Henry Winkler wears many hats but likes his grandfather’s hat the most. The talented actor recently became a granddad for the sixth time and is dedicated to remaining the fun grandparent. Life has taught him to listen to his family, and perhaps because it was not something he enjoyed as a child, he does so frequently.
Henry Wrinkler did not have an easy childhood. He was born with dyslexia to parents who were too critical, and they put too much stock in education which was the one area he did not excel in. They were sometimes cruel to him about this and even nicknamed him “Dumm Hund,” which means dumb dog.
They were convinced that he was not living up to his true potential and that he was too lazy. Because of this, they grounded him for most of his high school career. In an old interview, he was asked for a memory of his mom and Wrinkler revealed he could only remember her laughing twice.
He had not forgotten; it was just how things were. Winkler recalled the first time she laughed was when they tickled her into a closet, and the second time, she found a funny invention while reading an article one day.
According to Winkler, his mother was the sort of woman who exploded at him for the smallest slights. It all had huge implications for who he would become. His sad upbringing was terrible, but it made Winkler decide he would be a better parent.
Compared to other kids with many childhood memories, Winkler had little to none. Winkler usually had nothing to say when his classmates would talk about what they had been up to with their families.
He had no good memories with his parents, nor did he get to spend any time with his grandparents because they were all taken to concentration camps. Now that he is a grandparent, Winkler knows how great it is to hang out with his grandkids and has expressed regret about not having his grandparents around as a kid.
Wrinkler Didn’t Figure Out His Problem until 31
Growing up, Wrinkler’s dyslexia was so severe that the actor could not even read a book properly, and the only subject he was not terrible at in school was “lunch.” However, neither he nor his family knew then what it was.
Winkler praised his parents for escaping the Holocaust and making a good life for their kids, but he called them emotionally destructive.
It was not until he clocked 31 that Wrinkler realized that he was not dumb. He found out he had been living with dyslexia when his stepson, Jed, was tested for the same thing. It turns out all three of his kids had it too, but they quickly discovered it before it started affecting the children’s self-image.
Wrinkler shares his kids with his wife, Stacey. The two met in 1976 when he was playing The Fonz on “Happy Days.” He first saw her at a store, standing in front of him dressed in purple parachute pants with her fiery red hair, and all he could think about was how beautiful she was.
The following week, he returned to the store, and she was there again, so he decided to make his move. Wrinkler asked Stacey if she would like to grab a soda, but he also said he had to make a quick detour to buy a wedding gift.
Upon hearing that, Stacey replied that she was not a “gift service”; however, she did not walk away. She eventually gave in and they went to get ginger ales from across the street. It was the beginning of something beautiful, and weeks after, Stacey, already a mom of one, moved into Wrinkler’s home with her son.
They eventually tied the knot in 1978 and welcomed two more kids they named Zoe and Max. Stacey had remained by Winkler’s side ever since and was by his side when he was awarded an Emmy recently for his role on “Barry.” Speaking about their long union, Stacey said:
“The most wonderful thing is to really be able to grow with someone. We’re not the same people we were when we got married. But certain of the tenets you hold dear are still intact.”
Stacey also admitted that it takes work. She said there would be times when it seems like things are off, but both parties need to work harder to get past it rather than give up. The proud wife has been through her fair share of issues with her husband, but they now enjoy spending every day together.
He Is Nothing Like His Parents
Given how harsh his childhood was, it does not come as a surprise that Wrinkler is raising his kids differently. On a podcast he and his daughter Zoe featured on, they spoke about their brand of parenting.
Zoe shared a bit about her childhood; according to her, her home only had one rule — tell the truth if you don’t want to be in trouble. Her parents always allowed her to defend herself with the truth and the back-and-forths they had were great for her as a child.
According to Zoe, her father was very conversant with what was happening in her life, and the atmosphere in their home had been one that cultivated trust and openness.
When she was 17 and she lost her virginity to a boy who refused to call her afterward, her parents were the first to know. They comforted her, and her father took her to a Russian dance to cheer her up.
Zoe, who has worked hard to incorporate that same brand of parenting into her home with her husband, says her father’s experience with his parents was different from her experience with hers.
Winkler’s father, Harry Irving Winkler was the president of an international lumber company, and his mother, Ilse Anna Maria worked with her husband in the same company.
They wanted Winkler to work at the company, but his dyslexia held him back and caused him to face lots of pressure from them. Winkler praised his parents for escaping the Holocaust and making a good life for their kids, but he called them emotionally destructive.
Stemming from that, Wrinkler is a better parent to his kids. Even though all three kids in his care have dyslexia, he had been patient and supportive, unlike his parents.
Wrinkler Is a Fun Grandpa
Wrinkler now has six grandkids and has learned much about dealing with kids. He believes the adult’s ability to listen is usually missing in a relationship between a child and an adult.
The “Happy Days” star enjoys being a grandpa at 77. When he appeared on Kelly Clarkson’s show, he spoke about how he got drawn in just by spoon-feeding his latest grandkid. He shared that he fed the child mushed banana with a spoon and loved doing it.
He even stated that he cries when he thinks about it, which is another reason many think he is the perfect granddad any kid would wish to have. He is attentive and likes to have fun with his grandkids, but he never breaks any rules their parents have already laid down.
He has even gone as far as calling to verify the rules before taking action. Wrinkler believes there is freedom in structure and prefers to trust the parent’s vision for their kids.
In this way, Wrinkler gets to have fun with his grandkids without making their parents worry. The aged actor takes them to McDonald’s, has been known to feature on their TikToks, and even sings to them. When he is away from them, he connects with them over facetime or sends souvenirs from his travels.