Joe Augustin: Learning Fatherhood While Helping Kids Learn

The_Augustins_Xmas_2009_w_dfl_logoWell-known for his ready wit on air, Joe Augustin, ex-radio personality with both Mediacorp, SPH Unionworks and Safra Radio, is now an emcee, voiceover talent and speaker who gets to spend most of his time at home. He and his wife Adele, are proud parents and share stories of their family life on their podcast and blog respectively.

Their eldest daughter Megan, 14 was from Raffles Girls’ Primary School (RGPS) but has since opted for the less-travelled route of theatre, and is a student of the School of the Arts (SOTA).

Jordan, 11 is enrolled in St Joseph’s Institute (Junior), Tasmin, 8 is in Primary 2 in RGPS, and the baby of the family, Lauren, 4 is in a kindergarten.

Having the Wind Knocked Out of His Sails

Joe’s second child and only son, Jordan, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) when he was just a preschooler.

DMD is characterised by rapid progression of muscle degeneration, eventually leading to loss of ambulation. Recent medical advances have allowed some with this condition to live up to their thirties but the average life expectancy for those with DMD varies from late teens to the mid 20s.

For any father, this news can be very hard to deal with. After overcoming the initial devastation, Joe and his family have learnt to rise to the challenge.

“We are not in denial but it is important how Jordan sees himself. He sees himself as a regular boy with some weakness rather than someone suffering from a particular disease or condition. I don’t think Jordan thinks of himself as a victim and even us as a family, we are not accustomed to thinking of ourselves as victims.”

Adele shares Joe’s sentiments. “When Jordan has a swollen foot, he still goes to school. We don’t want to give him any excuse not to try.”

Even Megan remarked that Jordan is treated like an ordinary boy. “He isn’t spoilt. But we as a group are quite spoilt. Daddy was just saying that we (the children) have a twisted view of society where both parents don’t go to work every day.”

Lessons From and for Fathers

This desire to empower their children for life also means treating and reasoning with them as equals. Joe says that this has helped them to think at a more complex level.

Joe also believes that it is important to expose his children to diverse knowledge and experiences as early as possible. This could mean starting the education process even before they are born!

“When I was younger, I read a lot of books on super learning and prenatal learning, and we tried some of that actively with Megan. We found that things they were exposed to before they were born are familiar to them later on in life.”

Continuing that tradition, Joe recently took Jordan out to a forex trading seminar and exposed his son to Robert Kiyosaki’s ideas about money.

“He seemed to understand some of the ideas and if he internalizes them, he’ll have a head start among his peers.”

The next thing is to ensure that the children have access to information. As a child, Joe had access to the Encyclopedia Britannica and for him, the current equivalent would be the Internet.

“Our kids have literally unlimited access to the internet. We have open dialogues with them about different things. It’s all about telling them how to use it and giving it to them with warning. And we find that they use it for different things – to pursue their own interests, for school work and for socializing.”

As a result, all their children are very comfortable using new media.

Megan shared that “Mummy and I will ‘Facebook’ across the house and make our circle of friends laugh.” In another example, when Adele asked Tasmin to choose which dress she wanted as a Christmas gift, the 8 year old suggested that her mother take photos of the dresses and send them to her via e-mail so that she could make a decision.

At the end of the day, Joe believes that developing his children’s social skills is even more important than nurturing their intellectual development.

“The greatest skill that you’re going to need in an ever crowded and interactive world is the skill of getting along,” emphasized Joe.

To help them develop the ability to get along, Joe decided to put his children in the same room. He picked up the idea from Scott McNeally, co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

“The arrangement we have upstairs is that three of them sleep in one room. And if we had a bigger room, all four would sleep in one room. The basic intent of this arrangement is to get them into one another’s face all the time. The by-product is they seem to get along and there is a lot of laughter in the house.”

It seems then that for Joe, learning is a constant theme in both his own fatherhood journey and in how he has sought to prepare his children for life ahead.

About the Author: The DadsforLife Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published on 02-06-2011