John Stamos on being dad-shamed: 'It just seems like people that have nothing better to do'

·11-min read
John Stamos talks dad -shaming, Disney secrets and having a kid later in life. (Photo: Getty Images; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
John Stamos talks dad-shaming, Disney secrets and having a kid later in life. (Photo: Getty Images; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of childrearing.

The Los Angeles Times has just declared that we're in the throes of a "Stamossance," and it's easy to see why. Now starring on the hit Disney+ series Big Shot — in between performing with the Beach Boys and fronting projects like his current campaign for the Arnold, Brownberry and Oroweat breads Small Slice bread line — the man best known as Full House's Uncle Jesse is now finding his footing as a first-time dad, welcoming son Billy in 2018.

Fittingly wearing a Hawaiian shirt he received for Father's Day from wife Caitlin McHugh, the affable actor opened up to Yahoo Life about entering fatherhood in his 50s, dealing with dad-shamers and hitting up Disney parks like a pro. 

You're working with the Small Slice bread line. If I handed you a loaf of bread, what would you make?

I've always eaten a turkey sandwich — that's my set thing to keep me going throughout the day, like a turkey on wheat from almost every show I've been on. ... If I eat bread, it'll be that. And this Small Slice thing is really cool because it's obviously less calories because it's less bread. My kid loves it. Mommy was at Disneyland today, so dad made him some French toast with Small Slice and he loves it. Sometimes he'll just walk around eating it by itself. 

And it's just important to promote [eating] well. There's no excuses now. My mom thought fried chicken: "Well, it's chicken. It's good for you, it's chicken." No, it's fried. But we all know what we should eat and shouldn't eat.

You're, famously, a Disneyland fanatic. Any tips for dealing with a toddler at a theme park? Anything parents should bring?

I'd say a leash, but that's not kosher. Every kid's different. ... I bring too much. I say I've got to get a baby roadie, because with the band, we have roadies. I need a roadie! I bring so much stuff for him, so much stuff for me, and then Caitlin brings just like a little thing for her. I can't even get out of the house now without just taking everything, almost everything I own. I might need that, might need this, might need that...

I think that the thing that's hard is to not give them candy and sugar and sweet stuff there [at the park], because then they're like "baahhhhh."

But I can honestly say — not just because I work for them and I love the company — but I swear to you: We've been to Florida twice during the pandemic, and then we were at Disneyland once and Caitlin's there today, and it feels very safe. I really feel that they've taken every precaution you can. There's a lot of hand sanitizer. That's a problem: Because there's so many things to touch, these kids want to touch this and that. So we spray everything down, we spray him and so far we've had no issues at all and the days have been really enjoyable.

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You've spoken a lot about being an older dad. What have you learned about yourself from having kids later than the norm?

Yeah, a lot later. And it's a bummer too, because I understand women have their biological clocks, so people want to have kids young. I'm so grateful that I knew what I'm doing in life. I'm not trying to make it, I have some dough saved, I'm not in that mode of trying to figure out who I am and where I fit in the world. I'm old enough to be settled in that area, so I can put all that aside and I can just be with my kid. I can just be present. 

I've been around kids my whole life. I've always wanted kids, I've had nieces and nephews, I've been on a TV show with kids. It's so much harder than I thought it would be. To be a good parent is really difficult, I think, and I credit much of it to my wife; she does most of it. I was just on a Zoom with my friend Demetri Martin, and we were talking about kids like how all they want is your attention all the time, if you're able to give it. But it just takes so much patience, right, and time and common sense and money and just being there for them — it's just a lot. ... I suggest waiting as long as you possibly can until you're 100 percent ready.

Good thing they're cute.

Oh my God, he's the light of my life. I couldn't imagine my life without him. He's just so funny too. He's been really funny lately and he's very friendly. He's very gregarious. He's very charming. I don't know where he gets it. He's very flirty. And I'm having these weird talks with him so soon, but it's important, where it's like, "You've got to ask someone if you want to hug them or kiss them. And you can't just grab girls. You can't do any of that. You have to ask or you have to not do it."

I really instill to him early on about not giving up, and trying again, and if he can't get something, now he says, "No, my dad says, 'Try, try again. If you don't get something, try, try again.'" And Caitlin yesterday told me that they were at swimming and he has friends in the neighborhood — three boys, one of them is his age. And he went up and kissed him, and the kid said, "Don't! Stop! You can't do that." And he went back to kiss him because "my dad always says, 'If you don't get it the first time, try, try again.'" [laughs] But it's not applicable for everything! 

My toddler, coincidentally, has been learning a lot of Full House quotes, like "You got it dude." Have you taught Billy any of those quotes? They feel very natural to toddler-speak in a way.

He hates watching me on TV, first of all. "I don't want to watch it." He watches Disney+ a lot and I say, "Oh, there's Dad, is that weird?" "I don't want to watch that." "I know, I'm not asking you if you want to watch it, I'm saying I happen to be right next to the Pound Puppies and PJ Masks. Isn't that cool?" "I don't want to watch you. I don't wanna watch it." 

Sometimes I'll show him a little bit of Full House. We were talking about monkeys or something, and I showed him a scene where there was a monkey in bed with me, and he found that pretty funny for the most part. He's not into watching dad on TV. Although — I haven't announced it yet, so I can't really say much about it — I'm going to do something in the animation world, and I tell him every day, "Now I need you to help me figure out this voice when we do it." So he's very excited about that. 

I'm sure he'll come to realize...

Maybe. I don't know. I hope he doesn't, You know, it's weird. I wonder what goes through his mind. We were at a Beach Boys concert a couple of weeks ago. I spoke about it [on Instagram] but the song "God Only Knows" came on. He was by the steps, and I was like, "Can I go and grab him?" He just sat there and just listened. That was a moment that I don't even think I dreamed that big. I just didn't think I would ever have that moment, but it was a special one. 

What's your favorite song to sing to Billy?

He doesn't like to hear me sing either. His middle name is Christopher so sometimes I'll sing [belts out the lyrics to "House at Pooh Corner" by Loggins and Messina] "Christopher Robiiiiiiiin" and he doesn't want to hear it. 

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We often talk to women about being mom-shamed, but have you ever felt like you were dad-shamed?

I was. We were in New York and I was so excited to show him Times Square, but he was young. He was probably 6 months, I'd say. And he was, and he was in this baby carrier. And I think the one we had was specific; you could do it [a certain position]. I read all the instructions and everything, but I had him facing outward and you know, people on Instagram [were lecturing], "You're not supposed to!" and shaming me. I said, "All right, no more pictures of my kid. Fine."

First of all, we'd turned him around for a second to take the picture, because there was a police officer or something there that I thought was cool [to capture]. But it was the kind [of carrier] that you could [have the baby facing outward]. Anyway, that hasn't happened since then. And I try not to put too much with him [on social media]. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing too much ... but I think that was the only time [being dad-shamed]. And I get it, I guess. I don't know, it just seems like people that have nothing better to do. I mean, if it was a really dangerous situation, then sure, I would appreciate some kind of feedback like that, but it wasn't. 

How would you describe your parenting style?

I try to be strict. It's hard with him because he's so cute. It's funny because I used to watch my sisters raise their kids, and they've turned out to be really good kids, but they were running my sisters around. And I'd say, "When I have a kid I'm not going to give in like that." And sure enough, I am. It's difficult, but we're reading books about it. It's so hard because he's in such a privileged situation and it's just the way we live. ... So as soon as he's old enough, and I think it's getting to that place, we're going to start taking him to other kids' houses and we're bringing him around charity work that we do. He really needs to see how a lot of people live in this world and appreciate what he has. 

But you know, it's not his fault. He doesn't know any better. He's lived in this — and for the last year and a half, we haven't left very much — kind of a bougie neighborhood. So he doesn't really know how the real world lives, how I grew up. ... He's going to start spending more time seeing how the rest of the world is. 

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Do you have a hard-and-fast rule that you're really adamant about?

We were just dealing with it, which took about 45 minutes. He's got to clean up his toys. He'll take stuff out [mimes dumping toys out] and just sit there. "You've gotta clean it, you've gotta clean it." Discipline has been the toughest thing. Like, what do you do? We grew up in a different time. I mean, I wasn't abused or hit that much, but you got a spanking now and again. I can't even do that to him. We've just been doing time-out, or lately it's been "go in your room and calm down." But that's a tough one too, right?...

He doesn't know any consequences yet, so it's a little tough, but I've been using the "if I get to five" [approach] — I've never gotten to five because I'll stretch out four so long that he knows what five is going to be. But he's pretty good with that. 

I don't know. It's a trip and it's a beautiful trip and [as you say] I had it later in life, [but] I wish I would have had kids earlier. I wish I would've had more. We're trying for two. People that have the capacity and enough love to give to more, two or three kids, it's nice to do it — but it's also a lot. I can't imagine being in my early 20s, having kids. It's a lot. But it just makes me appreciate parents all over the world and appreciate mothers even more. Just being a parent has made me appreciate my parents so much more, especially my mother. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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