12-2010: Parent & Child [Jerry O'Connell]


Rebecca came home with the sonogram and there was not one blob, but two. Twins!” That’s how actor Jerry O’Connell recalls the moment when he first learned he would be the father of two. The 36-year-old native New Yorker, star of the new CBS drama The Defenders, told P&C he always knew he and Rebecca would have “at least a couple of kids — it’s just not something I thought we’d go through all at once. But it’s great having Dolly and Charlie.”

Parent & Child: What’s the best thing about having “two kids all at once,” as you say?
O’Connell: Each has a built-in playmate! I grew up in New York City, where I was used to going down the hallway of our apartment building and knocking on neighbors’ doors to play. Here in L.A. we have to drive to all our playdates.

P&C: In what ways are Charlie and Dolly different from each other?
O’Connell: Charlie is bigger. But I have to be careful saying that. I don’t want that to be an issue for either of my girls. I came from a household where no one stressed anything about size. My dad had a saying — “Height is measured from the neck up.” But a lot of parents see Charlie and ask what percentile she’s in. That’s always the big question.

P&C: That naturally leads me to ask, which twin is older?
O’Connell: They’re exactly the same age. Here’s what I mean: My wife and I had met some twins before ours were born and one would always say, “I’m the older one.” And that twin would have a kind of seniority over the other. We didn’t like that. Because Charlie and Dolly were born by Cesarean, we asked the doctor, “Can we say they were born at the same time? And he said, ‘Well, they were.’”

P&C: Rebecca mentioned that Dolly and Charlie have two distinct personalities.
O’Connell: That’s right. One is outgoing and one is shy. We had this rule that we were going to treat them differently and dress them differently. But I dress them the same. I just can’t help myself.

P&C: Is it true you cleared out your video games room to make way for the nursery?
O’Connell: You could call it my “man cave.” But the adult term would be “home office.” It’s where I had my computer and my Xbox. Hey, you gotta make room for the kids!

P&C: Do you still play video games?
O’Connell: Yes. But I find the girls don’t like it when I’m playing instead of paying attention to them. They get upset about that.

P&C: That’s classic. The same thing often happens when a parent is on the phone.
O’Connell: The computer, too! When Rebecca wants to use the computer, she has to make believe she’s in the kitchen cooking for them. She actually goes in the kitchen and rattles pots and pans so she can shop online.

P&C: Describe Rebecca’s parenting style.
O’Connell: She’s the best. Even when we have disagreements about the kids, I realize later that she was correct. I’m not saying that in a robotic, obedient husband kind of way. She’s a great mom, especially with girls. Maybe if we had had boys it’d be different, but we have girls.

P&C: Sometimes having a daughter can change a man’s perspective on girls and women. Did you find that so?
O’Connell: As the father, I’m going to have a few rules for my girls, obviously, as they get older. For instance, they’ll be allowed to date when I’m dead. When I’m gone they can go out with any boy they want.

P&C: You’re so old-fashioned!
O’Connell: Actually, I want them to shatter the glass ceiling. I’m hoping they grow up and don’t even have to think about being held back. I like to think we live in a modern society and it won’t be an issue. Luckily, it’s 2010, and we’re not living in an episode of Mad Men.

Orignal article: Parent & Child 12/2010