Is there anything tougher than being 15?
Yes, and that's being 15 when your parents decide to get divorced.
Maddox Jolie-Pitt is at that tender age and while he's used to the spotlight, being the son of two of the most famous people in the world, for the first time in his young life he's the subject of more than just "Maddox celebrates his birthday" headlines. Now, people are questioning what sort of dad Brad Pitt is, and his relationship with Maddox is taking center stage.
E! News confirmed that father and son saw each other, in person, for the first time in over a month on Wednesday, a therapist also present as per the terms of the temporary arrangement Pitt and Angelina Joliearrived at in order to get a grip on their custody issues that had been playing out so publicly.
Maddox had previously refused to see Pitt, a source telling us he was mad at his dad and didn't want to see him just yet; the actor had seen his other five kids with Jolie on two occasions since she filed for divorce on Sept. 19.
Meanwhile, the FBI paid Jolie a visit at the Malibu residence where she's been staying with the children to interview the family about what really occurred aboard a private plane carrying Pitt and the kids on Sept. 14—an incident that prompted an investigation from Los Angeles' Department of Children and Family Services.
A source told E! News that Pitt and Maddox had a "typical argument," the type that most parents and their kids are no stranger to, while another insider said it amounted to "the kind of disagreements that sometimes occur between teenage boys and their fathers."
It shouldn't come as a surprise when any father and his 15-year-old kid butt heads, but this was the first time that most people were being treated to a less than idyllic picture when it came to Brad or Angelina's relationship with their kids, if not each other.
"To be clear: we have fights and problems like any other couple," Jolie talked about their marriage last year while promoting By the Sea, which she wrote and directed, and in which she and Pitt play a couple whose marriage is falling apart. "We have days when we drive each other absolutely mad and want space, but the problems in the movie aren't our specific problems."
Jolie adopted Maddox from his native Cambodia on March 10, 2002, when he was 7 months old. She met Pitt on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith in 2004 and, by that time the following year, they were a couple, with Brad accompanying Angie to Ethiopia in the summer of 2005 when she adopted daughter Zahara. Both kids were adopted by Brad as well in early 2006, a few months before he and Jolie had their first biological child together, daughter Shiloh. Jolie adopted Pax as a single parent in 2007, because Vietnam didn't allow unmarried couples to adopt, and Pitt officially became his dad in February 2008. Twins Knox and Vivienne were born on July 12, 2008, and the brood was complete.
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Both Brad and Angelina have made it clear that their kids' well-being are their No. 1 priority as they navigate the murky waters of divorce—which started off particularly murky in this case thanks to Jolie's request for sole physical custody, minus any other details, when she filed her petition, citing irreconcilable differences.
Making the timing even more touchy is the fact that they're parents of a teenager, a 12-year-old, an 11-year-old, a 10-year-old and two 8-year-olds—a tall order even in the best of times.
"I worry about them all the time," Pitt said a year ago in the November 2015 issue of Psychologies. "That's the emotional bond and responsibility that sweeps over you when you have a family to look after. I care about them more than I care about myself, which I think is the real definition of love. I care about them more than I care about myself. You see past yourself and become more generous and giving, and wanting only the best for your family."
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Pitt and Maddox have always seemed to have your average, close yet normal-looking, father-son relationship.
When he turned 9, he wanted a racing theme so Maddox's parents rented out Go Kart World in Carson, Calif., ensuring as many zips around the Mini Indy Track as the birthday boy could handle.
In 2011, Pitt told USA Weekend about having six kids in the house, "Angie and I do everything we can to carve out some semblance of normalcy for them, to re-create the kinds of moments that were special for us. It's not unusual for the kids to be covered in paint. We have mud fights. It's chaos from morning until the lights go out, and sometimes after that."
Making time for both all the kids and the kids individually was also understandably a struggle with their work schedules. Pitt and Jolie famously figured that they needed to shoot films on alternating schedules so at least one of them would be readily available.
"I want to spend my time with them," Pitt told the U.K.'s Daily Record in November 2011. "I'm not having enough time with them, so I push for that and then ultimately, we all have to go to work. With six kids it's all about time allocation now.
"As a parent I find that where you could sit back and be a bit more lackadaisical about your time, it's now like, 'OK, I've got 45 minutes here, I'm carving this out, I'm shutting the door and I'm just going to the thing'. And then I need to make sure my kids get this attention."
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Brad bought Maddox a Suzuki DRZ-125 motorbike for his 11th birthday—not only a gift that most boys would love but one that spoke right to Pitt's own motorcycle-loving heart, a bonding opportunity for the two.
"It'll be a fun thing for them to do, and obviously he has a real passion for bikes which he'd like to pass on," a source told E! News at the time.
"I've discovered I don't suck at being a dad," Pitt jested self-deprecatingly to Details two years ago.
Talking about Maddox in 2006, Jolie described him as "very smart, but he's got a certain sense of calm."
And even though the boy was only 5 at the time, that indicates he was a deep thinker from the beginning, someone who analyzes a situation from all angles and doesn't make a move until he's ready.
Hence, not wanting to see his dad right away. Combine that with being 15, and it's no wonder that one day he may have been claiming he never wanted to see Brad again, as Us Weekly reported, and the next he was agreeing to a meeting.
Asked by a fan who was considering adoption about the concern that the bond would be different than it would be with a biological child, Pitt said in 2009, "What I can tell you is, I love each of my children individually and equally and my life is all the richer because of them, and I could not imagine my life without them."
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Last year, Jolie said that it was turning into a very pivotal time for Maddox, whom she called "a son of Cambodia" in addition to her own son.
"This is the time for our family to understand all that that means to him and to us," she told the Associated Press. "My desire to tell this story in the most truthful and accurate way possible will be my tribute to the strength and dignity of all Cambodian people." Jolie has had a home in Cambodia since 2003 and in 2005 she was given citizenship in thanks for all her good works in her son's native country. Her next directorial effort is set to be an adaptation of human rights activist's Loung Ung's memoir First They Killed My Father: A Daughter Of Cambodia Remembers for Netflix, a production that Maddox is involved in.
Jolie herself hadn't planned on starting a family anytime soon when, in 2000, she was shooting Tomb Raiderin Cambodia and while visiting with kids at an orphanage she all of a sudden realized, not only that she wanted to delve deeper into humanitarian issues but that "my son was in the country, somewhere."
Along came the very married Pitt in 2004, whom Jolie would later admit to falling in love with on the set of their film—though they tried to shut down those rumors for as long as possible in the wake of Pitt's divorce from Jennifer Aniston in early 2005.
Serendipitously, Pitt shifted into dad mode rather seamlessly.
"I feel like the richest man alive since I've become a father," Pitt told Psychologies last year. "Being a father has changed me on so many levels and made me more generous and alive. I see my children as an essential part of my life, and it means so much to be able to educate them and help them make their way in the world as they grow up. I love being a father and all the responsibilities that entails."
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The star of the upcoming World War II-era romance thriller Allied also said that he was purposely slowing down in the acting department, becoming increasingly picky about any film choices that would take him away from home.
"And, truthfully, I do want to spend more time with my kids before they're grown up and gone," he added.
Fast-forward to last month, when Pitt first stated in response to Jolie's divorce filing, "I am very saddened by this, but what matters most now is the well-being of our kids. I kindly ask the press to give them the space they deserve during this challenging time."
A week later he opted to skip the premiere of Terrence Malick's Voyage of Time, which Pitt narrated, saying, "I'm very grateful to be part of such a fascinating and educational project, but I'm currently focused on my family situation and don't want to distract attention away from this extraordinary film, which I encourage everyone to see."
His family situation, including the rift that had apparently opened up between him and his eldest son, whether it happened on that plane ride or long before. Whatever's been going on, Maddox has his reasons for siding with his mom or, quite possibly, he's plenty upset with both parents right now and mom just happens to be in charge.
And while one day, hopefully in the near future, Maddox will appreciate the efforts his father seems to be making in what must be a painful time for everybody, all the parental platitudes in the world may just fall on uninterested 15-year-old ears for now.