Hanging with the Stars: An Unexpected Lesson
Trying a little too hard to appear casual, my friend Kim and I sauntered down the street. It was my first movie premier, and inwardly I was bursting with excitement. Kim had gotten me invited because the A-lister starring in this new movie was her relative. Not only that, but she’d even gotten me included in the after-party!
As we confidently (at least outwardly) strolled, my friend pointed out who was who. I felt a bit guilty having been “chosen” to join. Unless the person was a household name and face, I was clueless. I noticed people trying to figure out if the two of us were “somebody” as we did the same.
In the Jewish community where I live, the nicer you are to people, the better. Here, the reverse seemed true. There was a smugness in the air as my friend introduced me to someone she knew in the industry. I was friendly, but my demeanor was not quite returned.
However, there was one exception to this rule. It seemed that the higher up someone was on the celebrity totem pole, the nicer and more down to earth they actually were; as if the ones who felt that they needed to prove themselves most acted the most important rather than those who actually were the most important.
We made our way through the crowd, toward the large screening room where the film would be shown for the first time. After introductions, the movie started. It was fabulous, hilarious, and I enjoyed it with the carefree joy that only a mother of three kids who never gets out can experience.
After the movie ended, we ascended to the penthouse floor of the building to celebrate. There were lines with hundreds of people waiting for access to the elevator up, while we were guided to a back elevator with the brother of the lead actor. Once on the rooftop terrace, we mingled and chatted with the rest of the family of the star.
I watched as the lead actress behaved graciously toward everyone around her. She took the time to meet and greet each person that approached her. She made everyone feel like they were the most important person of the night, and expressed extreme gratitude for them being there to support her. I was struck by her humility in such a setting. She has been to my home on several occasions, and I to hers. Although she is a celebrity, she carries herself as though she is a “regular” person.
She was especially relatable as she stood with her husband’s suit jacket around her shoulders and her stilettos in hand, casually standing barefoot in the crowd. This woman has achieved unprecedented success, and yet remains kind and humble. While impressed by her success, I was even more impressed with her sterling personal character.
I was introduced to the lead actress’s father that evening, and we struck up a conversation. As I looked at his child, who was in the spotlight and yet so modest, I wondered to myself what he did right to raise such a human.
Not one to be shy, I asked him, “Please tell me your secrets to raising successful and modest children! Both your daughter and son are exemplary. You must have done something right. Can you pinpoint anything in particular you did that helped them become who they are?”
After I summoned the courage to ask him this small question, it led to a forty-minute long conversation that would have a profound impact on my parenting style and perspective overall.
He looked at me and said, “Well, you have to understand that parenting is the single-most important job in your adult life. Your kids need to see that they are the priority in your life, and that there is nothing more valuable or important than raising them.
“Our kids need to feel that we aren’t just rushing through their needs to get back to whatever we were doing beforehand. Rather, they have to know that we only do those other things so that we can be with them more. Or do more for them. They have to see the enjoyment in our eyes when spending time with them. The concept of raising kids needs to be so important to parents that the kids just pick up on that feeling.”
“How does one practically do that?” I asked.
“Well, I can tell you this much – it’s a lot harder now than it was when I was raising my kids. We didn’t have iPhones back then to distract us, and I shudder to think what will become of the children of millennials. Oftentimes I see parents with their children, out and about, but also incredibly distracted. They are basically just making sure that the child in front of them isn’t dying. There’s no eye contact or interaction between them. It’s scary.”
He continued, “Show the children that they are the priority, not a burden that you have to merely keep alive. My wife and I rarely, if ever, vacationed without our kids, and we didn’t have a ton of personal friends. Frankly, we weren’t out at evenings like this – ever. They knew that they were our essence, our joy.”
I slowly started to metaphorically shrink into the floor, as I felt guilty for being away from my kids on a girls’ night out. I wanted to interrupt and say, I promise I never get out – this is so rare!
Instead, I asked, “Yes, but how do you maintain that perspective when the kids are so young, and endlessly needy? Sometimes as parents, we need a break, too!”
To that he answered, “You just have to remember the goal. At the end of your life, and even just when your kids are grown, you can’t go back and give them what you wish you had.”
After pondering this, I became curious about his thoughts on raising financially successful children. He explained that it was important to cultivate independence at a young age.
“Give your kids independence and responsibilities as early and as soon as you can. Let them do things for themselves.” He shared with me that often when driving with his daughter, even as young as seven years old, he would ask her, “Which way next?” He knew the direction, but he wanted to let her guide him. Anything they can do for themselves should be allowed and encouraged – even if it takes you a little longer.
The last thing this man mentioned, and perhaps the most eye-opening (yet difficult to implement), is the following: “I hardly ever said ‘no’ to my kids.”
I skeptically asked, “Really? But they seem so well-mannered. Did you tolerate chaos in your home when they were young?”
“Quite the opposite.” He explained that he hardly ever needed to say no to them. In line with helping his kids become independent, they actually usually made positive choices on their own, without him having to redirect them.
When I asked him how on earth he managed to swing that, he replied that instead of outright turning them down, he provided them with information and problem solving skills so they could come to a conclusion on their own.
The other benefit to verbalizing ‘no’ as little as possible is that when he did need to use that word, it worked the first time.
This is a tall order for most parents – myself included. How are we to give lengthy explanations and present choices to small children? Sometimes, it’s just easier to say no.
He called a “pay now or pay later” concept.
Instead of dictating boundaries, they actually create themselves as children exercise independent cognitive discipline. In the beginning it’s hard, but as time passes, you are left with a child who is making excellent choices on his own, which inevitably leads to a successful adult.
It was somewhat humorous that in the middle of a posh Hollywood party, I was taking a one-on-one parenting class from this man. I entered the premier that evening thinking that I was the luckiest girl that night because I was privileged to meet celebrities and experience this movie during its first showing. But truthfully, it was my lucky day because I met the father of that celebrity, who gave me such priceless parenting advice. It is the words he shared that have stayed with me until today, long past the hilarious lines of the movie.
Stay tuned for next week’s tips on how to follow this advice and stay in the moment while with our children.