By: Susan Howard
Between conducting studio sessions with 80 plus musicians for his upcoming score in the film Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and being admonished by his 2 ½ year old son for simply not being “mom”, I got a moment to speak with Theodore Shapiro. We talked about everything from having children, cool projects and chilling in the backyard.
Susan: Have you noticed a change in projects you are interested in taking after having kids?
Theodore: Before becoming a father I was more concerned with what my contemporaries might think. Having kids definitely made me interested in working on films that might be meaningful to them.
Susan: Has the motivation to do your job or the way in which you write altered after having a family?
Theodore: No. As important as my family is, my desire to make music is a burning passion for me. The music acts independently of all those other things. (Some of his favorite projects have been The Devil Wears Prada, Marley and Me and Girlfight)
Susan: Is it hard to juggle being a noted composer, father and a husband?
Theodore: I really like routine so having a family has forced me to be even more regimented and I am just as productive as when I didn’t have kids. When I am at work I am really focused and then I get to walk away and spend time with my family.
Susan: Did you always want to be a working dad?
Theodore: I always knew I would be a working dad, and my wife works fulltime.
Susan: Did you have a hope that your wife would be a stay at home mom?
Theodore: No. It’s important to me that my wife be happy and feel fulfilled in what she’s doing and if the thing that had made her feel fulfilled was being home then that would have been fantastic, but in her case it’s not so I’m happy that she’s able to strike a balance that she wants with work and home and that’s the best possible situation.
Susan: Is it nice sometimes to work out of town and get a break from family life?
Theodore: I would much rather work in town and go away on a weekend with my wife.
Susan: What’s a fun family activity?
Theodore: We bought a new house that is being redone and it has a backyard that we fell in love with. So we get food from the Farmers Market and hang out in the back yard even though the house is empty. With two kids under the age of 5 a chance to freely run around without the worry of cars or other people is a great way to spend a weekend.
Susan: What’s the difference between you as a father and how your dad fathered you?
Theodore: My father was less engaged with my sister and me when we were young and when we got older he got more engaged and coached soccer and all that and was a great dad. It’s a shame for fathers of his generation, many of them anecdotally I’ve heard stories didn’t do a lot of diapers and they weren’t “in there” in the same way. It’s one of those things that I can relate to, having a baby and holding a new baby, there is a scary element –it’s this little thing and I think that one possible way to deal with that is to let someone else deal. On the other hand, my dad is getting a second chance with being a grandparent.
Susan: Are you seeing any musical promise in either of your kids?
Theodore: Kate my daughter makes up some really hilarious songs. She sings to herself, it’s a song but the lyrics are meandering and it’s all one big long story. She likes the piano. She’s been to the studio and watched me edit music to Tropic Thunder and weeks later remembered the composition and even pinpointed the scene that goes with it.
When asked about his tips on parenting, Theodore said, “there is no such thing as a perfect parent. There is a fear that develops about doing the wrong thing, but everybody makes mistakes. You can have a general code that you live by, but the process of making parental decisions, the variables are always changing so it’s tough to know what to do. It never gets easy.”
Theodore makes it all look easy!
Diary of a Wimpy Kid opens March 19, 2010 20th Century Fox.
This is the first of our working father series on The Next Family