Neil Patrick Harris: Family Charity Work Gives His Kids ‘Valuable and Much-Needed Perspective on Life’

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Neil Patrick Harris, right, and husband David Burtka at the God’s Love We Deliver Golden Heart Awards on Oct. 17 in New York City. (Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Michael Kors)
Neil Patrick Harris, right, and husband David Burtka at the God’s Love We Deliver Golden Heart Awards on Oct. 17 in New York City. (Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Michael Kors)

Neil Patrick Harris is more than just a pretty face and an entertainment powerhouse. He’s also an activist, a father, and a husband. So when the opportunity arose to serve those in need while setting a good example for his kids and roping his better half into a night out, he didn’t hesitate. NPH (as he’s affectionately known), recently partnered with Coca-Cola and RED to help highlight the work the soft drink company is doing on the ground in Africa through initiatives such as Project Last Mile, which teaches organizations and governments about effective distribution channels that can maximize the ability to get critical medicines and medical supplies the “last mile” to those who need it most in remote communities in Africa.

“The trucks with Coke can get into tiny towns, which means so can the trucks with medications,” Harris tells Yahoo Celebrity. “Coke has an amazing infrastructure that some governments do not.” As part of the push to support the cause, he offered up a chance to win a night on the town with him and his husband, chef David Burtka. But how did Burtka feel about Harris throwing one of their rare nights out into a public raffle?

“We have a busy schedule, so scheduling a night out — even if it’s with strangers — is something he was into. He was down for it,” NPH explained, adding, “He does way more charitable work than I do, so he understands.”

Related: Enter for a Chance to Hang With NPH in the Big Apple

Generally speaking, the two actually do spend a good amount of quality time together despite their hectic schedules. “We get a lot of time alone,” Harris muses. “We have 6-year-old twins, so we eat as a family together at 5 or 5:30 every night, and then the kids go down at 6:30, and they are sleeping by 7:15 or so, and then we can just hang out at home.” After a pause, he adds, “We haven’t been to a movie in a while, though! We don’t get to the movies very often.” In other words, a night out might be just what the doctor ordered.

With the holidays around the corner, however, Harris and Burtka will get a little more family time than usual, as they do charity work with their twins and host a preholiday gathering for their own parents. “We are involved with a couple of organizations that help deliver meals to those less fortunate, so we make it a point to do it right before Thanksgiving with the kids, and we will do it again during the holidays. We live up in Harlem, so there’s a lot of people in the area nearby that could certainly use the help, and it gives the kids a valuable and much-needed perspective on life,” says Harris, star of Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, which premieres in January. Somewhere in there, the grandparents drop in too.

“We have both sets of our parents come up the week before, and we sort of do a pre-Christmas Christmas with the parents, and then they head back to their own lives on the 22nd or 23rd,” he explains with a sigh. “Then we have a kind of insular, quiet holiday with just the four of us.”

David Burtka, Harper Grace Burtka-Harris, Neil Patrick Harris and Gideon Scott Burtka-Harris attend the Disney Special Screening Of
From left, Burtka, daughter Harper Grace, Harris, and son Gideon Scott at a special screening of Moana on Nov. 20 in New York City. (Photo: Mark Sagliocco/FilmMagic)

Speaking of just the four of them, Harris humbly admits that his parenting tactics have evolved over the years. Though he thinks that if, as a parent, you ever “feel like you’ve got a real handle on things,” you might be entering “a danger zone.” He also recognizes that with experience comes a certain type of mastery. “I think what I’ve learned the most is that rigidity is your enemy, and fluidity is way more helpful,” he says. “Kids are constantly changing, and with that change comes new structures and new dynamics, so I guess the key is to work to be a parent with authority even though everything is changing all the time.” He thinks for a moment and then adds, “You have to stand firm on your beliefs, but your beliefs may change based on something that your kids do or the way that they process something, so giving up that rigidity has been helpful in easing me of some tension.”

Raising twins is hardly the only thing that causes tension these days, though! Asked about the beef between the Hamilton cast and President-elect Donald Trump, Harris said he was “impressed” that Vice President-elect Mike Pence “chose to see that show” at all. “I hope that he enjoyed its power from the extraordinary and wildly diverse group of performers,” he said. As for the “boycott Hamilton” hashtag, Harris just laughed. “It might be a little hard to actually boycott Hamilton because there is a long line of people actually looking for tickets,” he noted.

If it seems like Harris does too much, that’s because he does. “My New Year’s resolution — I think it’s going to sound glib — but it’s going to be to take on less and enjoy it all more. I need to find a way to make that equation work, but I’m hopeful that if I do the former, it will create the latter: If I take on less, I will enjoy it more. I think that should be a fortune cookie.” So now he can add fortune cookie scribe to his list of talents.

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