It’s interesting to me how I feel about celebrities weighing in on politics compared to how compelled I am hearing them talk about their families.
Though I have no tolerance for celebrities waxing passionately about Biden vs. Trump, I do find their takes on parenting and the challenges that come with it interesting. I can’t explain it, but I think it has to do with revealing their human side rather than a preaching style. A couple individuals I admire for their parenting passion are featured in this week’s column.
•Hugh Jackman, parent to two kids adopted at birth (like Pam and I): “From the moment we started the adoption process, all the anxiety went away. I don’t think of them as adopted ― they’re our children. Deb and I are believers in … I suppose you could call it destiny. We feel things happened the way they are meant to. Obviously, biologically wasn’t the way we were meant to have children. Now, as we go through life together, sure there are challenges, but everyone’s in the right place with the right people. It sounds airy-fairy, but it’s something we feel very deeply … A while back, there was a lot of shame attached to it and parents wouldn’t tell their kids they were adopted. What’s great is that the focus is now shifting to the care of the child. We were very fortunate and open ― I can’t go into details because of the privacy of the birth parents, but I can tell you it was amicable. Adoption is a wonderful thing to do.
“In the first month, everyone is going to tell you it’s the most amazing thing that has ever happened and a lot of the time you will think that. But, I promise you, there are going to be some mornings when you haven’t slept, and your child has thrown up on you seven times, and you’re not going to be thinking that this is the greatest thing that has ever happened to you. Just know that it’s OK to feel that way. Just make sure you’ve someone you can ring up and bitch to. Also, once you take the kid out for a drive to put him to sleep, that is your life for the next 18 months. Don’t do it. And I know you’re going to do it and you’re going to go, damnit, Hugh Jackman told me not to do it. But, you’re going to make mistakes, and it’s all going to be great.
“[Fatherhood is] unbelievable, tiring, magical … the most challenging role I’ve ever had. … Look, kids have a way of pushing your buttons more than anyone else. If there’s stuff in your life you haven’t worked through ― as a parent, you’re going to have to work through it.
“I believe in letting kids be kids for as long as possible. I do constantly talk to them about giving everything their best and doing the thing you love, because I have managed to find my way into a job that doesn’t feel like a job, and if my kids can be lucky enough to do that, then that is the goal, I think. That is the Holy Grail. So just follow their passions and then work hard at it. Because even the thing you love to do is going to be a pain at some point.
“When your focus innately, deeply, one hundred percent becomes these kids in your life and their well being, it just seems to put everything into perspective. Being a father has taught me so much.”
•Matthew McConaughy, father of three: “It was about having to say ‘yes sir’ to my father and his friends and having to shake their hand and look them in the eye, the one consistent thing in my 6, 7, 8-year-old mind, in my young, young mind was I knew it was about respect for elders, but one common denominator in my mind was, ‘oh it’s because they’re fathers,” he said. “And that excited me. It wrote itself in my lineage of going, ‘Oh that’s when you made it. Oh, that’s when you become a man. Oh, that’s when you’re successful.’ It was ahead of any dreams of a career or a vocation or fame or wealth. It was being a father since I was 8 years old was the paramount. Of, if you can do that well, then you’ve really pulled something off. Then you’ve really succeeded in life. As I’ve later come to learn, as I got older, making a baby with momma doesn’t, mean, ‘okay I did it. Now I’m a father.’ There is fatherhood. Now comes the verb part, now comes the hard part for the next, whatever, 18 or so years, as long as your child’s in your house. There’s where the fun work is. I can’t think of anything more important. Being a father, it’s also – and being a mother – it’s how we become immortal. Almost literally immortal. We’ll move on and if we’re fortunate enough to have our kids outlive us and then they have kids that outlive them and so on and so on and so on. That’s immortality.”
In some ways, this column has become therapeutic for me. It began 12 years ago as a reporting of the antics of my newborn child, Beckett, and continued through the birth of our second son, Carson, and then the wild toddler years. With the kids now 12 and 10 years old, the content appears to be changing. Only you, the reader, knows if it’s better or worse. Maybe it’s neither. I do know it’s different for sure.
These words from these actors comes at a time of great professional struggle for me as a result of the pandemic’s great economic impact. Their words serve as reminder to focus on what’s important and the matters within my control. My mantra for everything else is take it day to day, pivot as needed, never give up and keep fighting. Working to impose these beliefs on my kids brings me peace.