Mother, actress, advocate Holly Robinson Peete has mastered the art of multi-tasking, taking on the demands of family and career with determination, grace, and class. This unquestionably earns her the self-proclaimed title as, “CEO of this joint,” (in reference to her home in an interview with USA Today). As Peete prepares for the second season of her family docu-series, For Peete’s Sake, set to air in early 2017 on the OWN Network, the popular magazine caught up with the actress to find out exactly what life is like on the inside.
Robinson Peete, mother of kids ages 11-19, has found a way to turn family challenges into triumphs. Known for roles in several hit tv series, the 52-year-old mom has definitely had her share of things that have profoundly shaped her life. “We have issues, we have problems that we resolve together and there’s a value in showing and sharing that, especially when it comes to our special-needs son [RJ].”
Robinson Peete first became supermom when her father, the show biz veteran, Cosby show producer, and creator of Gordon on Sesame Street, at the age of 46, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. At the time, having to take care of both her father and her infant twins, Robinson Peete learned that when your life is full, “you have to be a superwoman, because that’s your job.” However, nothing could have prepared her for what was to come. At the age of 2, RJ stopped connecting with his twin sister while she continued to hit developmental milestones. After taking RJ to consult with a specialist, he was diagnosed with autism, a disorder that affects at least 1 in 68 children.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior. Signs are usually noticed in the first two years of life. Although signs often develop gradually, some children can reach their developmental milestones at a normal pace and then regress. Boys are affected by autism five times as often as girls. A developmental pediatrician told Robinson Peete and her husband that their son “was never going to pretty much do anything or be anything,” she remembers. “[I] sobbed for about 30 days straight. It’s ok to feel sorry for yourself, but then you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work because you have a very small window of time where you can get an early intervention and that’s what’s going to give your kid the best chance of success.”
Fast forward to 2016. Not only does RJ speak, but in the season premiere of For Peete’s Sake, he says that he “never stops talking” and that his mom and Tupac Shakur are his heroes. To top it off, recently the teen landed his first job with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
However, RJ’s autism is not the only health issue in the family that the famous actress must contend with. Husband Rodney has the possibility of having to face brain trauma from too many hits on the field. RJ’s twin sister Ryan has ADHD, and all four kids have allergies, some so severe, that they need strategically placed EpiPens throughout the house. Even the family’s autism service dog, Harriet, has had to have eye surgery.
So, exactly what is Robinson Peete’s secret to balancing it all? With the motto, “tomorrow’s another day to get it right,” Robinson Peete sets an example for us all.