Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of childrearing.
Stephen "tWitch" Boss and Allison Holker are dancing their way through the pandemic — a pastime that has made them social media sensations — both for stress relief and fun flashbacks. "It is truly one of the greatest expressions," Boss, 38, a co-executive producer on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and its resident DJ, tells Yahoo Life.
"We have definitely used dance as a vehicle to keep us sane, healthy, motivated and excited about getting up every single day," agrees Holker, 33.
The couple, who met as contestants on different seasons of the former reality show So You Think You Can Dance, started dating in 2010 after flirting at the show's Season 7 wrap party. They married in 2013 and share three children: daughter Zaia, 1, son Maddox, 5, and daughter Weslie (Holker's daughter from a previous relationship), who is 12.
Here, the family shares the ups and downs of pandemic parenting, what they've learned about their own tween on social media and how music gets them moving.
Yahoo Life: Mental health has been such aconcern during the pandemic and dancinghelps release stress. What does the activity do for you as a family?
Boss: There's nothing like dancing to a song you love… the endorphins and serotonin that comes with it. We get to dance a lot with our family — and we've had careers in dance — but being able to do a little two-step with our kids or a routine with Weslie, it's moments like that that transcend the trend that we're doing at the moment. We'll look back on that for years to come as great memories.
Holker: Whenever you're dancing, you have to let go of your ego… you have to be embarrassed for a moment and laugh it off… so it's a nice way to remember that things can be laughable and enjoyable and not so serious all the time.
Do you dance as much in real life as you dance on social media? And do your children ever say, "Mom, Dad, enough"?
Boss: Yes to both. And yes, there are definitely times when the kids are like, "OK, alright you guys," which is quite the role reversal.
Holker: There's always music playing in our home, there's always dancing going on... There's always movement, it's just a part of who we are. ... It's fun for Weslie because she's at the TikTok age. … She'll see that we know of the dances, so there are definitely mixed feelings for her. She loves that we know them so she can come to us and be like, "I want to learn this one," or she'll teach us one that we don't know yet. And all of her friends see us… so she's also proud of us, I think, but also very embarrassed that it's her parents.
Last year, Weslie confronted a social troll who asked why she "dresses like a boy" bysharing a powerful response on TikTok— how did you navigate that?
Holker: We're very proud of Weslie. She's such a strong soul who knows who she is but she's also not scared to stand up for herself and she's very good with her words. She's never trying to just protect herself and doing it in a mean way to give back that energy. … She is trying to help others.
Boss: Before she made that video, she talked to us about it. … As a parent, in those moments, you go, "Wow, you really have been picking up on a lot." It's a testament that your kids are watching and listening. … We couldn’t have been more proud.
Holker: When we first had the conversation about having a TikTok [account] at her age, something we addressed with her was, "Unfortunately… you are going to at least have a couple of bullies. But the most important thing to remember is that it has no reflection of you as a human at all. It's 100 percent a reflection of the person that is writing [the] comments." People use social media as a front to release their own negative thoughts about themselves and their own insecurities.
You've been open about your parenting choices, such as bottle-feeding your children. As public parents, do you get a lot of unsolicited feedback on social media?
Holker: We've definitely had people hit us with their opinions and… there's a lot of opinions from people who, because they've raised children, feel they need to voice their opinion without ever looking at a person's circumstances. There are a lot of reasons people can or cannot do what the structural norms would look like [but] we live in a society that isn’t patient with people and doesn't try to hear other people’s stories enough. Everyone's on their own journey.
Allison, you posted a postpartum selfie after you had Zaia. Why did you feel that was important to do?
Holker: "[On social media], everything is perfect —"I lost all the weight!" — and all sides of people's journeys are important stories to be told, but it's also important to share the realness. We should empower other women to feel confident on every stage, on any surface. … We can learn so much from everyone. It's important to allow women to feel powerful and strong, in having a baby or not having a baby, whatever your situation is… you don't have to look a certain way in order to be respected. We're warriors!
What are some parenting challenges that arose during quarantine and how did you solve them?
Boss: There were quite a few — the idea of quarantine in itself. That time, to be spent in the same place day after day. That was a challenge because after a while, depending on the age of the kid… every day it was like, "Alright, what are we going to do today?" And then you finish with that and they go, "Well, what now?" We want to provide everything for our kids but it's finding the balance of giving them activities but not mapping out every single hour of the day.
Last summer amid the Black Lives Matter protests, you posted that viral "Put a finger down" video. What was that time like for your family?
Boss: It's an ongoing conversation. Weslie is even going through this in junior high. Having her be able to come to us and ask questions and all of us watching the news together, it really drives home the point for us as parents [about] how much of a base and foundation that we need to build in our home. And that we operate off kindness and love, no matter what your differences are.
I look at Weslie and I'm amazed and inspired because she's in a very unique position herself, having me as a stepfather and then also a biracial brother and sister. [It's a] space in which she has to occupy and navigate. … I tip my hat to her, she is really inspiring. … We speak about experiences and we teach from example. She sees the way that Allison and I treat everyone, regardless of skin color, sexual preference or religion. People are people and humanity is humanity. Everybody is deserving of love and open-mindedness.
Holker: It's never going to be an easy conversation with anyone on any side about racism in the world. But it's a conversation that needs to be had for everyone. And the biggest thing you can do is listen, because everyone has a story and everyone’s story is important to all come together to find the resolution. Even if it's not perfect right away, we can listen to each other and try to find something that can make change and bring a new idea to the table that is going to make things more equal for everyone.
What are some of your favorite quarantine memories?
Holker: We had never done anything like this before, but because we couldn't go out to eat at restaurants, we decided to do a family theme dinner. We made a really fancy steak meal and let the kids pick the theme and they went with "Suited and Booted" and everyone wore suits. It was almost like when you go to prom and everyone takes pictures as you're walking down the stairs. … It changed the idea of dinner — it was the same dinner table we're always eating at but it gave it a new excitement.
Boss: We also did a Harry Potter marathon. Allison is a huge Harry Potter fan, but we never really found time to sit down and watch every single movie. To watch [the films] in chronological order was awesome.
Your new ad for Cadillac's 2021 Escalade with Super Cruise technology shows you driving on the freeway while using the car's hands-free feature. What was that experience like for both of you?
Holker: The very first time, taking my hands off the wheel was one of the most nerve-racking feelings because as parents, we're supposed to protect our kids, so we're always extra-cautious behind the wheel… but once I released my hands for the very first time and I saw how the car adjusts for you and protects you, it was so incredible to be able to trust your car to also help you out. The kids loved it; it was kind of a game to them.
Boss: It's incredibly helpful once you get over the nerves of not having your hands on the wheel.
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