"Soak it up. Soak up every second because from birth to the time they are ten, it goes like that."

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Wes and Meribeth Brown before Daddy/Daughter dance
Credit: Wes Brown

Wes Brown is a familiar face on our TV screens as he is a regular in Hallmark movies as well as films, We Are Marshall, The Call of the Wild, and another of our TV favorites, Hart of Dixie. But the role he most cherishes in life is that of dad to ten-year-old, Meribeth.

The Louisiana native recently spoke with Southern Living and shared his reflections and lessons learned from ten years of fatherhood.

“I thank God every day but, I feel like we got a pre-trained child. She wakes herself up, she dresses herself, she’s always been super responsible. I do not know where that stems from,” he mused with a hearty laugh. Brown feels that he’s passed on a mentality to his daughter that he got from his father, who passed away several years ago, rather than a set of rules that he and his wife established for Meribeth.

“My dad kinda treated me as you have all this stuff and it’s handed to you … including my trust. And it’s earned and you have it. You also have it to lose. So, if all that trust is gained and we have a connection here, then you are free to do whatever you need to do. Now when it starts to affect my life, your life in a negative way, some of that trust, those things, they’ll be taken from you. They’ll be gone. So, I never wanted to lose that,” he reflected. As Meribeth is still just ten, she has been allowed this freedom to a degree. “She feels that responsibility. If she’s waking up in the morning and getting her work done, she doesn’t necessarily have a hard bedtime. If she starts to miss those things, then things will be adjusted accordingly but we really haven’t had to do that yet,” he said proudly.

Meribeth’s early independence has served the Brown family well in this “new normal” we are all experiencing amid the coronavirus pandemic. “She is an only child. She has adapted wonderfully through all of this. She says she can focus on her schoolwork without all the annoying boys.”

Another lesson she’s learning that can be traced back to Brown’s Louisiana roots is a love and appreciation for Cajun cooking. “She’s gonna eat spicy stuff in my house and she’s gonna like it,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s not just the food. It’s more, especially coming from Louisiana. It’s the activities that come around the food. Like, if you’re making a gumbo, you’re not just having a gumbo for a meal. You’re having an event, you’re having a party, you’re having people over. Crawfish boil, same thing. It’s an event.” Brown enjoys passing on the traditions from his Southern upbringing and the cuisine native to his home state. He spoke about the process and time that goes into making the gumbo which is just as important as the tasty fare that ends up in the bowl. And he knows the flavors and the methods he is teaching his daughter now are things she wouldn’t get to experience if he were from anywhere else. “I go to Canada and I see something that’s Cajun spiced, I know that that’s my neck of the woods. We’re known for something that’s all over the world and there is definitely some pride in that.”

But Brown’s skills in the kitchen go well beyond a pot of gumbo. He’s an avid home cook who loves challenging himself every time he ties an apron around his waist.

“Yeah, I don’t like simple,” he said with another hearty laugh. “I like long, elaborate. I like dinners on Sundays that have to start on Fridays.” While he enjoys going through the steps sans shortcuts, truly treating each ingredient, “with love,” beyond a hobby, he realizes it’s another lesson he is imparting upon his daughter. “My daughter will see me go, again not complicated, just taking extra steps. She sees me, if I get a pound of shrimp, most people will peel the shrimp, throw away the shells. I will take the shells put them in a pot, fill it with water, bay leaf and peppercorn and make a stock and then freeze it. That’s not complicated to freeze a stock to make sure something I make with seafood later will just have that extra level,” he explained and then connected it to what Meribeth is now watching as her mom, an animator for Disney, works from home. “She sees like wow, there’s a lot of people who put a lot of time, energy into a show that the final product is something entertaining for me to watch, but the work that goes into that product is real.”

This unexpected time at home is also something that Brown views as a gift.

“We’ve been very lucky, very fortunate. I understand were in a different situation than a lot of people … The big picture is that we realize that this time at home together, it’s not going to last forever. Us being home all the time… it’s kind of an overall sense of man, let’s just, of all the craziness going on in the world, lets enjoy our little bubble because it will pop one day.”

Inside their bubble, Wes and wife Amanda have enjoyed sharing movies and TV shows they watched as kids with their daughter.

“One of the great things about Netflix and Hulu, she has crushed every season of the Brady Bunch, she’s going to watch old school stuff. She watched all three of the Back to the Future’s just a couple of days ago, I feel like we have made the best of the situation that we are currently in, the best that we could.”

With Father’s Day approaching, we asked what advice he would give to other fathers or fathers to be. “That’s a big question. A big question that actually has a pretty simple answer. The advice I would give is to, if you can, if you are there, enjoy… Soak it up. Soak up every second because from birth to the time they are ten, (snaps) it goes like that. You know snap of a finger, you blink your eye, like oh my god how did this happen? And I know I’ve heard that before, and it sounds like a cliched statement but it’s very true.”

His other piece of advice for parents is to be present for your children. “They don’t know if you’re rich. They don’t know if you’re poor, they don’t know if your car costs a hundred grand or if your car costs $500 bucks, but they do know if you’re present in their life. And that has been the absolute most important thing for me. I think it’s been the most important thing for our daughter.”

As for how he hopes to celebrate the day dedicated to dear ole dad, his wishes are pretty simple. He wants to spend a relaxing day with his loved ones with good grub on the grill and a drink in his hand next to a body of water—he said “Be that an ocean, a lake, or a pool, doesn’t matter.” And he added, “it kinda sounds cheesy but I don’t want gifts. My gifts are all around me.”

We hope he finds the perfect, complicated recipe for a grilled feast! We might have a few suggestions here.

WATCH: Hallmark Announces Christmas in July Programming and Excited Is an Understatement

As for what’s next for Brown, it all depends on when he can get back to work but if you’ve seen Christmas at Graceland (which we hope is part of Hallmark’s Christmas in July lineup, wink, wink, Hallmark execs) then you know he is also a musician. So we were thrilled when he let us in on a little secret. “My hope is in the style of that American standard, old New Orleans jazz kind of style, I was going to go record some Christmas music to be able to release for the fall.” We will certainly keep you updated on any Christmas album he puts out! Stay tuned.