Scott Wolf is doing fine. He wants to make that clear. Unlike the tone-deaf celebrities who plaintively posted about going stir-crazy in 8,000-square-foot mansions while practicing the COVID-19-mandated social distancing before their publicists could tell them to cut the shit, Wolf leads with his privilege. The actor, best known for his role as the hard-drinking Bailey on Party of Five and more recently lauded for playing the workaholic dad on the CW’s Nancy Drew, has a roomy house in Utah with easy access to hikes and trail rides. He’s got a fridge full of fresh food and a wife, Kelley, who reads him quicker than a horrifying headline.
Still, managing a relationship is work and managing children is double-work. He acknowledges even before our interview kicks off that he’s going to be interrupted. He’s not apologizing. He’s just stating facts. It is what it is.
Wolf doesn’t see the world through rose-colored glasses, which would hide his piercing blue eyes (a massive career mistake). He’s a realist. And, as things have gotten real and realer he’s only gotten more realistic in his approach. He’s fine being a celebrity poster child for giving up on intensive parenting amid a crisis. He’s dismissive of whiteboard schedules and the idea that his kids, Jackson, 11, Miller, 7, and Lucy, 5, are going to experience a whole lot of structure for the foreseeable future. One kid does backflips to kill ime. Another draws a picture of “Mesko” (that would be Mexico). Dad acts calm. With Hollywood all but shut down, there’s no other work to be had.
“My main objective is just to deal,” he says.
Wolf spoke to Fatherly about craving just a little alone time, not being an Instagram parent, and a cause that’s vital to him as a father.
How do you and your wife support each other with three kids are home. Surely it’s hard to not contradict each other and maybe even harder to find time alone?
We’re a team. A real team. That’s a huge part of it. We both recognize that it’s a huge amount of work and effort just to stay patient with yourself and your kids. My kids are very funny people, thankfully. They keep it entertaining.
We tag team in and out. All of us are figuring it out day by day, minute by minute if I’m being honest.
Do you have a daily schedule like we’re seeing all over social media?
When we began, my first instinct was to say we need structure. I can be a mushy person in a lot of ways but I embrace structure. It makes it safer to be mushy.
So… day one, I was still invested in my whole structure strategy and making my own version of the schedule we kept seeing everywhere. We sat the kids down and said, ‘Let’s be clear. This is still real life and not a free for all.’ The afternoon of day two, my middle son was halfway through watching a movie on his iPad. He took his headphones off and said, ‘Am I in school?’ I was like, ‘Um, kinda?’
I realized that none of that is going to work. What these kids need more than anything is an acknowledgment that it’s weird right now. They recognize that. They get it. They understand that something very different is happening. The only thing we really care about is throwing our arms around them and keeping them calm and letting them know they’re safe. Our whole first week was as mushy as it gets. Whatever would make them feel calm and connected, that was home school for us.
That feels like the right instinct, but I wonder if it’s sustainable.
Now that we’re further along, I do feel that some structure is essential. All of us would spin out without some sense of it. In terms of school, we have an 11 year old in fifth grade. He gets digital work on a computer every day. That’s straightforward. The little ones, in first grade and kindergarten, we’re still sitting down and doing some of the work but we’ll also watch a movie and have a big conversation about the characters and the story. We watched Spies in Disguise. They loved that. We watched Turbo, about a snail who dreamed about being a NASCAR racer. We’ve watched a lot of Detective Pikachu. Tonight’s movie is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I’m super psyched about that, to watch cultural phenomenon when we were growing up.
How do you carve out time for yourself?
To maintain my own sanity day to day, I try to move my body around. My wife has lived with me for 18 years, and she makes sure she springs me for that time. I try to wake before the house gets up and there’s something about that solitude and the chance to be alone before all the have to-dos kick in. I feel like just trying to recognize that we’re not going to get maybe everything we need to get done and every need attended to — but I try to identify one or three things you can check off in a day and get the sense that you took care of yourself.
Kelly and I have been good so far — I mean, talk to me in three weeks — but so far we’ve been good about knowing what each of us needs.
I think we put so much pressure on ourselves to do everything right and this has shown me, at least, that it’s not doable. What have you learned about yourself as a father?
To be patient. We’re hard on ourselves as parents. I like to think that it means we’re more attentive. The way we’re connected and involved with our kids is something I wouldn’t trade for anything but we’re also harder on ourselves. We see the Insta-parent lives of people and I think to myself, ‘Well, shit, I’m a seven out of 10 and I thought I was a 10.’ A moment like this does distill life down to what really matters: love, connection, support, togetherness.
I want my kids to know that me being your dad means I’m right here and you’re safe and we’ve got each other. If we get the math done today terrific. If we don’t, that’s fine.
Plus, you can at least get out and go hiking, which is pretty priceless at the moment.
We live in Park City so we have outside life even though we keep our distance. There’s no skiing but we can hike or walk our dogs. My wife and I lived in New York in a tiny apartment when we met so I know what that’s like and can’t even imagine being on top of each other with so little space now. But even in a home where we’ve got space, there are moments where we lose our cool. My wife and I keep an eye on each other and tag each other out: ‘It’s time for you to go on a walk.’ We put each other in parent time out.
Nothing is filming right now, but one thing that you are working on is raising money for Feeding America, an organization that has been doing a lot during this crisis.
It’s the largest domestic hunger relief organization. They do more to feed hungry families in our country than anyone. They’re a network of food banks. I got involved years ago. I could not bear the idea of being a dad and looking at our kids and telling them that we don’t have enough to have food today. The idea that in our country where there is this massive surplus of food and children go to school hungry, that’s not acceptable to me. We’re not hunting around for a cure. The cure to hunger is food. We have the food. Let’s get surplus food to hungry people.
It’s hard to imagine being in this particular situation in a food-insecure situation and get hit with this kind of crisis. Life is hard enough.