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Interview with <i>Real Housewives</i>' stars Alex McCord and Simon Van Kempen: What Do They Know About Parenting?

Well your kids have a lot of luxuries?
SV: There are pros and cons. I grew up in a single parent home, and we were very independent. We grew up faster. But as long as kids get love and attention, it's okay. Francois is almost at the age I was when my father died, and I had no paternal role model. It's just a joy to see my two guys grow up. I'm lucky because I don't work from 9 to 6. I get to experience it all.

So what are some of the cons?
SV:
It's unrealistic to say that everything is perfect, but we are honest with ourselves and our children. We talk about the good in the bad.
AM: We are in a constant state of discussion. Anything about the kids, Simon and I debrief.
SV: Like, we always used to say that we would never reward with dessert, but we lost that battle.
AM: Yes but what we gained was that they'll try new foods. So it's okay.
SV: I also believe in reverse psychology, that worked wonders with Francois and it's starting to work with Johan. It's also hard to make sure working full-time and the city don't overshadow the need for them to grow up as normal kids. We work against the New York City stereotypes of putting pressure on them or overscheduling them. We let them do one or two activities a week. And Alex and I don't go out more than twice a week. We spend most of our time with our kids.
AM: We have never experienced that nightmare where the child is crying for the babysitter. They show affection for her, but when we come home, they run straight to our arms. With so much going on, we try to be present where we are.

Do you ever think you're overprotective of the boys?
SV: No. For example, we have never been one to block the stairs.

Why do you think that works for your family?
AM: We're kind of Montessori at home, without going by the book. We always let our kids have glass glasses. At the same time, you shouldn't speak to them like they're mini-adults, that's not fair to them. But you don't have to be all mushy and treat them like idiots.
SV: In season 1, we dealt with the death of my step-father. Francois wanted to know why he died. He asked, "What's cancer?" And I told him that it's when the cells grow too rapidly and take over. There was a big response on the parenting blogs -- some thought it was fantastic, or some thought it was way T.M.I. The thing is, there's no right and no wrong way, there's no one right thing I should tell my son. Parenting is not absolute science. It's something we love to do. Ten years ago we thought we'd never have kids. Now, we pinch ourselves and can't picture life without the boys. Each phase is different. Sometimes I see a newborn and think, "I miss that age, that was so beautiful," but it keeps going and there are good things with every stage.

How have your children changed you?
AM:
How have they not?
SV: We have our time together, Alex and I. We were here first. We're still important. We manage our great relationship and the hours we invest will help our parenting. For me the love of my children has an intensity I didn't know existed. It's a different kind of love.
AM: I didn't want children at first, but eventually I started thinking "maybe this is a good idea."
SV: As soon as we had one, we knew we wanted two, and we wanted a two year age difference. It was tough having two in diapers, but now they are three and five and we are reaping the rewards. They play together, grab hands, run around the house -- they are great friends. They also look after themselves a good amount.

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