The actress, entrepreneur, and mom of two talks about being a Zoom-school dropout, pandemic family dance parties, and preparing for kindergarten.
Is Ready for Change
rooklyn Decker is a Zoom preschool dropout,
and she’s not afraid to own it. Just ahead of the beginning of a new school year for her children, son Hank, 5, and daughter Stevie, 3, the mom of two is reflecting on the “incredibly challenging” past year and expressing gratitude — for her family, their health, and yes, for the sanity-saving decision to just say no to Zoom learning for her littles.
Speaking to SheKnows in August from her home in Charlotte, North Carolina, she shares a story that’s all too relatable to parents of the Pre-K set. “They tried to do a three-times-a-week Zoom with all the kids,” she explains of Hank’s class, “but it was so funny, these little, at the time, 4-year-olds were getting on Zoom, and they were like, ‘Here's my Batman pillow.’ ‘Here's my dog.’ ‘Look at this.’ It was so all over the map, and you had 12 kids talking at each other at one time. And after a few sessions, all the parents got together with the teachers and we were like, ‘Thank you, we're grateful, but this is no longer [helping] the kids.’”
It’s an opt-out luxury that the model, actress, and entrepreneur is fully aware wasn’t available to everyone. “I think more than anything, we felt so lucky that we weren't having to deal with logging an 8-year-old into Zoom for school and doing homework assignments virtually,” she admits. “We were really lucky that those concerns were not ones that we had to handle during the pandemic.”
Raising Resilient Kids
Of course, “slowing down” isn’t exactly how many working moms would describe the past year, but it’s a familiar refrain among celebrity parents whose lives center heavily around travel and in-person engagements. For the Decker-Roddick family, as for so many, the pandemic pumped the breaks on all that and, in its place, brought isolation and insight. Decker describes her home as one that, pre-pandemic, had always had an open door — a social household where friends and family were always welcome — but of course, COVID-19 changed that.
The family no longer felt safe socializing (“because 3-year-olds and masks, that's hard,” she says) and had to create strict boundaries with friends and family who weren’t aligned with them on the handling of the pandemic — a decision that proved challenging for some relationships and narrowed their world all the more.
“I genuinely believe that we asked more of our kids than we did of ourselves over the last year,” she says. “As adults, as hard as it was to comprehend what was going on, we were able to wrap our brains around it a little bit, we were able to have a glass of wine at the end of the night, or reach out to a friend, or have a Zoom session with family. We were able to do these little rituals that helped us feel normal or helped us cope. But our little ones didn't have that luxury.”
While Decker notes that Hank, her little social butterfly, definitely missed his friends, she looks back on the “verbal explosion” her 3-year-old daughter experienced and finds herself pretty amazed by her kids. “I think it speaks to the power of children and how resilient they are, that they are seemingly A-okay and fine, and just excited to see their friends again,” she says. “They've proven to us how strong they are because it's like nothing happened to them, and they're fine, and they can cope and deal with anything.”
With the Delta variant surging, the fresh excitement of an in-person school year feels a bit more precarious now than it did when Decker first talked to SheKnows. Still, one thing that has made the entire pandemic experience easier for her is the fact that throughout it all (and even before) she and Roddick have been on the same parenting page — a page taken out of her own parents’ book.
To hear her tell it, Decker’s childhood was filled with camping and dance parties and singing in the car; moments of togetherness that have inspired her to try to infuse the same kind of joy into her own kids’ upbringing.
“Andy and I parent exactly the same way that my parents did,” she says, noting that her parents actually just moved into an attached house on their North Carolina property. “They were incredibly strict, but incredibly open, and constantly talking with us and constantly answering questions.
Andy and I are incredibly different, but it's funny — and this is obnoxious — we tend to be totally aligned on our parenting instincts and parenting methods.”
A United Parenting Front
For Decker, it’s a season of change professionally, as well. When we talked, the actress was about to head back to L.A. to finish filming the seventh (and final) season of Grace and Frankie. But the show is just one element of who she is and what she does. (Did you know that in 2017, she co-founded a digital wardrobe startup called Finery, which was later bought by Stitchfix?)
Decker credits “sheer curiosity” for her multi-platform approach to her career. “I have an insatiable amount of curiosity,” she says, “and I think that's the thing that keeps me motivated professionally. I always like learning — and learning from people who know so much better than I do.”
Those attributes have served her well so far. And as for this brave new school year? Well, curiosity and a love of learning will surely go a long way.
In lieu of their normal bustling and busy household, the family created its own fun, instituting dance parties last winter as a way to exert some physical energy and shake off some stress. “We would just put on music, and we would dance around the kitchen, and we would just blow off steam together and everyone was happier after,” she says. “Sometimes it was one song and it was three and a half minutes, and other days it would be an hour, but it was so good for all of us physically, mentally, emotionally.”
Those dance parties are one of the good things from the past year that Decker is keeping as her kids move into a new school year. Hank will start kindergarten — “which is both devastating and so exciting” — and Stevie will be in preschool. After a year spent mostly at home, Decker says her kids are looking forward to going back to school, seeing their friends, and getting some semblance of normalcy back.
Part of that normalcy, of course, is back-to-school shopping. Hank will be wearing a uniform, and both kids have picked out new shoes, and speaking of shoes: Decker is making sure that a fashion-forward fresh start isn’t just limited to kids, thanks to her partnership with DSW on a capsule collection of back-to-school footwear. Because, if there was ever a year when moms deserve to add a little something for themselves to the school supplies list, it’s this year, isn’t it? “I think we've all been living in sweatpants for the last year,” Decker says, “and I don't know about you, but I’m so excited to actually get dressed up again and go out in the world.”
In fact, gratitude seems to be a through-line for the Grace and Frankie star these days, who spent most of the pandemic at home in Charlotte with her kids and her husband, tennis star Andy Roddick. (The family also has a home in Austin, Texas.)
“As difficult as it was, I feel like a sense of perspective was not lost on us,” she says. “There were definitely days where I was hiding in my closet, crying at the state of the world. But overall, I tried to be grateful for our health and our family, and really grateful for the time we got to slow down.”
Decker and Roddick are also strict — “according to our friends and family members, we’re the strictest parents that they know,” she says — but value open and honest communication with their kids over “because I said so” dictates.
If anything, the pandemic and its literal survival mode mentality helped bring the family even closer. Decker described a “dig deep” mentality that pervaded their house — an intense focus on simply getting through the days with everyone happy and safe.
“I think it was a matter of [our] survival instincts kicking in during COVID that really made space for us to grow even closer and more aligned as parents,” she admits.
“I genuinely believe that we asked more of our kids than we did of ourselves over the last year.”
Cover Photo & Fashion Credits:
Booties: Marc Fisher Mayden Bootie, $100
Sneakers: Adidas RetroRun Sneaker, $60