Thomas Rhett On How Raising Daughters Has Changed Him: 'It Has Softened My Heart'
During the pandemic, country singer Thomas Rhett and wife Lauren Akins dealt with a common parenting dilemma: trying to keep their kids occupied.
"It was very easy for me and Lauren as parents to be like, 'What do we do today? There's nothing to do-maybe we should just turn on a movie or hand them an iPad,'" says the dad of Willa Gray, 5, Ada James, 3, and Lennon Love, 1. "It started to get to the point where that's all that they wanted to do."
That wasn't easy for the Nashville resident who says he and his wife spent most of their childhoods outdoors, whether it was riding bikes or building treehouses. "There came a point early on during 2020 that Lauren and I were like, 'We have to get them outside, whatever that means,'" he says.
That's why it made sense for Rhett to partner with Claritin for a new initiative, The Outsideologist Project, which aims to get 1.2 million kids to spend an extra hour outside each week. Why that matters for kids? Research shows nature reduces stress and fatigue, promotes creativity and imagination, builds confidence, and activates more senses than technology can. Through the initiative's Facebook and Instagram pages, parents can get ideas on fun and creative ways to keep their little ones busy.
For the Rhett family, getting outside means sidewalk chalk, taking walks, and building a fire pit in the woods (one of the singer's favorite memories of the last year). "I let the kids name it and they named the little spot Narnia," he says. "Now every morning, that's where we go to have tea parties, build bonfires, or make S'mores."
The family also loves heading on fishing trips and just recently went on one with country star Luke Bryan. Willa Gray, whom the couple adopted in 2017, and Ada James love fishing, says Rhett, and that was the first time they fished on a boat in the ocean. "Luke hooked up a little red snapper and Willa Gray got to reel the thing in and it was just like one of those moments as a dad that you're like, 'Not only are you catching your first ocean fish, but you're catching your first ocean fish with Luke Bryan-I hope you know how special this is," jokes Rhett.
Aside from bringing Rhett closer to nature, the pandemic also brought him closer to his creative side. "I didn't expect to be [more creative] because I've written the majority of my records on a tour bus. I could hardly ever write in Nashville because when I'm at home, it's just all about being Dad," he says. But being off the road-the first time in about a decade-gave Rhett the opportunity to slow down and the melodies and lyrics came rolling in. That led to his fifth studio album, Country Again: Side A, released in April, with Side B coming later this year.
Being at home, his family was also more involved in his music process than ever before. "Every time I'd write a song, I'd play it for my kids and if they did not ask to listen to it again, then that song went on the back-burner," he says. The girls would also head to their dad's home studio to play guitar or piano or sing over a beat. "Who knows if this is what they want to do for a long time, but I do know they love to rhyme, they love to make up melodies, and make up songs with me," says Rhett. "That's pretty special to get to watch my kids love what my passion in life is." As for a family duet? Rhett says, "I don't know if they're old enough to make it worthwhile right now, but I can definitely see in a couple years us doing something together for sure."
Down the road, the girls will have another sibling to join in too. Shortly after his album's release, Rhett announced that he and his wife are expecting a fourth daughter this fall. "It would be really fun to have son, but at the same time, the more daughters we have, I'm just like, 'Well, I know exactly how to do this," he jokes, adding that he's "embraced the culture of being a 'girl dad.'"
"The girls completely just melt my heart every day. There's something about being a 'girl dad' that I think has softened my heart, made me more patient even," he says. "I just love being their dad. I love watching them grow. I love watching their personalities come out. I love watching what kind of hobbies they're into and what I think they're going to do when they get older. It's just been such an amazing past five or six years being a dad of girls and just really excited to welcome another one in November."