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Laughing Through Parenting With Comedian Joe Sib

Joe Sib has spent most of his life entertaining, whether performing with his punk band Wax, co-hosting a podcast, running a record label, or doing standup comedy. Behind the scenes, though, he’s busy raising two teenagers, ages 14 and 17. We spoke with him about what it’s like to go from rejecting authority to becoming the authority.

Your daughter is nearing the end of high school; have you started talking about college yet?

My daughter’s definitely her own person. Be careful what you wish for when you say, “I want an individual that does things the way they want to do it, regardless of anyone around them.” We’re not grinding her on the whole college thing.

When she was in fifth grade, she decided she wanted to go to Immaculate Heart, an all-girls Catholic school here in Hollywood. We had been having her in a very progressive type of academic atmosphere, right until that point—no desks, no homework, no grades. Right before sixth grade, she said she wanted to go to Immaculate Heart. I was like, “Okay. There’s tests and grades there.” She said, “I know. That’s what I want.”

Comedian Joe Sib

As she’s going through Immaculate Heart, school is definitely a priority, but I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that it’s such a grind. Now she’s getting ready to graduate, and she basically said, “I’m going to apply to the colleges that I want to go to, and if I’m accepted into one of those colleges, then I’ll go tour it.” She’s like, “Why would I go on a college tour of a bunch of schools I might not get into?”

How did you feel when your daughter didn’t want to go to the school you chose?

I’ll tell you right now, it’s so hard for my wife and me. I fought authority my whole entire life, and now I am the authority. I always tell my kids, it’s my first time having teenagers, and your first time being teenagers. I’m learning this gig on the job, as we both do it. I don’t try to claim I know what’s going on. My daughter wanted to go down this path, whereas my son has a different academic path.

How does your son’s path differ?

He started out at one school that was super, super progressive that was great. We discovered early on that he has ADHD. We were lucky enough to find a new school and also deal with the ADHD. Now, in May, he’s one of the kids that’s getting an academic award because of his grades. Three years ago, we were in such uncharted territory with our son, and it felt so never-ending. You start worrying. Is he going to get the education he needs? Sure enough, with the right time, and the right people, and then figuring out how ADHD worked, and now he’s getting this award, which is a full-circle moment.

You’ve spoken about monitoring your daughter’s texts and social media activity; what made you decide to do that?

It’s no different than learning to swim, or riding a bike, or driving. You need a copilot with you when you’re learning those activities, and I feel social media now is one of those activities. I know there are plenty of parents who are going to read this and be like, “We don’t condone social media, and we’re not going to do the phone.” I’ll tell you this right now, if you can make that happen for your son or daughter, I would put your face on a stamp. You should be given awards. There should be a day off in the United States because you kept your kids away from that.

For our family, being here in Los Angeles, it’s way more difficult. We have to drive everywhere.  There needs to be some sort of communication with your kids, but that’s going to turn into social media. I feel my job is to be a copilot with my child on those particular apps, and on that technology. She knew I was on there. It wasn’t a secret. It’s really great because I learn about the type of kids my children are hanging with.

When you do standup and talk about your family, do your kids have any boundaries they don’t want you to cross?

As they’ve grown up, there’s times where my son or daughter will come to me and they’ll say, “Hey, I’ve got to talk to you about something, and don’t make it into a bit.” For the most part, my kind of comedy comes from something that has happened, like a situation like my daughter having a party at the house, or coaching my son’s baseball team. Those types of things where I’ll say something off the cuff, and my wife, or even sometimes the kids, will say, “That’s funny. You should talk about that.”

Can you tell us about the podcast you co-host, Rad Parenting?

My cohost, Anea, and I started the podcast two years ago. When I started the show, I just wanted it to be a vehicle that would be fun. But once we dove into it, we saw the amount of emails and questions we get, and how it’s driven so much by a community of parents. Basically, they’re getting free advice from Anea. What I realized was that we were providing a service.

What’s something you’ve learned from doing the podcast with Anea?

The biggest thing that I’ve gotten from doing the show the last two years is learning to take a breath whenever you’re in a situation with your kids, when they ask a question that you don’t have an answer for. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be like, “Let me get back to you on that. Let me give you a real answer.” Also, not beating yourself up as a parent when you blow it. The hardest thing for me was I thought, “I have to be a perfect parent.” That’s impossible. You’re going to get upset. You’re going to say things you wish you didn’t say. Now I’ve learned that that’s okay. You just start over and repair the rupture.

Susan Borison

Susan Borison is editor of Your Teen.