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Kelly Ripa's Take on Mothering

Talk show host Kelly Ripa weighs in on healthy kids, parenting that works, and family dynamics.
By Lauren Paige Kennedy
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Every day is Mother's Day for fans of Live With Regis and Kelly. That's because Kelly Ripa -- the prettier and perkier half of the popular morning talk show -- regularly amuses her audience with hilarious tales of pregnancy, parenthood, and, yes, the occasional poop story. This is a woman who once famously joked, "I think children are like pancakes: You sort of ruin the first one, and you get better at it the second time around." Ripa knows of what she speaks: She has three kids -- Michael, 10; Lola, 6; and Joaquin, 4 -- with her husband, actor Mark Consuelos.

So what makes Ripa's televised take on motherhood worth tuning in to, and not simply a broadcast version of swapping wallet-sized photos on PTA night? Unlike her predecessor, Kathie Lee Gifford, Ripa has managed to escape the cloying trap and win over devotees with her self-deprecating good humor and wise approach to the tricky trials of child rearing. In other words, this ain't the Cody and Cassidy show by a long shot.

She's definitely on to something. Being able to laugh -- at your kids and yourself -- is essential, says Steven Parker, MD, WebMD's children's health expert and a pediatrician who co-authored the 1998 edition of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care and wrote a textbook for pediatricians titled Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics: A Handbook for Primary Care. "Children are born to give us a run for our money. Even tough situations we face with them can ultimately be very, very funny. So be ready to have a rueful, good sense of humor."

Ripa, 37, is clearly on board. She recounts the time her eldest, Michael, screamed he was being kidnapped after Ripa told him it was time to leave a toy store. "He took everything I'd taught him about what to do in that kind of situation and used it against me," she says with wry indignation. Or when Joaquin decided to play hide-and-seek under his bed -- long after being tucked in for the night -- causing a four-alarm meltdown among his family members, who scoured the apartment as they called his name in vain. "The only thing left to do was to call 911," says Ripa, but just as she reached for the phone, Mark discovered their son. "I was shaking, I was so relieved -- and so angry, too! That kid!" Ripa laughs about it -- now.

And then there is her daughter. According to Ripa's mother, Esther Ripa, Lola is Kelly's very own Mini Me. "Kelly was an old soul from the beginning, just full of her own opinions from a very young age, and always so chatty and mentally ahead, and Lola is exactly the same. ... Girls do love to press your buttons."

"Lola challenges me," Ripa agrees with affection. Which raises the question: Are there obvious differences between parenting her sons and daughter? "Oh, definitely," she answers. "My sons are forever happy to see me" -- toy stores notwithstanding -- "and they're snuggly and cuddly. With Lola, everything is up for debate. Everything is a conversation. First thing in the morning, it's a major discussion about what she's going to wear. I've learned to give her limited options: ‘You can wear this or this.' That's what works best."

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