By Dave Ongie, News Editor
Tony Caito was eyeball deep in those delirious first days of fatherhood when he spoke to News & Neighbor publisher Bill Derby shortly before Father’s Day in 2001.
Derby was at the Johnson City Medical Center – where Caito’s wife Alicia had just given birth to his son Jackson, the couple’s first child – to do a profile on a new father preparing to celebrate his first Father’s Day as a dad. Caito’s son was just a day old, but Caito remarked that it still didn’t feel real yet.
Twenty years later, Caito still remembers the newness of it all.
“We have four kids now,” he said from his home in Oregon, where his family has since settled. “But that was the first time for everything. I hadn’t experienced it before.”
Since that first Father’s Day, the journey of fatherhood has become more rewarding, but also more complex for Caito as he and Alicia have added three more children to the fold – Emmelyn, Silas and Gabriel. There’s an old joke that once a father and mother have their third child, they are forced to switch from man-to-man defense to zone.
Caito allows that strategy, communication and teamwork have been vital to parenting a growing family.
“Each kid is totally different,” he said. “There are basic principles for parenting, but beyond that, each of our four kids are so specific in their needs that Alicia and I both have to make sure we’re on the same page in how we’re parenting each one separately.”
It gets even more complicated when dealing with all the kids together or in pairs, but Caito said the partnership he has built over the years with his wife Alicia – a Science Hill graduate – has allowed them to parent with a purpose. They both bring different strengths to the table, and they try to use those strengths to nurture each of their children physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“I’m really laid back, and Alicia is proactive, so she’s always one step ahead of me,” Caito said. “Trying to get ourselves in sync as parents has been important, and that’s about consistent communication. If it goes unsaid, it’s not going to be perceived. We can’t read each other’s minds.”
Twenty years after becoming a father, Caito can’t believe how fast time has passed. His firstborn Jackson, pictured as a newborn in the June 15, 2001, edition of the News & Neighbor, is now a sophomore in college. The athletic young man who ran cross country and track, wrestled and played football has found his niche as a singer and an actor.
“He loves performing, and he loves being the center of attention,” Caito said.
Although Jackson is home with his family this summer, he’ll be headed back to Boston in the fall to continue his education. As he looks at all his children, Caito tries to put himself in their shoes. What was he doing at that time in his own life? Where was he developmentally?
The exercise helps Caito better understand where his children are coming from, but it also helps put the passage of time into perspective. In the case of Jackson, it’s hard for Caito to believe his son is now just two years younger than he was in 2001. “He’s two years away from how old I was when this story was written,” Caito said. “That’s really quite weird.”
Time may be linear, but life has a way of coming full circle. Ultimately, that may be one of the most valuable rewards of parenthood – being able to witness sparks of past generations being carried on into the future.
“Thinking about my parents and grandparents, and seeing some characteristics that come out in different situations in the kids – that really puts time in perspective,” Caito said. “There are traits that skipped a generation that they have. We’re seeing it again.”