Max Greenfield is known for his role as funny playboy Schmidt on “New Girl,” but during the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s made headlines for his antics as a dad.
The actor and his wife, Tess Sanchez, have an 11-year-old daughter, Lilly, and 5-year-old son, Ozzie. While the family was locked down at home in Los Angeles, Greenfield shared videos of his attempts to help Lilly with her homeschool work. The result was pure comedy gold.
“Everything happened so quickly, and all of a sudden, I was thrown into a homeschool situation with my child,” he told HuffPost. “If you know anything about me or my kid, this was a worst-case scenario for us. There could be no worse teacher. I’m just not cut out to be a teacher. When we sat down on that first day to do schoolwork, she knew it was bad too, and we were just laughing together.”
Now Greenfield is drawing from his role as a dad for a new business endeavor. The actor and three fellow fathers have launched DADZ, a dad-centric company offering products for parents and babies.
“We wanted to start a brand that really catered to and focused on the dad community,” said Greenfield. “I don’t have a business background at all, but the guys I partnered with really did a lot of research and talked to a bunch of dads and different communities of dads online.”
Their first product is the “Lightning Stick” ― a plant-based energy supplement powder that they introduced on Father’s Day.
“Every dad we talked to said the same thing ― something I’ve said a million times: ‘I’m exhausted!’” Greenfield noted. “So we wanted to come up with a healthy alternative to an energy drink that could help and support fathers who are really getting involved in their children’s lives.”
In addition to selling dad-centric products, the “Neighborhood” star hopes that DADZ can create a community and dialogue among fathers to help each other out.
“One funny question I keep getting asked is, ‘What type of advice do you have for other dads?’ but I don’t have any advice. I find that people who are like, ‘I know what parenting is about’ are often wrong,” he explained.
“Each child is different. Every situation is different. As long as we’re all coming from the same place ― which I hope we all are, which is pure love for our children ― we’re all just trying to get through this together. The idea that we can all be part of something and express the difficulties and laugh at the times that we want to cry and do that together, I think that’s sort of what we’re hoping for in this company,” Greenfield said.
When asked what he might tell his younger self before becoming a father, his answer was pretty simple: “Get some sleep. It’s going to be tiring.”
As for everything else in parenting, Greenfield believes you can only learn from your success and failure, and even then, there may not be a cogent lesson.
“The mistakes, of which there are many, are the things you learn from, and the things that go right, you’re shocked by,” he said, laughing. “And you can’t really point to why these moments were successful. They just were. You just roll through it.”
His homeschooling experience certainly seems to exemplify rolling through it. Greenfield said he was surprised but heartened by all the attention his Instagram videos have received.
“Before this, I wasn’t on social media that much,” he explained. “But I really felt like here’s a moment that feels like what social media was created for. I’m here, isolated from the rest of the world, and I’m overwhelmed and I’m scared and I’m going to throw this out there because other people must be feeling the same thing. And it was clear that they were.”
Beyond the school curriculum, Greenfield has also been navigating other big issues with his children, like the national reckoning with racism in the U.S.
“Some of the math curriculum sent to us by her teachers, I would look at it and go, ‘I don’t know what a tessellation is, and I don’t think you’ll ever need to use it. We’re just skipping it for now. Wait until next year,’” he said.
“But with everything that’s happened in the world ― from the death of George Floyd and even before then, with the woman in Central Park ― it’s really highlighted the racial injustice that’s been happening in this country forever,” he continued. “It’s so prevalent and it’s such a part of everyone’s lives and because of the moment we’re in, there’s no escape from it, no distraction. So obviously it’s a discussion that needs to happen with your child ― these conversations with your children about right and wrong and empathy. And they’re history lessons.”
Greenfield noted that Black Lives Matter protesters have marched by his house, which presented an opportunity for his family to offer support and explain to the kids the purpose of the protest and larger issues at play.
“The only reason we weren’t out there with them is because we weren’t sure it would be responsible to take our 5-year-old into that environment, but we stood in the front lawn and cheered the protest on and watched,” he explained. ”It’s so emotional on our part as adults that you are then talking to your child about it and looking for some kind of confirmation that they understand and retained it. It’s the opposite end of the spectrum from the things in the curriculum of ‘You don’t need to know this.’ This is more important than anything.”
Incidentally, one of Greenfield’s favorite children’s books to read to his kids touches on the idea of protesting for change.
“I really like ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ and that whole series,” he said. “I feel really good about my performance when I read it. Plus I get to play different characters and be the different colors in the crayon box. It’s well-written and the pictures are great. That one I found to be the most fun of all the books. Any books you can perform are great.”
Now that school is over, the family has transitioned into a summertime schedule, whatever that means in 2020.
“We’re still trying to figure it out,” he said. “These days we’re doing our best. It’s the doing-your-best camp.”
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