David Burtka loves the holidays and entertaining, and like many parents, he and husband Neil Patrick Harris prioritize holiday traditions to make the season special for their 12-year-old twins Gideon and Harper. “Every year Neil does the candlelight processional at Disney World, so we go for a few days. We also bake and decorate sugar cookies, and go out to dinner on Christmas Eve. Then on Christmas Day we stay in and I come up with something fun and interactive to make for dinner.”
For this week’s Meet a Dad interview, we asked David about more of his family’s holiday plans, being a dad to tweens, and more.
Your twins just turned 12 – officially pre-teens! What’s the best part of having kids entering the true “big kid” stage?
The preteen thing is pretty crazy. The best thing about having them this age is that you can talk to them fully about anything and they get grown up humor. That’s the best. But no one tells you that when your kid starts growing up and you’re the primary caregiver, you start mourning the loss of your child. When they fly the coop and are testing out their wings to be their own person, you have to let them do that. It’s really hard. It’s exciting for them to be more independent but also sad.
Definitely. You welcomed your children in 2010 through a surrogate. Was that experience what you expected?
I had a couple friends already go through the process and they were super close with the surrogate, and they would come to birthday parties, etc. We got along with our surrogate and she was great, as well as the woman who donated her DNA for both kids, but eventually we decided to cut ties because we wanted them to feel like they were our kids. It’s a crazy, intense relationship but at the end of the day, it’s business transaction. I think also being in the media…we didn’t want to subject her to that.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering using a surrogate?
Do it…if you can’t get pregnant on your own there is nothing wrong with having someone help you. It is amazing there are women out there who want to help families get pregnant.
How do you handle having a two parenting working household and twins – any strategies you’d like to share?
It truly takes a village. You have to call on your friends and the parents of your kids friends. We have someone luckily you helps pick up the kids and take them to activities. But we make sure we are together for family dinner almost every night at 6 o’clock. But definitely, you need help. No matter if it’s a grandma or mom or aunt. We need to rely on each other to get each other through hard times. Nobody can do it alone.
How would you describe yourself, and your husband, as dads?
I’m more maternal. I’m making sure they’re fed, safe and clothed. Neil is the more pragmatic one – he’s the thinker. He’s pretty analytical with everything he does. He’s also more of the disciplinarian but also a fun dad.
You had spinal surgery in 2021. As a Dad, how did you manage your recovery?
Even when they’re young, kids are amazing. They chipped in and were great. I have been able to lean on people, again, between friends and family members. But we don’t give enough kids enough credit. They’re really smart and understand when there is a crisis and understand pulling up their bootstraps.
Love that. Do you have any tips for fun holiday parties with kids?
I usually try to do a craft for little kids at the holiday dinners. We call in a babysitter for the day and the kids can play on one side of the house. We have little games or stations, like one where they guess how many candy canes are in a big jar. I love to have a buffet and food out but also an interactive cocktail or punch that someone can serve themselves. Finally, some entertainment, even if it’s just your friend who plays piano helping people sing carols.
What are you giving to family and friends this year?
We make a holiday box with things from Fun House Farm, where we have a house in Long Island. For instance, Harper contributes watercolors with a pressed flower that we laminate. We have bees so we put honey that we made in the box. And a letter that comes from the heart.
So wonderful! You’re a trained chef…what are your kids’ favorite things you cook?
They love the Bolognese that Mario Batali taught me to make when I worked with him. We do a big Taco night Bar. They love interactive stuff like that. I also make a Poke Bar with salmon or tuna and all the seaweed, lettuce, edamame and fried wonton chips for topping.
Can you please tell me a bit about Drag Me to Dinner, your new drag cooking competition show with Neil?
It was a lot of fun! We are both writers, producers and both starred in it. I think people will think it’s very funny and wacky—it’s going to make you smile.