Melissa Fumero Talks Parenting Her Son in a Cuban-American Household

Melissa Fumero plays an uptight cop on the hit comedy "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," but in real life she’s the laid-back mom of son Enzo, 1. Here, she talks about surprise parenthood, teaching her son mindfulness, and what it takes to be a "mama bear." 

Melissa Fumero Portrait Helga Esteb/Shutterstock
Q: Did you and your hubby, Cuban-American actor David Fumero, of 'Power,' always know what sort of parents you wanted to be?

We were actually on the fence about being parents. Our son was a surprise pregnancy, so we thought that it was the universe telling us, “You’re supposed to be parents, and we’re going to push you off the cliff! You’re going to be fine and happy about it.” And we were, although we spent the first trimester processing it.

Q: What kind of kid is Enzo?

He is so melodramatic! Sometimes he’ll bump his head and it ends up being a slow meltdown as he puts his head on the floor and stays in that position, crying. My husband and I are pretty laid-back, so we’re conscious of raising a human being who isn’t wired for anxiety—in such an anxiety-driven world. Being relaxed and steady for him and teaching him mindfulness are very important to us. 

Q: How do you teach calm when you’re both Cuban?

We naturally talk loud; we’re fiery people. But you can have passion and also know how to be calm at times. Sometimes we’ll be in the car staying quiet and comfortable. Other times my husband roughhouses with him, and we’ll get crazy, loud, and have fun. 

Q: How important is it that you and David share a heritage?

I never pictured myself marrying a Latin man. I thought they talked too much! But after the fact, I was, like, “This is great and convenient!” We like the same food and have a similar upbringing. We both have that Latin sense of devotion to our family, and we can pass that on. We FaceTime a lot with the abuelos, who speak to Enzo in Spanish, and David speaks to him exclusively in Spanish. 

Q: What traditions have you kept?

There’s an azabache [a traditional protective amulet made of black jet] in Enzo’s crib, and he has a bottle of violetas perfume. He’s also got a little gold bracelet with his name on it. I put it on him for pictures. My dad got it for him. I was, like, “Dad, seriously?” And he said, “What do you expect?” 

Q: On Twitter, you describe yourself as a mama bear. What’s your version of that?

I was a mama bear before even having a kid, the type of person who is very protective of my friends. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be that way with my child. I don’t want to be a helicopter parent, and I believe in letting my son make his own mistakes, but if you mess with my kid, I will come after you. I’m from Jersey, and I’m Cuban. I’m not afraid to step to somebody if I have a problem.