He skates, she dances, but nothing keeps Kurt Browning and Sonia Rodriguez on point more than their two sons. To celebrate our fifth year of publishing, ParentsCanada revisits Canada’s first couple of stage and ice, who appeared in our debut issue.
In spring 2007, for the first issue of ParentsCanada, we met up with figure skater Kurt Browning and prima ballerina Sonia Rodriguez to talk about parenting their three-year-old son Gabriel. As our magazine has grown, so too has the Rodriguez/Browning family. Gabriel, now eight, is big brother to Dillon, age three.
Kurt, 44, is now heading into his third season as host of the CBC’s runaway hit Battle of the Blades, and Sonia, 38, continues to perform as a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada. Both parents tour with their respective careers.
But how is their home life different? “It’s louder,” Kurt says, of having two kids in the house. “We just got to the stage where we’re used to Gabriel running up and down the stairs by himself and then along came another one, and so you had to apply a whole new set of rules to a littler one.” When we talked to Kurt five years ago, he told us that he wanted to have an open relationship with Gabriel. This goal hasn’t changed, but he says he has adopted some new life lesson techniques. “I actually use nature as a guideline – if there’s a lot of ducks in a row and one duck does its own thing, that little duck doesn’t make it to dinner that night because it gets picked off. Mother Nature is a rough lady and sometimes it’s easier to explain things that way.”
The Browning/Rodriguez household has a lot of fun. When they were parents of one, Kurt and Sonia characterized themselves as goofy. Not much has changed, according to Gabriel. As his mom gets her hair and make-up done for our photo shoot, Gabriel interjects, “They’re very goofy because every time they let me do something, such as playing on my Dad’s iPhone, in the middle of the game it’s time to stop.”
“How is that being goofy?” asks Kurt.
“It’s so unfair,” says Gabriel.
“I’m unfair? Welcome to parenthood,” says Kurt.
Gabriel goes on to say that his Dad is goofy when he throws him into the pool and double-bounces him on the trampoline.
The talented Browning/ Rodriguez family has no time for rest these days with Kurt and Sonia deep into their careers. “Ten years ago I probably wouldn’t have thought I would still be dancing now,” says Sonia, fresh from her role in Alice’s Adventures inWonderland. “I feel so good on stage that I almost feel that I’m on top of my career in a way.” Besides hosting Battle of theBlades, Kurt is still skating and touring with Stars on Ice, and doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon. “I made a tentative plan to quit skating when [Sonia] quit dancing, and I incredibly underestimated how long she was going to dance, so I’m just still skating. It’s kind of like playing chicken with each other’s careers, but I think that neither one of us is really, really thinking about quitting yet. My knees on the other hand? They think about it every day!”
Kurt is excited for season three of Battle of the Blades. “It’s been fun for me because my background was way more hockey than figure skating as a kid, and it’s fun to get to feel that side of you again. I’m taking these big bulls by the ring and taking them on their journey about the ice, and so there are major breakthroughs that you really feel a part of.”
Despite the fact that their careers are in the spotlight, Kurt and Sonia say that their celebrity status really doesn’t affect their kids. “I think it’s just part of their everyday lives,” says Sonia. “They don’t really comprehend very much that it’s something extraordinary in a way. If they see a picture of us in the paper or something, that’s just something we do. I think Gabriel gets more proud when he sees pictures of himself in the paper or magazines. He likes that a lot.”
Their hectic schedules would lead anyone to believe that Kurt and Sonia don’t have time for each other. So when we ask them how they make it work, Kurt says they have to understand that it’s okay to talk about the kids, and problems at work over some nice food together. “And when we have time, we really try to take a breath and breathe,” he says. Gabriel interjects – “Does that mean you’re not breathing right now?”
Kurt and Sonia have some help getting through their busy days. Sonia’s mom, Luci, is a second Mom to her grandchildren. They also rely on a good nanny. “You don’t have to worry about ‘Are my kids ok?’ ‘How are they doing?’ so you can focus on your task at hand when you’re away from home and can give full attention to your job,” says Sonia. And despite all of their hard work on the ice and stage Sonia says, “the kids are still our priority no matter what.”
SONIA: “Neither of us takes a long time.”
KURT: “Me, I think.”
BOTH: Dinner and a movie.
KURT: “One would assume she’s the disciplinarian but I’d say it’s 50/50. I’d be surprised if she says otherwise.”
SONIA: “Well I never take out the garbage, but I don’t hate doing it. It’s just that I don’t do it, period. I don’t do much laundry, he does that sometimes.”
KURT: “She hates the recycling and garbage. I mean, I just usually try to get to it first but she’s not the take-out-the-garbage kind of girl.”
KURT: “I guess me, but it’s not by a huge margin.”
Age 8, Grade 2
FAVOURITE SPORT: Swimming
FAVOURITE CLASS IN SCHOOL: Gym
FAVOURITE SHOW: Pokémon
DANCE STYLE? Tap
SKATING? “It’s alright.”