Q&A With Chris O'Donnell
You’re the youngest child in a family of seven kids, and now you’re father to a brood of five, ranging from 5 to 13. What’s the best part about belonging to a big family?
Your family unit is your own world, all the drama and hilarity, all the personalities. Yes, you’ll have close friends, but your family’s on a different level. You fight, you have ups and downs, but you know it’ll wash over because it’s your family. With my kids, it’s just a completely different love. Until I had my first child I didn’t realize that there was this other level of love -- your kids are a part of you. I always wanted to have a bunch of kids … when we got to four, we thought, “This is insane!” We were done. But then we had a little surprise, and now five years on we can’t imagine life without our youngest, Maeve.
Do you and your wife Caroline ever feel overwhelmed as parents?
Very! Anyone who has kids does. But Caroline is a full-time mom, and we have a nanny, so we’re lucky -- and it’s still overwhelming. You think of single parents raising kids and holding down jobs, and I can’t even imagine. We’re very blessed to have five healthy, happy kids. [There's a lot of] chaos -- it’s just that time in their lives right now, the age when they’re so fun. Even on the mornings when you’re so tired and you have to get up to take your kids here or there, I have constant reminders from friends who are 10 years older who say: “It goes by so fast. Soak up every bit of it.” Already, I only have one left who’s small enough to pick up and cuddle -- the rest of them are too big! I can’t believe it.
Share a typical weekend at the O’Donnells'.
The older ones are into sports, and we’ll have Saturdays where we might have six or seven games in one day. So Caroline and I divide and conquer. We split up. And the kids, they each lobby to see which parent is going to which game. When we only had a couple of kids I was really involved in coaching, but now I tell the coach, “I have seven other games today. I’ll help you out when I can!” We also spend a lot of time at the beach, surf a bit, and play volleyball together.
Mother’s Day is coming up. Do you help your kids honor their mom in some special way?
They do it on their own. It’s more special when [a gift] is generated by the kids. My oldest daughter is the ringleader when it comes to stuff like that. You just have to be careful what her ambitions are. She fancies herself a chef and makes some pretty elaborate concoctions in the kitchen -- some shockingly good -- but usually with a really big mess.