Actor Steve Schirripa outlines his philosophy on parenting (no matching tattoos or underage drinking in his house!)
By Angela Barbuti
Steve Schirripa proves that any man can be a father, but it takes a real man to be a daddy. In his new book, Big Daddy’s Rules: Raising Daughters Is Tougher Than I Look, he writes about raising two daughters with tough love and a sense of humor. The former Sopranos star doesn’t appreciate how fathers are portrayed on television. “In every TV show, the dad’s always a bumbling idiot. Well I’m not an idiot,” the Manhattan resident said. Schirripa tackles everything from underage drinking to dropping his daughter off at college for the first time. He also weighs in on “parents who need to be slapped,” which include ones who let their children push every button while riding in a New York City elevator.
You wrote a bestseller already, A Goomba’s Guide to Life. How did you start in the writing field?
Oh years ago. My first book came out in 2002. I had an idea for a book; I knew it was a long shot. I pitched it and then collaborated with someone and A Goomba’s Guide to Life became a New York Times bestseller. I did a few other Goomba books and then did two young adult books and one became a movie which came out on May 27th, Nicky Deuce.
What made you write this parenting book?
There were parents around downtown Manhattan who were annoying me. I also wanted to write a love letter to my daughters to tell them how I really feel about them.
A lot of people know you from The Sopranos. Do your daughters think you’re cool for being on that show?
My daughters don’t care about the celebrity thing at all. I mean, I’m just their dad. They’re not celebrity kids. They could care less. Sometimes there are perks. We get good seats at games. We get to go to openings or premieres. But otherwise, I’m just their dad. They’re not show-business kind of kids at all.
How can you explain your Big Daddy rules?
This is what I think. I’m your father; I’m not your friend. But I’m the best friend you’re ever gonna have. Cause no one’s gonna care about you the way I care about you. It’s okay to say “no” to kids. Parents are afraid to say “no.” The kids don’t control my life. I’ve worked too hard to have the kids control my life. “Because I said so,” is not a bad thing.
You say that raising daughters is harder than raising sons.
I think having a son is much simpler. You give the kid a ball and he’s kind of happy. Girls are smarter; they’re cunning. They bat their eyelashes and melt you. The girls are very manipulative. Boys, what you see is what you get. They’re much lower maintenance than girls.
You live in Lower Manhattan. What are the challenges to raising children in the city?
What I think is a lot of parents want to be a friend to their kids and not a parent. They get matching tattoos. I don’t want to target Manhattan; it’s everywhere. They buy them liquor when they’re underage. My daughter went through a lot of that. Parents have parties for the kids and buy the kids a keg. Here in Manhattan you go to a restaurant, the kids are screaming and yelling and running around and no one disciplines them. I have to spend $200 on a meal and I’m getting aggravated.
Going back to drinking, I like when you said that you think it’s crazy when parents say, “At least they are drinking under my roof.”
That’s right. That’s absurd. This is my rule. When you’re 21 and you’re legal, I guess you can drink. But if you’re living here in my house, you’re not gonna come home drunk at three in the morning. I don’t want to see that. What’s wrong with saying, “We have a nice house, we go to nice dinners, have nice vacations, but it will all stop if you don’t go by my rules?” When you’re out on your own and you’re making your own living, and you want to do that kind of stuff, then I guess go ahead and do it. But now you’re not going to. I’m not saying that I don’t let my daughters have a sip of my wine when we’re out at dinner. But I’m not going to buy 17-year-old kids alcohol and let them get drunk in my house. I’ve never heard of such a thing.
One of your daughters is away at college now. How was that transition for you?
That was very hard. That was one of the hardest days ever – when I had to drop her off. It was one of my saddest days ever. I was scared, scared for her. I had a nervous stomach. When I dropped her off, we had said, “Listen, you’re gonna stay here a month without coming home. Get used to it.” It took a little while, but now I can’t even get her to come home. You can only instill in the kids, when they’re younger, to make good choices. But you really have to stay on them. And that’s what me and my wife have done. And you just hope when she’s away at college, that she’s making the right choices.
You talk about working parents and how it’s about quantity time, not quality time.
It’s not like, “Well I have them on the weekends, and we’re really together for those two hours.” No! We’re always together, and we’re always doing things. And I understand that there are parents who have to work. It’s very difficult. Everything is so expensive and you want the most for your family. But at what cost? Hey look, if you’re gonna have the kids, raise the kids. There’s a woman who has a 1,000-dollar stroller with a 12-dollar-an-hour nanny pushing it, and the mom’s texting. She doesn’t even want to push her own kid. I see it constantly.
I share one of your pet peeves – parents who narrate as they’re walking with their kids.
Yeah, and they’re doing it not for the sake of the kid – cause the kid don’t know what the heck they’re saying. They’re doing it for the sake of people around them to show what a great parent they are. And they talk loud. “Okay, do you see the birdie? Say hello to the birdie.” The kid’s in never-never land. “Do you see the car? It’s red, right?” Shut up!
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