Hollywood mom Barbara Cameron visits with us this month to tell us what it’s like to raise two children who became household names starring in hit TV series. Her son, Kirk Cameron, played the role of Mike Seaver on the show, “Growing Pains” (1985-1992), and her daughter, Candace, played D.J. Tanner on the popular series, “Full House” (1987-1995). Barbara is the mother of four and author of the newly released book, A Full House of Growing Pains.
Barbara, I enjoyed reading your new book. Can you tell our CWO readers what A Full House of Growing Pains is about?
It’s basically the story of my journey as a mom of four children, two of whom worked in the entertainment industry. I take the reader on a very personal and private journey into our family’s life. I share my intimate struggles as a wife, mother and woman.
How did your children become involved in show business?
This story goes way back to when Kirk and his sister Bridgette were two and three years old. My husband, Robert, and I lived in a small apartment, and I made friends with a neighbor in the same building, Francine Rich. She had a cute son named Adam who was acting in commercials. He later landed the role of “Nicholas” on the show, “Eight is Enough.” Fran encouraged me to take my children to see her agent, but I never thought anything would come of it, and I wasn’t sure I even wanted to.
We later moved and bought our first home in Fillmore, California. In time, Fran and I ran into each other again, and I invited her to my home for lunch. During that visit, I showed her some recent pictures of the children in my sister’s wedding. Kirk was the ring-bearer, and Bridgette and Melissa were flower girls. She asked if she could show the picture to Adam’s agent. I finally agreed, not thinking anything of it. I figured this was probably the best way to put an end to her asking me again!
Then two days later, Fran called and told me the agent wanted to see all the kids, and to call to set up an appointment. So that was it. I made an appointment, took the children in, and the agent wanted to represent Kirk and Melissa, and told me to bring Candace back in a year, since she was only four at the time.
Kirk and Melissa started booking commercials, then about a year later, Candace started working. Later, Melissa decided she didn’t want to do it anymore. Kirk and Candace continued booking commercials, small parts on television movies, and films. Then Kirk landed the role on “Growing Pains.” While Candace was working on the film, “Punchline,” with Sally Fields and John Goodman, she auditioned for “Full House” and after a series of call-backs she landed the role of “D.J. Tanner.”
What kinds of challenges did you face raising a family in Hollywood?
I think my first challenge was trying to find my way around Hollywood. You’re always traveling during peek time, so traffic is horrendous. We had some scary adventures navigating Hollywood Hills in our 1968 stick shift V.W. bus! I’d take the long way just to avoid the hills.
When the children first started doing commercials, it was fun and exciting, and also pretty safe. But as Kirk and Candace’s shows gained in popularity, so did they, and soon our lives changed drastically. We experienced the celebrity life you only read about in magazines. We rode in limos and flew all over the world. The temptations were tremendous. Money! Fame! Stardom!
How did your family respond to being in the limelight?
It’s amazing how people treat you differently when they assume you have money. We were perceived as being rich and famous, yet we weren’t any different than the families in our neighborhood. Robert was a junior high school teacher, and I was a stay-at-home mom raising four children. We lived in a tract home, and all the kids had chores and were disciplined if they disobeyed.
The challenges grew harder as the children became more popular and became teenagers. Some of those challenges were that the kids in school were very tough on Candace. We had many people come in and out of our lives who only wanted a glimpse of how we lived. Some who didn’t give us the time of day suddenly wanted to become our friends, and those we considered friends suddenly asked us not to come around anymore.
Someone who worked for us for ten years stole a large amount of money from our children’s account. The person was caught and put in jail. We had stalkers and some pretty scary incidents. There were challenges in my relationship with my husband, and between the children and their dad. Our life was truly “a full house of growing pains.”
Was there ever any jealousy from your other two daughters?
Bridgette and Melissa were very supportive siblings. Bridgette always wanted to act; in fact, she was the one I thought the agent would take. But when the agent didn’t, Bridgette took it all in stride, as that was her personality and character. She was always positive, even in the difficult times.
I don’t think there was any jealousy. Kirk and Candace were always very kind and generous to their siblings. Kirk and Candace working in the business was just the way it was. Their life was different than Bridgette and Melissa’s. But we were also a family, and we made sure the whole family enjoyed the ride.
How did you help keep your family close during those chaotic years?
We took family vacations whenever possible, going camping in our tent trailer or to the beach on Sundays. This became a family tradition for many years. We spent a lot of time at home having birthday parties, holiday gatherings, anything we could do together.
And I have to attribute my husband to keeping us grounded. Robert’s focus for our children was college. He believed that the children working in the entertainment industry was just for fun. I remember he said to me, “I’ll believe it’s something to consider as a career when Kirk makes his first $10,000.” Well, after a few commercials, Kirk was on his way!
So, after seeing the children making an income, we soon realized this could develop into something they could do as a career. As Kirk’s show became more popular, he became one of the “teen heartthrobs” of America, and we lost much of our privacy. Our family interacted more with the friends we had before the children were in the business, and our extended family as well.
Why did you decide to write a book about your life as a Hollywood mom?
First of all, it wasn’t my idea to write it! A few years ago, Ray Comfort, Kirk’s ministry partner, kept telling me, “Barbara, you should write a book! You have so many great stories to tell about how you kept your children grounded while living in the world of Hollywood.”
I thought Ray was absolutely nuts. My thought was, Who in the world would really care to read about the life of the Cameron family … how boring! Yet, over the years, I’ve had many parents ask me about how to get their child intothe business. They wanted to know how my husband and I handled the fame while keeping our family strong and intact.
When Ray said this book could be a wonderful evangelistic tool, I reconsidered. I thought Who am I to say “no” to the possibility of sharing the life God gave us in hopes that it could draw someone closer to Him?
Yet I didn’t know the first thing about writing a book. Ray told me, “Just start writing.” And so A Full House of Growing Pains was born.
Your book delves into some painful issues relating to your marriage. Can you share some of your struggles?
I married about a year after high school, after meeting Robert at one of California’s beaches. Since he’s seven years older than me, I looked up to him and valued his opinions. My vision of marriage was that you became “one.” I had hoped we would love each other so much, no matter what we did, or where we went, we would always be together and want to be with each other.
A few years into marriage, my husband’s strong verbal skills started to weigh heavily on me. I felt criticized and judged. And yet that was what I loved about Robert in the first place. He was my voice. As the “honeymoon” drifted away, I started believing I wasn’t happy. What was happening? What was going wrong? I soon made a vow to myself that when my children were 18 years old, I would get out of the marriage, if things continued along that path.
When Kirk and Candace landed the television series, our lives changed. I was exposed to a whole new world. I became more confident. I began making my own decisions, expressing myself more, and managing their careers. I was now a businesswoman, able to draw an income and have money of my own.
It was tough on our marriage, which began to spiral downhill. I realized I didn’t have to wait until my children were 18 years old. I could leave now!
What made you decide to stick things out?
I watched my children experience the struggles in our marriage. They saw how it threatened to tear our family apart. Yet through it all, they learned about commitment.They learned that running away from problems in life won’t solve anything, but instead will destroy what is precious. They learned there is a God who loved them and wanted a personal relationship with them. They learned what it really means to be living for Christ.
Today, my grandchildren are being trained up in the Lord which is just so awesome to witness! My husband and I visit our grandchildren together, not separately. They will learn through my book about their grandparents’ struggles and how, through Christ, we were able to keep our marriage together.
We are thrilled to have Candace joining us here at CWO as a regular columnist. Can you give us the scoop on what your son Kirk is up to these days?
Kirk and his wife, Chelsea, just celebrated their 15-year anniversary. They have six children, ranging in age from 3 to 9 years old. I don’t remember who the adopted ones are. They’re all beautiful children God brought into their lives. Chelsea has her hands full caring for the children, while Kirk travels to speak at universities, high schools, churches, conferences, and community events throughout the country.
When he’s home, he works on “The Way of the Master,” a reality TV show that he and Ray Comfort have created, which won the National Religious Broadcasters’ Best Program award for 2005 and 2006 and a People’s Choice award for 2004, 2005, and 2006. He also co-hosts “The Way of the Master” radio show, which broadcasts daily, and occasionally appears as a guest host for other television shows. Kirk is actively involved in developing family entertainment.
Wow! Your whole family is staying busy. Do you have any advice on how today’s Christian women can have healthy marriages and families in a culture that is increasingly hostile to our values?
I learned through Debi Pearl’s book, Created to Be His Help Meet, this truth: “No man has ever crawled out from under his wife’s criticism to become a better man.” The Bible talks about winning our husband over without a word (1 Peter 3:1). This was very powerful for me to hear.
The Bible also talks about how a wise woman builds up her house and a foolish one tears it down. These verses from the Bible are God’s commands for us women. It doesn’t matter if you’re married to an unbelieving husband, God is our authority, and He is first in our life. If we will live according to His word, we’ll see the fruit of our labor.
There is hope for our marriages, and divorce is not the answer. God hates divorce. It’s a convenient way for us to continue living in sin. It reeks of the unbiblical modern gospel message that preaches “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” Ladies, don’t buy into the lies that you hear in your head. That little voice that says you deserve better, that you should be happy. The adversary wants nothing more than to destroy our families, and he is doing a wonderful job of it today!
We deserve nothing, and yet though the incredible love of God, He will help us to be the wife, mother, and woman He created us to be if we will just seek His Will for our lives. My favorite verses are Phil 3:14: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and Mark 8:36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
I hope that readers will come away from my book relating to my experiences and understanding that there is hope for their marriages and their children’s salvation, even in the teenage years! It’s through repentance and faith, followed by obedience and the power of prayer, that will help your family be the best it can be.
Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Barbara! ~ Heather
Read more about Barbara, as Heather asks about her trips to Africa, her involvement with Make-a-Wish Foundation, and Camp Firefly. Please follow this link to part 2 of their interview:
Learn more about all the exciting ministries the Cameron family is involved in through visiting these websites: