Tony Hale shares why having a teen unlocks 'a whole new level of anxiety'

Tony Hale opens up about his life as a dad with a teenage daughter. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Tony Hale opens up about his life as a dad with a teenage daughter. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child-rearing.

Their parents no doubt know Tony Hale best from his work on Arrested Development and Veep, but thanks to a slew of family-friendly projects (see: Toy Story 4, the Angry Birds franchise, The Mysterious Benedict Society, Archibald's Next Big Thing and the upcoming Hocus Pocus 2), he's also managed to corner the toddler-to-tween market. Surely all that kid cred has earned him some cool dad points with his own daughter, 16-year-old Loy?

"Not according to her!" Hale, who is married to makeup artist Martel Thompson, tells Yahoo Life. "If you asked her, she'd be like, 'no, my dad is far from that.'"

The problem, he says, is his "attempt at control," something most teens typically push back against.

"[She's] just like, 'Dad. Dad. OK. Yeah. You've told me that a thousand times. Yeah, I know. I'll drive safe. Yeah. OK, I got it. OK. Yeah,'" the two-time Emmy winner cracks. "And I'm like, 'well maybe that outfit, you know, it's like ...' 'Yeah, I got it.' It's just that sense of almost the nagging parent, I think, that drives her a little crazy. But I've only got two more years with her and then she is off into the wild, wild west. And so, I don't know, maybe I'll drive her crazy for the next two years and then I just gotta release it."

For the most part, though, Hale is trying to give Loy — who is named after her mother's late brother — the space to figure herself out. He notes that while social media makes him "nervous" as a parent who didn't grow up in an online culture, his teen seems to have a better grasp of what's authentic and what's not.

"I'm learning to give her a lot more credit than I have, maybe, as a parent of a teenager," he says. "I had a lot of fears coming in. She just started driving, so that's a whole new level of anxiety. I was kind of hoping she'd just take Uber for the rest of her life."

Hale, who last year spoke to Yahoo Life about the role faith plays in his life, says that letting go has been a "big lesson of just daily surrendering up to God and surrendering her up to God and just saying, 'I can control so much.' And that's a very, very scary lesson for a parent. [When your kids are] younger you have this element of control of what they eat, what they wear, where they're going, the parameters. And then that just slowly, slowly gets less and less. And it's a little scary, but it's a good lesson for me."

Part of relinquishing that control means "not trying to fit her into a category of where I think she's going to go." Hale cites the influence of his own dad, a military man who bucked the stereotype of how one might expect him to react to a son wanting to pursue a career in the arts, instead showing nothing but appreciation and support.

"I will say, to be completely honest, it's still tough," he says of fighting the urge to give his daughter unsolicited feedback. "I don't know where she's going to go in her life. You kind of typically think you have an idea of what her interests are and what her personality is and think, 'Oh, this would be a good fit for you.' And you've just gotta shut your mouth. You don't know where she's going to be led, and so you just kind of let it happen. I mean, you can encourage her and, when she asks, I can give advice, but for the most part I'm like, 'I've just got to let her find her way.'"

The Being the Ricardos actor spoke to Yahoo Life as part of his partnership with AstraZeneca's Asthma Behaving Badly education campaign, which offers resources about eosinophilic asthma and asthma control. As a kid growing up with asthma in the sports-mad South, Hale says he often felt "isolated," especially because information about the condition and its many triggers wasn't so widely known back then.

"There is this part of you growing up [where] you're like, 'Can anyone else not breathe? Is anybody else breathing through a straw?'" he says. "Like, you feel really isolated, and everybody's kind of looking at you like, 'what's your deal, man? Why can't you run?' Or, 'why are you breathing so heavy?' Or, 'why are you talking about it so much?' It's like, 'well my life source is being taken from me' ... So I think there was that kind of alone feeling growing up."

Hale, who has had asthma since childhood, is supporting the
Hale, who has had asthma since childhood, is supporting the "Asthma Behaving Badly" campaign as a way to "raise empathy" for those living with the condition. "I put so much value in resources that they offer," he says. (Photo: Tabitha Brooke Photography)

When it comes to helping his own child fit in, Hale says he tries to avoid "snowplow parenting," in which parents essentially "plow all the obstacles away" from their kid's path. He does, however, understand the impulse.

"I just get that; I don't want her to face any challenges," he says. "I don't want her to deal with any obnoxious kids. I don't want her to deal with any bullies that I had to deal with or anything like that. But she's had experiences, and I think the biggest thing that I've had to do is just say 'that's really hard and I I'm really sorry. I'm sorry you're walking through that; that's really tough.' What I want to do is go over to that house of that family and pummel [them]. I just want to be like, 'OK, sit down and let me just give you an ear.' But I've just got to sit with her in the pain sometimes."

Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life's newsletter. Sign up here.