June 18, 2024


Super Art is Almost

Joani’s parenting tip of the day: A Roadmap For Parenting

Joani's parenting tip of the day: A Roadmap For Parenting

This is a blog I wrote 4 years ago. Scrolling through my blogs this morning trying to get inspiration, I came upon this one. Since the beginning of pandemic, writing my weekly blogs became a slog! My motivation just went out the window. I am happy to say that after a hard fall, I feel a renewed sense of purpose. I hope my Monday morning posts will be helpful. Please email me if there is something you would like me to write about! Anyway… having just spent a beautiful thanksgiving with my daughter and her partner, coming upon this particular blog felt like “bashert” which is a yiddish word for something that it is meant to be. 

Parenting a teen can be a slog, let’s face it! It’s not like at the end of every day your kid throws their arms around you and thanks you for all the things you do for them. Talk about delayed gratification!!! That is really the reward of parenting. All the hard work and hard times you are experiencing now and the less the always loving reception you get for your teen is really just a moment in time! In the many years that follow, when your teen becomes a young adult and adult, those hugs  and word of appreciation will be ever present. Just not right now. This blog reminded me of all the yin and yang of parenting; When to set the limit, and when to step back and let your teen take the steering wheel both metaphorically and practically. Too bad those signs that sit in the back window of your card NEW  DRIVER can’t also say, I’m a teen, and I make mistakes! 

Anyway, I’m rambling….. read on and enjoy and I’ll see you every Monday!! Follow me on facebook!

PS: I am starting a new venture: Let’s Have a Kitchen Conversation. I am passionate about cooking and passionate about helping parents. I thought, why not combine the two? Parents deserve a bit of nurturing for themselves after these hellish 2 years! So put a group together, 8-10 people, and come to my house for lunch. I can do weekends as well. At these lunches you will get great food and two hours of tailored to your needs, parenting advice. Email me at [email protected] or call 781-910-1770 for more info!!

 I just returned from a quick trip to LA where I was honored to receive the Judy and Hilary Swank Award for Parenting given by the Actors Fund Looking Ahead Program, which serves young actors and their parents. When I was called and told I would be receiving this award, I thought every parent should receive this award in recognition of the hard but rewarding job of being a parent! So I share this award with all parents!!! The first thing of course I did was to cry! This award recognizes a parent who has raised a young actor who has gone on to become an exceptional adult actor and all around wonderful person, which my 35 year old daughter certainly is!! I wanted to share with you my acceptance speech. Though geared to raising a child heading towards a professional career as an actor, I think it applies to raising any child with a passion whether it be sports or music, or art or leadership or academics or community service or for being a great friend and all around wonderful kid!  I hope you enjoy!! Here goes…

When Ari was a little girl, we introduced her to an array of activities, but what captured her heart was her first grade play.  She had found her passion at age 6.  There was no question that we were in 100%.  Finding our role in all of this wasn’t always easy. We had no roadmap and we had to figure out how to manage and balance our own lives with the demands of Ari’s busy career. 

We took our cues from Ari.  There were boundaries, unspoken but abided by. We were NOT her managers, her directors, or her agents; We were her parents. We were her uber drivers, chaperones, food service workers, appointment secretaries, and her most ardent supporters. We did not coach her on scripts, give feedback on her performances, or tell her what project she should do; that was not what she needed from us. She had her own mind, and eventually, “her people” for that. What we could do, as her parents, was to give her the freedom, opportunity and commitment to follow her dream.
Sometimes we were faced with decisions and dilemmas that challenged our roles as parents. Like when Ari was 13, she was lucky enough to be cast as the fool in an all women’s Shakespeare company production of King Lear. Ari was the only child and non-equity performer. They were to be in residence at Smith College for the summer and then go on the road for several weeks with the show. Because Ari was not equity, there was no place for me, both literally and figuratively.  But we figured it out. I slept on the floor of her tiny room and stayed out of the way until and unless Ari needed me. As the cast became a family and Ari felt ready to take on some independence, I took my leave. All that she learned that summer as a 13 year old is still very important to her. Just 2 years ago the company reunited in Scotland to perform together. Relationships and the work families she has become a part of had their beginnings in these early experiences, and I am so glad I didn’t let my own anxiety get the best of me. 
When Ari was 15 she was in a production at the Huntington Theater in Boston, where we live.  As often was the case, Ari was again the youngest in the cast by many years. Again she became part of her stage family. Her stage brother then 25 most especially. After the production ended, Michael invited Ari to New York City to stay with him and his then boyfriend. So I put her on the train, and off she went. My friends were aghast. “You’re letting her travel alone on the train?” “You’re letting her stay with two 25-year-old men, what are you thinking?” Here’s what I was thinking,. My only child now has a brother, an amazing man who loves and cares about her enough to invite her into his life. And now here we are 20 years later, Michael, here in the audience, is one of my most cherished friends, and is still, and will be forever, Ari’s family. Now she is Auntie Ari as Michael and Brian’s family has grown by two beautiful babies. The Power of relationship!!
In the summer before Ari’s senior year in high school we were in LA auditioning, and she landed a test for a pilot to shoot immediately. I really didn’t understand and was clueless that this meant she would need to sign a contract in 24 hours that might determine her life for the next 5 years. I felt strongly that you only get one senior year of high school. Ari was engaged in and loved her school, had amazing friends, and wanted some college experience. This opportunity could potentially erase this year of that life. Ultimately I had to make the call, Ari WOULD be going back for her senior year- no pilot! I felt no ambivalence about my decision.  But I understood completely and my heart broke for the pain and disappointment Ari was feeling.  I think in the end the lesson Ari took away from this experience was to really understand what is most important in life, and sometimes that means making really hard decisions. 

I have been so inspired by those kinds of hard decisions Ari now makes about her career and her life. She has stayed really true to herself about the work and the art she wants to put out into the world, even when it is not the most popular decision. If even a little bit of this came from that hard day almost 20 years ago in LA, I will be grateful.  

This is a tough business, so much of what an actor has to cope with are decisions made about them beyond their control. As a parent this can feel absolutely excruciating, unfair and yes, sometimes even cruel. Our instinct is to want to protect our children and fix it!  Over the years I have learned from Ari that what she needs from me in these moments is not advice, but instead a safe and loving space to be understood, with the freedom to experience and express her feelings. This lesson has probably been the hardest (still working on it) but honestly it is the most valuable and powerful one for me as both a mother and a professional.

As a parenting expert and writer, I am as passionate about my work as Ari is about hers, and I know that my experience raising my dedicated, and extraordinary daughter informs much of who I am and what I teach parents today. I have learned so much from her. She continually challenges herself to live a life full of integrity, purpose, passion, and authenticity. To learn, to experience, to take risks, to love and most importantly to find the power within herself to live a fulfilling life as both an artist and a woman.