Robert Sebree / USA Weekend
Middle man: Billy Crystal and wife Janice, flanked by their daughters, Lindsay and Jennifer / PETER KRAMER, GETTY IMAGES
Bette with her 'intrepid' Sophie / BRUCE GLIKAS/FILMMAGIC
We asked Midler and Crystal to give their own tried-and-true parental guidance. Here are their 10 top tips.
Midler: “Accept that children are individuals and not a reflection of you. Don’t try to change them.”
Crystal: “Let them have their independence. Ultimately, you help them find themselves. They’re telling you what they need.”
Bite your tongue.
Midler: “Don’t be harshly critical, or they’ll remind you to your dying day.”
Laugh a lot.
Crystal: “Bring as much joy to your house as you can.”
Midler: “Keep them laughing, even in the face of dire adversity. My daughter thinks I’m the funniest thing that ever walked. I live for those moments. She gets me more than anybody. That makes life worth living.”
Crystal: “My granddaughters are starting to understand what I do. First they saw Monsters, Inc., and I was Grandpa Mike Wazowski. Then they saw The Princess Bride and the Oscars (which he has hosted nine times). The 6-year-old said, ‘Do people know that Grandma is married to Billy Crystal?’ ”
Set a good example.
Crystal: “When something good or bad would happen, I was always conscious of my kids watching how I would react. They’re sponges.”
Midler: “They never forget. When kids have no models, it’s hard for them. They turn to gang role models.”
Listen and learn.
Midler: “Be patient and actually listen to your child. My daughter didn’t want to play the piano, so we let her stop, although we said, ‘You’ll regret it.’ ”
Crystal: “Naming your child is incredibly important. What’s cute to you may not be to him. I never liked my name. Billy is a little boy’s name, and William was my trouble name. I wanted to be Tom.”
Midler: “I never liked my name, either. It sounds clipped, brusque. Bette sounds like a blow being struck. I would have liked something more musical, like Margery.”
Teach life skills.
Midler: “Teach them where food comes from, and what’s good. Have a garden. Tell them how to manage money and balance a checkbook. My mother took me to the bank when I was 6 and opened an account for me. My husband taught Sophie how to cook starting at 5. I’m a big believer in practical knowledge.”
Midler: “Have the talk about drugs and drink.”
Crystal: “But don’t make them fearful of the world. They shouldn’t be terrified.”
Midler: “My father made a scaredy-cat out of me. My daughter has jumped out of airplanes and climbed mountains. She is intrepid. She went to Beijing University for a semester and learned Chinese. She’s not like me. She sees the world as her oyster, not as a perilous place.”
Crystal: “Don’t wait around for everyone else to do stuff. Take control. Grandmothers jump in and assume you can’t do anything. I was 25 when Jenny was born, and I was substitute teaching while starting out as a comedian. I worked late at night. Janice went back to work, and I was a house-husband for about two years. Jenny and I developed a bond.”
Midler: “Dads know a lot. If not for my husband, I don’t know what would have happened. He took so much of the burden off me. He and Sophie have a solid relationship.”