Broadway Icon Brian Stokes Mitchell
Plan Epic Summer Outings - Get Activities Sent to You!
Never Hear “I’m Bored!”
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Q & A with Brian Stokes Mitchell
Q. What is your favorite activity with your son?
BSM: We do so many things together, but what I find most fun is going out into the park searching for bugs. Ellington is all into bugs and science - he's all curiosity - the most curious child I've ever met. If you asked him, though, he would probably say playing with Legos. He loves to build spaceships, and they are quite outrageous.
Q. What is the most important lesson you try to impart to Ellington?
BSM: That life is wonderful and fascinating in all its diversity. My wife and I also make it clear that the one word that's traife [taboo] in our house is "bored." We want him to know that if you think you're bored, you're just not looking in the right place. You can always find something interesting - looking out the window, or at your own fingerprints...or at bugs.
Q. Who was your greatest child-raising influence, and why?
BSM: Both of my parents, but for different reasons. [Mitchell, whose dad was a radio officer and a photographer, spent most of his early childhood overseas in Guam and the Philippines.] My father, who had had a tough childhood and didn't want us to repeat what he'd gone through, was sometimes away for months at a time, leaving my mother home to raise three boys. But when he was home, he was a typical 1950s father, and he shared his travel experiences with us through photographs and slide shows, which were wonderful. It was my mother who taught me grace and fortitude. Thanks to them, I had a great childhood. I do some things differently from my father, but that's the way it should be. Life is a constant evolution, including what your parents pass down. So you take the best and make changes as you go along.
Q. What is your approach to discipline?
BSM: We rarely have to discipline Ellington, but when we do, we mostly do time-outs. Ellington's an incredibly social kid, so this usually works pretty well. One thing we have learned, though, is that if we take the time to explain our actions, he's okay with it. His frustration comes from not knowing why we're doing what we're doing.
Q. What was a memorable family outing?
BSM: It's hard to pick one because we've done so many amazing things together, and because we've traveled with our son since he was born. Everything we do is fun. Early this year we took a trip to Washington, D.C., for a birthday party President Obama threw for Ted Kennedy at the Kennedy Center. That was pretty exciting, even if Ellington won't really be able to appreciate the entire experience until he's older. He did spend a lot of time with Senator Kennedy, though, who gave him a signed copy of Billy Whiskers, Ted and his brother John's favorite book when they were growing up.