Carrie and David Grant talk to Chris Evans about encountering parenting situations 'that you're not prepared for'

Virgin Radio

17 May 2023, 11:12

David Grant and Carrie Grant at Virgin Radio, on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch.

BAFTA award-winning broadcasters and vocal coaches Carrie and David Grant joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch to talk about their new book A Very Modern Family.

The couple have been married for 34 years and have four children, three of whom are trans/non-binary and all four are neurodivergent. In their book, the Fame Academy judges speak about the challenges of family life, as well as sharing what they have learned. 

Carrie gave Chris a rundown of their kids, explaining that 28-year-old Carrie is an actor and “one of the stars of Halo, the TV series. And Olive has ADHD and their pronouns are they/them. They’re non-binary.

“The next child down is Tylan, who is autistic, and Tylan is in Hollyoaks, and Tylan’s pronouns are he/him.” She added: “They were the first autistic, at the time, girl ever to play an autistic character on UK telly. So that was groundbreaking. 

“And then Arlo is 17. Arlo is amazing. Arlo’s at school, in an autism school. And Arlo’s pronouns are they/he, slightly gender-fluid. 

“And then our adoptive son is 13. His name is Nathan. And he's adorable.”

She added: “Lots of ADHD. Lots of dys’s as well: dyslexia dyscalculia.”

David said: “I think one of the things about parenting, even if you're parenting neurotypical kids, is that you're going to encounter situations that you're not prepared for. And you have to learn how to deal with them."

Carrie continued: “David and I have got a phrase in our house, which is ‘fix your face’, which is, think about what you're gonna look like when your child presents with this, that or the other. Make sure you have fixed your face. Otherwise your child will know your judgement.

“A typical example of getting it wrong, actually, is when Olive told me that they were non-binary and I was in the kitchen, I was just cooking and then behind me they were sitting there with a little notepad and they wrote in the tiniest writing, ‘I am non-binary’ and they turned the book towards me. I turned around, looked down read ‘I am non-binary’ and I just said to Olive, ‘Lovely, darlin, course you are,’ and then carried on cooking… and then just ignored it for two years. 

“I wasn't curious, and I think that's one of the things we need to be with our kids, is just to be curious; ‘What's going on for you? How does that work for you?’ It's okay to ask questions. It's not about whether you approve or don't approve.”

At the end of each chapter, the duo share what they are learning along the way, as well as questions for the reader to consider. David said: “I would say that I've learned so much from Carrie. The things that I would say, principally, are to listen to the children. Because I came from very strict parenting, I started off knowing like, three, cast-iron unshakable facts about parenting, and all of them were wrong. 

“I would go like, ‘This is what you do’.... If you put these elements of discipline and structure in, this is the child you get. And of course, it didn't occur to me, children are their own people.”

He added: “I would say that, in the book, we give lots of guidelines and lots of strategies, but not directions. Because the way that you change something… things have to be malleable to suit your child, in your particular situation, in your family dynamic."

Carrie added: “I think asking questions is better than telling people what to do.”

The book also features passages written by Carrie and David’s children. Speaking more about the book, David told Chris: “One of the things that we really want to make clear in the book is there's an ocean between heavy parenting and totally compliant parenting, which is just do what you want. It's almost as though people have created a binary in parenting. And there isn't a binary. There are so many shades and colours and hues of parenting. Let's use the whole palette."

Carrie added: “Dinner is a big moment in our house and Arlo, in a very autistic way, says ‘I would like to make an announcement’. And we were like, ‘Okay’. And they go, ‘I am now a boy and my name is Ian’. And the two older kids go, ‘Not Ian!’ 

“That gave David and I a moment to fix our faces while the others were kind of debating new names!”

Carrie and David will be on the Author's Stage at CarFest on Friday 25th August speaking about the book. David told Chris: “This is a book of hope. It's like saying that there is no challenge that you as a parent, as a guardian, as somebody who's raising your child, can't cope with. There is hope.”

A Very Modern Family is out now.

For more great interviews listen to  The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.