research--Nancy's really hard on herself--and I have to point out that there's no such thing as a perfect parent, but she is she is about as close to it as you can possibly get it in my opinion. And I think that, strangely enough, being a comedian has taught me a bit about that. Sometimes a joke doesn't go as well as you hope. But the good comedians can still save things after that. And I think that it's you know, there's little moments within each parenting moment that even if you made a mistake, you can still fix it before the end.
That's a nice way to look at it.
Steve Patterson 32:24
Yeah, what was the good moment there right there. That just happened.
Well, as we wrap up, what really cute thing did Nora or Scarlett do on your trip or even this morning?
Steve Patterson 32:38
I think it was yesterday, Nancy took a picture of it, because she always does. And that I mean is another thing when you talk about moms versus dads--I think moms just generally take more pictures, and the fact that there's enough technology now that you can take photos of literally your entire childhood. So she's just finding all these great moments, which are great, but I tend to just look at them and put them in my memory banks instead of search for the phone to get them out. But the girls had cuddled up to each other. We're watching TV, which, depending on which side of the spectrum you're on may or may not be good. But again, I'm already over it. The show was pretty good. It's one that I hadn't seen. And they were just cuddled up and Nora was just feeling very safe. And Scarlett was just kind of playing with her hair. And they didn't know we were watching them, which is a different kind of behavior than you think. And in that moment Nancy got some pride for herself at how well the girls were getting along with each other. And I can see why. You know, again, it's totally different from my brothers where we'd come in and punch each other in the face to say hello. So it was it was a different kind of upbringing. But you know, I think that there's moments every day. Nora, is at two years old...you remember two-year-olds, right? They say the terrible twos, but honestly, I love it, she's just grooving to everything. She's always got her own song going on in her head. She plays piano half decent even though she's never been given a lesson. We just have my my mom's old piano in the house and she just goes in and plays the low notes. So it's it's like there's a horror movie going on in our house at any time. But she does it adoringly and Scarlett's just coming into her own, like she's gonna be seven, but I feel like she's sort of a teenager in some ways already. So that's a warning sign, I guess. But, but then there are those moments when she's a really good big sister.
Well, Bec picked up "Dad Up!" in Picton and I picked it up here at Type Books so we are supporting local bookstores. And we are encouraging listeners to go read it all about your dad experience.
I normally really like angsty, angsty female writing, but this was fun too, reading about the dad experience and how to try letting things go a bit. There's something to be learned for sure. I think we women and mothers obsess...we don't have
Steve Patterson 35:29
I just hope that every dad realizes how good to be perfect. he's got it when he's got a great partner. Unfortunately, Nancy's mom passed away when she was three, so her dad had to do it largely alone. And he had a ot of support from immediate
And there were a lot of screw ups. family, which I don't have in he city. So I'm just really tha kful that my girls have a great mom because it puts a l ttle less pressure on everythin I do. I'm not trying to set record for screwing up, but whe I do, there's someone there o fix it.
Steve Patterson 36:16
At least three per chapter and there are 30 chapters. I really appreciate you having me on your show. And it's nice to put a sister face to the name.
Do you like our name. Do you know where it comes from.
Keep calm and carry on!
Steve Patterson 36:38
No, it's not obvious. I literally just found out you two were actual sisters in this podcast. How could that be obvious? I mean, now I get it. But I'm not a bright person. So I'm sure your fellow academics and females who are generally smarter than me got it right away.
Thank you for coming!