In UP TV’s new family comedy-drama, Date My Dad, Barry Watson plays widowed father, Ricky Cooper as he struggles with the balance of being two parents at once to three daughters who have decided it’s time for their dad to get back into the dating scene. Watson, the real-life father of three (12, 9 and 5) is just starting to learn what it’s like to raise a teenager and he sat down with INBETWEEN to share some of his thoughts about his hopes and fears as he ventures into the tween and teen years with his children.

By Brianne Stephen / Photos courtesy of Kharen Hill

As a father of three at home and now, a father of three on screen, how has your home life prepared you for your role as Ricky Cooper?

The thing that really prepared me to play Ricky Cooper was having three kids. I’ve got my two older boys and my daughter who is about to turn five and I feel like it was really in my wheelhouse to play Ricky Cooper. Having my daughter really prepared me to play the father of three daughters. I can’t quite explain why… there’s something about having a daughter compared to a son – it’s a different relationship in a lot of ways. Having my daughter really helped me have the depth that I think Ricky Cooper needs to pull this off.

How would you describe the difference between your off- and on-screen parenting style?

Ah! It’s interesting because I think in some ways I throw a lot of my parenting styles in there. We’re the dads where the kid’s friends like us more than our kids do (laughs). Ricky’s the cool dad because he’s open to having a good time, but when he really needs to lay down the law, he’s able to do that as well. He’s the kind of father that would say “hey girls, we can have a really good time here, but we need to lay down some boundaries.” He’s got rules and boundaries, but he’s not an overly strict parent. He’s the kind of parent, I hope, that all kids wished they had.

Barry Watson with his Date My Dad TV family

Your oldest son, Oliver, is closing in on the teenager years having just turned 12. Has the time you’ve spent filming Date My Dad prepared you for this period in your son’s life?

No. I don’t think there is anything you can do to prepare you for what I’m about to go through. I’m at the Mom 2.0 Conference and I was just saying to one of the moms who has a 5 and 6-year-old that those are the best times because they’re so fun and you get an idea of what their personalities are starting to be like. I said: “And then they turn 12…” (laughs) and they start to think they know everything. I can see it with my son now – and I think I can remember being that age where I was like “I know this, I know all of this stuff. I know everything now.” He’s getting to that point where he doesn’t need me as much and it’s a very lonely place as a parent, I will say. You want to try and be involved but they don’t want to be that involved with you anymore. They’re moving on to that next stage in their lives. I think it’s a very exciting stage for him, obviously, but for a parent it’s like “wow.” I still have to be the parent to someone who really doesn’t want much to do with me anymore.

 

And what scares you the most about your children becoming teenagers?

Every generation is so different. Life was so much different from when I was a teenager. It’s the same thing with this generation and there’s this whole thing with social media and the Internet. It’s such a different monster that I feel like I need to navigate to keep in touch with my kids and who they are. It’s not like I want to suffocate them and lock them up in a room – not expose them to life—but I just think there’s so much more out there in life for them to discover. Some of it is very positive; some other things I wasn’t even aware of when I was a teenager that these kids are just so much more aware of. That’s the scariest thing for me—trying to raise the kids so they’re smart enough, common sense-wise, to navigate some of the stuff that I can’t always be there for.

 

What kind of father do you aspire to be for your children now and in the future when they become teens and young adults?

Sometimes, I see so many parents that just want to be friends with their kids. You still have to be a parent, you still have to make decisions that they’re not going to like, but you’re just doing it for the best of them to hopefully raise great human beings as adults. For me, that’s who I want to be for my kids, but also drive them in the right direction. I can’t always be “best-friend-dad” with the kids. I have to give them hard truths sometimes and hopefully, with a little bit of luck, they turn out to be great grownups one day.

 

What do you wish for your children? What life lessons do you want them to learn from you?

Just do what they want to do, whatever their passion is. I tell my kids, “You might have a passion, but you might have another passion for something. So, don’t be so closed off to one thing because there are so many other things that are out there.” I always try to tell them to stay open, obviously stick to your dreams in life, but just know that there might be other things out there that are just as fulfilling for you.

 

Date My Dad airs at 9 pm EST on UP TV.