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Al says his kids’ reaction to his cancer diagnosis was first time he ‘saw fear’ in their eyes

Al Roker and the other dads of TODAY got together and shared meaningful moments about parenting ahead of Father’s Day. 

It’s almost here — the day dedicated to celebrating dads.

So in honor of Father’s Day, a trio of TODAY dads, including Al Roker, Craig Melvin and Carson Daly, gathered together at Coney Island's iconic Luna Park and got real about the wonderful, rewarding and sometimes difficult duties that come with that role.

And it was with the latter in mind that Al opened up about the particularly hard task of telling his three adult children about his prostate cancer diagnosis.

"It was the first time I saw fear in my children’s eyes," he confessed. "I mean, they started crying."

And as a dad, he naturally wanted to protect them from that pain.

Al is joined by all three of his children — Courtney, Nick and Leila — as well as wife Deborah Roberts, in this sweet family pic.
Al is joined by all three of his children — Courtney, Nick and Leila — as well as wife Deborah Roberts, in this sweet family pic.debrobertsabc / Instagram

"At the end of the day, that’s all you wanna do is protect them and shield them from hurt and/or harm," he explained. "And at that moment, I realized you can’t always do that."

But, he added, "You can do the best you can."

It's a lesson that was handed down to him and his fellow fathers.

"That’s what I know our fathers did," he said, looking to Craig and Carson. "And that’s all we can do."

It's a sentiment that resonated with Carson, who lost his own father to cancer.

"I’m 48, my dad died when he was 46," he recalled. "I was 5 when he died."

At the time, for Carson's father, doing "the best you can" meant keeping his diagnosis from his young children.  

"Going through chemo, the hiding it from us — we didn’t really even know," he said. "All the days, the doctor calls, how scared he must have been, my mom going through this with young kids."

Yet, Carson said, "Our childhood seemed so normal."

There's no one right way to navigate those trying times. Fatherhood is a learn-as-you-go experience. And, as Craig learned this year, it's also a teach-as-you-go experience.

"One of the big changes since last year is that my — both of my children have become aware of race," he said.

Sybil, 5, and Delano, 8, stumbled upon the topic themselves.

"There was some sort of conversation going on in the house, and Sibby said to my son, who’s darker than she is, Sibby was like, 'Well, Del, you’re Black like Daddy, and I’m white like Mommy.” 

“In the moment I was like, ‘You know, I’m kind of proud that up until now they had no idea,’” Craig noted.

Related: Craig Melvin on teaching his biracial children the importance of Black history

But he knew once they’d discovered the topic, they needed guidance.

“We talked about race and being biracial — how the world is going to view you versus how you're viewed in this house," he said.

It turned out to be a conversation Craig's happy to have had.

"It led to a nice teachable moment," he told his fellow fathers. 

And finding those moments is a big part of being a dad.

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