As a chatty TV host on The Talk, 46-year-old Holly Robinson Peete is used to sharing her experiences. So she had no problem getting candid with Family Circle about life with former NFL star Rodney Peete and their kids, 13-year-old fraternal twins, Rodney Jr. (R.J.) and Ryan; Robinson, 8; and Roman, 6.
Q. What do you hope moms get out of watching The Talk?
A. We want to give viewers a sense of camaraderie, a feeling that they're not alone when it comes to dealing with life.
Q. What's been hardest for you as a parent?
A. Raising R.J., who has autism. Consider the many struggles of a typical mom, then multiply them by 10—that's what it's like when you have an autistic child.
Q. Tell us about the book you wrote with your daughter, Ryan, My Brother Charlie.
A. It was Ryan's idea. She came to me and said, "Mom, kids at school don't understand what R.J. goes through." She wanted to do something for special-needs kids, but also for their siblings. I was very proud of her. R.J. requires so much attention—that can't be easy for Ryan. But she's his biggest advocate.
Q. Has dealing with autism strengthened your relationship with Rodney?
A. Eventually, but first it broke us down. We didn't know if we'd make it. I like to say he was still on Denial Street while I was at the intersection of Kick Your Butt Avenue and Roll Up Your Sleeves Place. Since Rodney is an ex-athlete and R.J. is his namesake, it was difficult. There was that moment—I'll be honest—where I said to Rodney, "I can't do this anymore with you dragging your feet. You've got to get on board, or you've got to go." Well, he got on board. With all of his machismo, he was not too macho to fight for his family.
Q. Do you two still make time for date nights?
A. We don't have a lot of intimate moments unless we plan for them in advance. I recently made the mistake of opening my big mouth on the show and telling everyone how Rodney and I make minivan runs when we're trying to get some alone time—and Ryan was watching! Now she refuses to ride in the minivan. She's like, "I'm not getting back in that thing!" I guess it's best to keep some details to yourself.
How you know her: Years before cohosting The Talk, Holly appeared on the TV shows 21 Jump Street, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, and For Your Love.
All in the family: Holly's dad, Matt, was the original Gordon on Sesame Street and a writer-producer for The Cosby Show. "He took a lot of things from our home life for the show, like the goldfish funeral episode and the one where the family sang Ray Charles' '(Night Time Is) The Right Time.' The Robinsons did that before the Huxtables!"
Honorable pet names: "We name our dogs after historical figures we admire. Harriet (a Newfoundland) is named for Harriet Tubman, and Freddy (a goldendoodle) for Frederick Douglass."
Football reverie: "Growing up in Philadelphia, I was taught to be a huge Eagles fan by my father. Who would've thought I would grow up to marry an Eagles quarterback? That was just a fairy tale wrapped in a dream inside a fantasy—especially for my dad."
Originally published in the May 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.