Perhaps no one appreciates Take Your Daughters to Work Day more than Adam Sandler. But he didn't always consider himself a good father.
"When my kid was born, I was so nervous, I didn't know what I felt," the Grown Ups star told Access Hollywood in June 2006, a month after he and wife Jackie Sandler welcomed daughter Sadie Sandler into the world. "Five minutes later, maybe 10 minutes later, it was me and the kid and a nurse. We walked down alone to just check the vital signs and all that stuff, and I had a chemical reaction in my body, where I loved the kid so much, and I was so nervous for her, and that's when I lost my mind for the kid."
"So," he added, "it took 10 minutes to become a good dad. For the first 10 minutes, I was just lost."
Daughter Sunny Sandler rounded out the family in November 2008, and Adam, who's celebrating his 57th birthday on Sept. 9, has happily been doing the bidding of the women in his life ever since.
"When s--t's going good at home, everything is good," he said, summing up the key to a great day to hosts Will Arnett, Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes on the Oct. 12, 2020, episode of Smartless. "You know, the kids and your wife or your partner, are happy and there's nothing else to be concerned about, and you're just f--king free to be who you were as a kid."
And since he considers himself lost if he's on set and gets a call from home saying something's amiss, he's long since figured out a life hack for that.
While his old roommate Judd Apatow is known for casting wife Leslie Mann and their daughters, Maude and Iris Apatow, in his seminal comedies, Adam (who met Jackie when she played a waitress in 1999's Big Daddy) has also worked with his family in some capacity almost nonstop—ever since barely 2-year-old Sadie notched her first film credit as "Girl riding on goat" in You Don't Mess With the Zohan.
But Sadie, 17, and Sunny, 14, full-on star in the recently released Netflix comedy You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, also featuring their parents, so much more attention was paid to the Sandler-kid quotient this time around.
"Sandler has a reputation for making movies with his friends, and that's something we all want to do," Sammi told The Hollywood Reporter last month. "What I say is, he's still making movies with his friends, but they're his kids. He is the kind of dad who's also your best friend. When it comes to the sort of chatter we're hearing online, I don't really think twice about it because I'm going like, 'Yeah, he's doing the same thing he's always done.'"
And, the director continued, Sadie and Sunny were true pros.
"They work harder than most adults I know," said Sammi. "They love acting and filmmaking in general. They take such an interest in how the movie is made, and they're both so talented."
(Not to mention, critics made You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah Adam's best-reviewed movie ever, certified 96 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes—though it's since settled into a tie with the sports-themed Hustle at 93 percent.)
Adam, who plays dad Danny Friedman to Sunny and Sadie's Bat Mitzvah girl Stacy and big sister Ronnie, "gave everyone space to do their thing, but when people needed support, he was there," Sammi recalled. "He's wearing multiple hats—producing, acting, being an actual dad. It's almost inhuman. Nothing suffers—he does it all 110 percent. I would say he's a good coach."
That he is, and if one the life lessons he imparted to his girls was "be ruthlessly funny and do not spare your father," then they got the message loud and clear.
Accepting a Performer Tribute honor at the Gotham Awards last November, Adam came armed with a speech written by his daughters—which he said they offered to do after hearing he hadn't written anything. They described his lack of preparation "with words like 'rude' and 'you're mean,'" he shared. "And I said, 'Well, Daddy's f--king tired. Daddy f--king works hard, calm down.'" (The kids aren't quite old enough for indie film award show humor yet.)
Adam agreed to read the speech "in that goofy Southern accent" he tends to slip into (BFF Jennifer Aniston got the same treatment when he spoke at her Hollywood Walk of Fame induction), and off he went.
On their father's behalf, Sadie and Sunny thanked the Gotham Awards, noting it meant a lot to their dad, Adam read, "seeing as most of the awards on his trophy shelf are shaped like popcorn buckets, blimps or fake mini-Oscars that say 'Father of the Year'—which he sadly purchased himself."
That packed shelf is located in the family's L.A. home—which, incidentally, once belonged to Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, now featuring Oliver Hudson and Kate Hudson's old rooms as Jackie's office and Sunny's bedroom, respectively. (And, not surprisingly, what was once a paddle tennis court is now for half-court basketball.)
But Adam doesn't need any official signage or novelty mug telling him he's the world's best dad. Having enjoyed a close relationship with his father, Stanley Sandler, before losing him to cancer in 2003, always being there for his girls was simply what he was going to do from the time they were born.
Paying tribute to Stanley on Father's Day last year, Adam tweeted, "We talk to our kids all the time about just how damn cool and smart he was and what he would have said in certain situations if he was here. Miss that man everyday and thank him for his warmth, his love for my mom, and always putting his family first."
And that's basically why Adam likes to work with his wife and kids, or at least have them on set, whenever possible.
"You're just happier," he explained on the July 9, 2020, episode of Oliver Hudson and Joe Buck's Daddy Issues podcast. "You love your kids so much, you don't want to be away from them. You don't want them to—like, you go away for a week or something, it's okay, they miss you, you miss them. But when it starts being a lot of time, it shakes it up too much."
While his new-dad nerves faded away within minutes, the nerves about everything else admittedly lingered. Adam told Huffington Post in 2014 that he could only be as happy as his least-happy kid.
"Now, I understand why my folks were always saying, 'Be nice and be safe. Make sure everyone in the family is OK. That's the most important thing,'" he explained. "Making sure everyone in the family is OK is the most important thing. If the family hurts then you hurt."
Hence the satisfaction (and relief) he gets from making his daughters laugh.
"When I'm asking them to practice something, that kind of guy, they like him," he quipped on Smartless. "They like the funny me...I definitely try to be funny a lot. I don't always score, like, take 'em out of their moods."
As he used to do to lighten the atmosphere if his dad was angry, Adam said, "I think I do that with the kids, too, when I see them upset about something, I go to the jokes."
When he is the one who's about to lose it, "Jackie cuts me off in the middle of that," he added. But "I'm a kiss-ass most of the time. I like keeping 'em f--king happy. I like when they're happy and laughing. But I put some pressure on them" as far as practicing a skill goes.
He'll ask Sadie and Sunny if there's nothing they want to get good at, he said, to which they'll reply, "'Just not what you want us to get good at. We want to get good at what we like.'"
The girls have been able to enjoy some Dad's-a-Beloved-Movie-Star perks: Maroon 5 performed at Sadie's actual Bat Mitzvah in 2019, while Charlie Puth and Halsey sang at Sunny's last year, and sometimes they get gifts with cards signed "Love, Jen," as in Aniston. ("One of the best gifts Sadie received…$1.8 million," Adam joked to Jimmy Kimmel about mutual pal Jen's largesse.)
But it's not as if Adam—who grew up middle-class in New Hampshire with three siblings before attending NYU, getting his big break on Saturday Night Live, starting Happy Madison Productions and making a zillion movies—gave up on trying to raise well-adjusted citizens of the world.
"The idea of my kids being spoiled, I go to sleep thinking about it and I wake up thinking about it," he told the Toronto Sun in 2010. "I try to do the right thing, but with the amount of money I have, it's difficult to raise the children the way I was raised."
So, he quipped, "I took away the West and North wing of the house from those guys. They're not allowed in there, and so far I think that's working."
But by all accounts, Sadie and Sunny seem to be a couple of normal Taylor Swift- and Olivia Rodrigo-loving teens (Adam was spotted Aug. 9 at the Eras Tour in L.A., so surely that was a family outing) who are cool to be around on set and are growing up way too fast for their father's taste.
He said on Daddy Issues that, when they were little, he assured them he'd destroy any boy who looked at them funny. More recently, Jackie had told him he'd have to prepare to be friends with these would-be suitors one day, so he was trying to adjust his approach accordingly.
"I am changing a little bit," he said. "When I talk about their futures...I talk about, 'You know, you just want a nice guy who you can count on, that's gonna look out for you, blah blah blah'—I'm getting into that world. I'm less being like [growly voice], 'F--k everybody, you don't need that s--t, you only need me.'"
Though the most important thing, of course, is that Sadie and Sunny know they've got him.
That being said, he won't be around forever, Adam cracked, so "I want to make sure they're with somebody decent."
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