Chris O’Donnell: My Kids Are Pulling Me Out Of The “Dark Ages”

Perfect man alert! The dreamy Chris O’Donnell first captivated audiences in the ’90s high school drama School Ties and when he starred in Scent of a Woman alongside Hollywood legend Al Pacino, he solidified his stance in Hollywood and a place in our hearts. Not to mention his all-too-perfect role in the classic chick flick, Circle of Friends!

Chris left the spotlight in the late ’90s for love. He wed his college sweetheart, Caroline Fentress, and the happy couple started a family. How perfect is this guy?! Chris and Caroline are now parents to three sons and two daughters: Lily, 11 next month, Chip, 9 1/2, Charles, 7, Finley, 4, and Maeve, 2 1/2. The hunky 40-year-old actor is teaming up with Trident to help promote Smiles Across America. While on location in San Pedro, Calif. filming NCIS: Los Angeles, the father-of-five opened up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about this great cause, their busy household, how his tweens are pulling him out of the “dark ages” and the importance of spending “one-on-one” time with each of his kids.

CBS: Give us an idea of what’s it like in your busy household.

CO: “Omigod, it’s crazy! I’ve got 4 of them back home right now, we were out east for most of the summer. We let my 9-year-old boy stay with his cousins back in Northern Michigan. So that’s been my challenge the last couple of days: How am I getting him home? We’re debating on whether or not to let a 9-year-old fly by himself.

But they’re doing great. My daughter Maeve just spilled a bottle of nail polish on the top cover of our duvet yesterday which was kind of a nightmare. You know, it’s just the usual things that happen in everyone else’s houses. But it is so much fun!

I just had a great day with my oldest daughter. I think it’s important every once in a while to give them each some isolated time because we’re always doing stuff in groups. But I think it’s important, especially with the daddy-daughter relationship that they get some one-on-one time. The boys get a little bit spoiled just because they have the same passion for watching sports like I do, so we kind of find time together no matter what. But with my daughters I feel like I really need to make an effort to have some quality time. I got off work early yesterday and we had a really great time together.”

CBS: Does the O’Donnell household have any of these items: Video games, movies, facebook, Twitter, Justin Bieber?

CO: “We’ve got video games, yes, we’ve got movies, no facebook. Twitter, I actually follow Twitter. I have an account but I’ve never actually posted anything. I just like to follow other people and get news. Justin Bieber, it’s funny, my kids are kind of anti-Bieber. They don’t have Bieber-fever!

I showed by daughter this little 12-year-old sensation singing Lady Gaga on YouTube. It was funny because my daughter got very inspired and all of a sudden she ran into the living room and started playing on the piano and trying to write her own songs. It’s fun, they see things like that and get excited about it.”

CBS: Who’s big in your house? Is it Miley?

CO: “No Miley’s kinda passed now. They’re over Miley. My daughter loves the guy from the vampire movie, Taylor Lautner. She loves him. And it’s whatever songs are popular. I haven’t listened to the hit station since I was probably 15-years-old. And now all of a sudden, as soon as they get into the car my sports radio gets shut off and immediately comes the hits radio. I’m always amazed, I’m thinking, ‘Where did they learn the words to every one of these songs?’ I feel like I’m around most of the time and I’m thinking, ‘They haven’t heard this song that many times, have they?’ But I think they go on YouTube a lot and see videos and they hear it. They’re just glued to the Disney channel and Nickelodeon. My daughter was watching the Teen Choice Awards the other night and she knew – they all knew – every single person that walked out there. Half of them I haven’t even heard of!

It’s interesting, I was talking with my sisters about this the other day. Post-college you’re very current with new bands, new music – even if you don’t listen to pop music you know what’s out there. And then you get married and have little kids and you go into the dark ages where you just don’t get exposed to new music or anything because you’re so swamped with the kids. All of a sudden your kids start getting a little older, around 9 or 10, and they start listening to music. Suddenly you know every single cheesy pop song out there! So I’m fully coming out of the dark ages right now. I know the words to most of them, but I don’t know who sings half of them!”

CBS: With the teen years approaching, have you and Caroline had to tackle any of the tough topics yet?

CO: “Not yet. I will say that the prospect of raising a teenage daughter is a little daunting to me. Lily is going to turn 11 on September 3rd, which is just amazing to me! But, like anything, the idea of having a newborn baby to me was pretty overwhelming. I think that when the time comes, you’re ready for it. You learn in big steps. They’re learning and you’re learning.

There’s always something new and different that you’re dealing with and sometimes you’re sitting at the dinner table and one of the kids has a problem and you’re looking at your wife going, ‘Ahh, how do we deal with this one again?’ or, “What are we supposed to be saying now?’ You want to be a good parent but sometimes you don’t always know the right thing to say. I always find myself asking my older brothers and sisters, ‘What did you guys tell them for this or that?’ Sometimes you just have to get the advice.”

CBS: Tell us about Smiles Across America.

CO: “It’s a good program. Trident is raising money for Smiles Across America which is drawing attention to the fact that the leading childhood disease is tooth decay. I didn’t even realize some of these numbers until I saw them. It’s almost 50% of second graders. And 80% of 17-year-olds have got it. It’s one of these things that is so preventable. We all know that we have to take care of our teeth and brush and floss. It’s really following-through with it that is the problem.

I’ve got five kids of my own and I think it’s the first that that we teach our kids when they’re growing up about taking care of themselves. How to brush their teeth and how to floss. The follow-through is always a problem. I go through this every night with our kids: The debate over whether or not they have brushed their teeth and if they have done it properly. That’s me, as a parent who is very concerned about this stuff and I’m always making sure my kids are getting to the dentist.

But then you think about so many other kids who don’t have a parent out there looking out for them. Also lots of kids don’t have access to proper dental care, whether it be based on where they live, or the language they speak, or if they have proper medical insurance from their parents. There are a number of reasons, so Smiles Across America is working to raise money for awareness of this. It also helps to provide school-based programs where kids will get the care through school, which I think is a great idea.”

CBS: Are we, as parents, doing a lot of stuff wrong in terms of our kids’ dental health?

CO: “I think it’s a matter of the basics. We all know to avoid sugary foods and try to eat nutritious foods to help promote healthy teeth and gums. Even I slack off on flossing and my dentist asks me about it. I’m older now and I have my teeth sealed and the whole thing.

Smiles Across America is a 3-year program and they’ve already done over 1 million sealants for kids who would have never had the opportunity to have that. They’re trying to get that number up to 2 million. There’s basic things that people can do besides just brushing and flossing. Something that I didn’t realize is that tests prove it helps to prevent tooth decay and cavities by chewing sugar-free gum immediately following a meal. It’s the easiest thing to do – we don’t have any problem getting our kids to chew gum in our household! I always come home with pockets full of gum from the craft-service table. They’re not digging into the bubble gum they’d probably prefer, but they’re digging into the Trident and lovin’ it and we’re OK with that. The little guys you’ve got to be careful, though. My 2-year-old is always going for it and I’m after her saying, ‘No, no, no!'”

CBS: Do your kids have a fear of the dentist?

CO: “There’s thousands of books that will teach you how to be a parent, but you really are reliant on your past experiences from your own childhood. It’s funny that the stories that stick in my head are the ones like having nightmares about going to the dentist. I think he drilled every tooth I had in my head! As the seventh kid in my family, my parents were probably not paying as much attention to my tooth-brushing habits as they did with the rest of the kids. With my youngest, I’m always saying, ‘Let me see your mouth again!’ But I scare my kids just enough to get them to brush their teeth and take care of their dental health.”

CBS: Are any of your kids showing an interest in showbiz? If so, do you support that?

CO: “My daughter Lily loves the whole thing. She loves to come and visit me on the set and she claims to have a real desire for it. Whether or not that’s going to be just because her dad’s doing it or because she’s genuinely interested, I’m not really sure. My biggest concern – like I did – is for them to get their education. Whatever they want to do, I’ll support that, but just as long as they get their education and expose themselves to everything that’s out there and make a decision at the right age.

But it’s one of those things that if they were to show a real interest in it and show some success in it, yah, I’d be OK with that. I feel like I’ve been through it myself so I feel I’d be able to help shepherd them through some of the potential pitfalls that people come into and that sort of thing.”


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