Craig Melvin Is a Different Dad Than He Thought He'd Be: 'I'm Quite Mushy'
As a Today news anchor, Craig Melvin can expertly alternate between the serious events of the day and jokey banter with his cohosts. That easy sense of flow also serves him well off duty, when he and his wife, sportscaster Lindsay Czarniak, take time to tackle hard topics while holding on to their optimism—and humor.
There are many things Today news anchor Craig Melvin shares with his son. He and 7-year-old Delano have the same winning smile. They both love shrimp and grits, which Melvin grew up eating in Columbia, South Carolina. And they have a similar bedtime—in theory, 8 p.m. for Del and 9:30 p.m. for Melvin. Real life being what it is, however, Del and his 4-year-old sister, Sybil, sometimes outlast Dad. "They've put me to bed," says Melvin, who these days wakes in his Connecticut home by 4:30 a.m. to make his call time at NBC's New York City studios.
He's also a host of Dateline, and back home he anchors MSNBC Live from his basement. Oh, and he's covered two Olympic Games, three presidential inaugurations, six Super Bowls, and so much more. In short, he's a hardworking reporter. But he's also a softie who once cried on camera while talking about how much America's children love their teachers.
Dad's hours are just one of the quirks of the Czarniak-Melvin family, where a life-size cardboard cutout of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes casually hangs out in the family room. Mom is Fox Sports reporter Lindsay Czarniak, who covers the NFL and NASCAR and has a podcast, The Artist and the Athlete With Lindsay Czarniak. As her Instagram followers know, she's also a sharer of unabashedly cornball riddles. (Think, "What did one sock say to the other sock in the dryer? 'See ya the next time around!'") The jokes, which she handwrites on cue cards and posts, have been a hit with families. "We have stacks of those cards all over," says Melvin, in mock exasperation.
"They were very helpful in teaching Del to read this year," Czarniak points out. "True—now he's reading everything under the sun," says Melvin, sounding every ounce the proud dad.
Fatherhood is rarely far from Melvin's mind. He spotlights inspirational dads for a Today series, Dads Got This! And he's just published his first book, Pops: Learning to Be a Son and a Father (out June 15), which explores fatherhood through the lens of his relationship with his own father, Lawrence, who struggled with alcoholism throughout Craig's childhood.
Lawrence is sober now and uses FaceTime to talk to his grandkids, a gratifying turn for Melvin. "I'm proud knowing where he was with his struggles and where he is now," Melvin says. It's a testament, he adds, to never giving up on someone you love. "Having kids changed how I thought about my dad and about fatherhood," he says. "I'm surprised at the kind of dad I've become. I'm not very strict. It's easier to manipulate me than I would have expected. I'm quite mushy." He wrote the book, he says, because "men don't often talk about what we do as fathers, but dads need to be celebrated."
Del just turned 7. What did you do for his birthday?
Lindsay: Thank goodness this year we could do something. We had an outdoor football party for about 15 friends. With masks, of course.
Craig: We did a combine where the kids got weighed and measured and did drills—and then they got drafted onto two flag football teams. It was magical. Del is a huge sports fan: football, basketball, baseball. Watching sports is something he and I bond over.
What about Sibby?
Lindsay: Sibby is more into princesses and make-believe.
Craig: She also likes the news. She actually will say, "I want to watch the news." She especially likes the weather.
What have you learned as parents during the pandemic?
Craig: Not to sweat the small stuff. The washable marker really does come out of most things. That we both need some "alone time" to recharge. And we love our children, but we learned that we really like them too. They're funny.
It's also been a year of anguish over racism. What has challenged you as parents of biracial kids?
Craig: The kids don't have a lot of questions yet. But I'm not naive enough to think it's going to stay that way forever. Just the other day, while Del was watching TV, he suddenly said, "Oh, Dad, I have black skin. I'm Black! And Sibby is white, just like Mom."
Lindsay: I replied, "Actually, you're both Black!" But then I realized Del was just pointing out what he saw with his own eyes, which is that Sibby's complexion is closer to mine.
Craig: The reality is that society is going to view them both as Black. It's complicated.
What do you say to the old notion that we should raise "color-blind" kids?
Craig: I don't think it's possible. I mean, growing up, my mother went out of her way to make sure that we didn't look at the color of someone's skin first. She wanted her kids to assimilate, and that helped me in my life. But I also learned that when you get out in the world, you realize that most people don't have the same view.
Craig, your book doesn't hold back from discussing the pain your dad caused by his absence in your life. That must have been daunting.
Craig: Definitely. But writing this book was cheaper than therapy. I spent hours interviewing my dad, which was deeply cathartic. His response to the book was my chief concern, and he said that it was accurate. He blessed it.
What will this summer look like?
Lindsay: Craig will be covering the Olympics, so he'll take a trip to Tokyo.
Craig: But we'll work out some fun day trips. We love the beach. And last year, we became a family of hikers.
Hiking is even better with a dog. Have you been tempted to get a pandemic puppy?
Craig: Wait, did someone tell you we were getting a dog? We have enough to take care of these days.
Lindsay: It's not happening. Though Sibby has already picked out a name. She's upstairs pretending she's a dog right now.
Everything You Need to Know About Craig Melvin's Family
Best part of the day: When I get home and both kids and Lindsay are there and I get the "Daddy!" and the leg grab or the hug and the kiss. It never gets old.
Our 4-year-old is learning to: Question everything, which will serve her well if she becomes a journalist later. It's not serving her so well right now in our house.
Our 7-year-old is into: Kidz Bop and Alexa, mainly instructing Alexa to play Kidz Bop.
I'd like to remind dads: We're all doing the very best we can, and most of the things we obsess about aren't even the things our kids will remember.
The cover was revealed on NBC Today. Check out the clip here.
This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's June 2021 issue as "Dream Team at Home." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here