Interview | Adam Carolla On Parenting, Entitlement and Father’s Day
Photo: Craig Larson.
Anyone who came of age listening to Adam Carolla dole out advice on the syndicated radio show Loveline wouldn’t doubt the co-host’s ability to guide the next generation onto the right path. But the Renaissance man of media didn’t become a father until age 42, when he and his wife Lynette Paradise welcomed twins Natalia and Santino in 2006.
The New York Times bestselling author reflects on his parenting experiences in Daddy, Stop Talking! And Other Things My Kids Want But Won’t Be Getting, now out in paperback. Part rant about helicopter parenting and part memoir about growing up with depressive parents, Carolla depicts fatherhood as only he can: with caustic honesty, comical complaining, and just enough sentimentality to convince readers he really does love the dad role–and knows what he’s doing.
Crave: Your honesty in this book is much appreciated. It seems like we live in a culture where it isn’t okay to say you don’t enjoy parenting all the time even though you love your kids. Why do you think that is?
Adam Carolla: I think there’s some sort of competition among parents to see who the better parent is. It’s sort of narcissistic in a sense that we’ve made it a competition between which parent excels the most versus what makes the kids excel—something my parents clearly didn’t engage in. I hear a lot of parents talking to other parents about, “We were at the soccer tournament this morning. This afternoon, of course, we’re here at the basketball game, and tonight’s water polo! I got to pick ‘em up and drop ‘em off.” There’s a lot of one-upsmanship with parents.
My feeling is: I don’t believe you can mold your kids into some shape that either you would like them in or will somehow have them reach the stars. I believe that you provide a safe home, you provide support, you provide the essentials: the food, the medical attention. After that, you just kind of stand back and see what direction life takes them.
I don’t know anybody that’s been able to get anybody to do anything. I know a handful of guys whose dads were lawyers, so they felt they should become lawyers, but it never really lasts. They pass the bar [exam], they work at a law firm for two years, then they quit to open an organic bakery because they never really wanted to be lawyers.
You’ve been vocal about the lackluster way you were parented. Do you think you would have been less ambitious if you had been parented better? Is your success a kind of rebellion?
I would look at it more as overcompensation and less as rebellion, but yes, same point.
What is your relationship with your parents like now?
We talk a little. We visit a little. I don’t really look at them as my parents. I mean, I recognize them by title as my parents, but they’re just sort of there. I don’t ask them for advice or share any information with them that’s pertinent to me. I don’t know what’s going on with them and I’m not sure that they know what’s going on with me. They’re good people that share a mutual interest in themselves and not in taking care of anybody else. It’s a bad quality to have in a parent. It’s a weird thing ‘cause they’re both good people who really aren’t interested in doing anything for anybody else, which I guess might make you a bad person, but they’re nice. They’re not good parents ‘cause parenting is about spending money and spending time. It’s all about a bunch of stuff you don’t want to do, and my parents aren’t into doing stuff they don’t want to do, far as I can tell.
“I expect to come home one day in about four years and seeing her and my wife literally sword-fighting in the living room. I think they’re going full Three Musketeers.”
Your kids are turning 10 this month. Do you have a big birthday party planned? How extravagant do those celebrations get at your house?
I don’t plan anything except for the deck I’m adding on to the kitchen. I’m sure my wife will do something that’s way more than they deserve and that’ll be it. I’m not a big birthday guy. There’s some statistic, but all you need to do is get something like 37 people in one room and two people will share the same birthday. You don’t need to get 365 people in the room to share the same birthday. So how really unique are you? I’m driving down the freeway right now. I’m sure I’ve passed two cars of people that share either my birthday or my kids’ birthday. How unique an experience is this? For me, I like Achievement Day, which is when you pick a day where you did something really incredible and celebrate that day.
How do you counteract a sense of entitlement in your kids, given that they appear to have everything they could ever want?
They just live in a world with no gravity. They can have whatever, whenever. Money, travel, nothing’s an issue. Because nothing’s an issue, they don’t have a lot of energy around it, either. It’s good and it’s bad. On one hand, they don’t worry about money, so they’re spoiled. On the other hand, they’re not uptight about money or obsessive about money because it’s there. It’s sort of like food: it’s always there, so they never stuff themselves because there’s not that sense of urgency. They don’t have a sense of entitlement in a negative way, per se. It’s more like an expectation.
How aware are your kids of your celebrity? Does it bother them?
I think they have fun with it. They’re proud to be associated with someone who’s recognized on occasion.
What are your hopes or fears as they go into their teen years?
My daughter’s wild and she’s crazy. I’m sure she’s going to be boy-crazy. She’s been spending way too much time in front of the mirror, brushing her hair way too much. She’s going to be a nutty handful. I expect to come home one day in about four years and seeing her and my wife literally sword-fighting in the living room. I think they’re going full Three Musketeers. I fully expect that. So, that I can see. My son’s very mellow, very laid-back, very “whatever.” The hope for him is sort of the opposite: that life doesn’t bowl him over. He’s so agreeable, so laid-back. I just hope that life doesn’t take advantage of him, of his very good nature.
Have you had “the birds and the bees” talk with them yet?
No. They’ll be 10 in a few days. I’ll probably just tell the nanny to do it in a couple years.
Father’s Day is coming up. What would your ideal Father’s Day involve?
I go to my shop and crack a beer and muss around with my race cars. A quiet day.