Joanna Gaines is in a unique position: her youngest son, Crew, just turned 4, and her oldest, Drake, is heading off to college next year. The age gap has made the Fixer Upper star realize, even more, that time is fleeting. She wants to embrace each and every stage of parenthood before it comes and goes.
During an intimate luncheon at La Mercerie Cafe in New York City on Monday, Gaines, 44, celebrated the release of her new memoir, The Stories We Tell: Every Piece of Your Story Matters, and opened up about her experience raising a preschooler alongside teenagers.
Gaines shares sons Crew, Drake, 17, and Duke, 14, and daughters Ella, 16, and Emmie, 12, with her husband and co-star Chip Gaines.
“It’s the best perspective,” she told Scary Mommy of the age difference between her children during a roundtable discussion. “Because my son [Drake] is almost 18, I feel like I get to see perspective where when you’re raising them and assuming, now I know what it’s like to have an 18-year-old. And then my 4-year-old will remind me that it goes by fast, because it does.”
Joanna said she appreciates the little moments with Crew, who she called “a wise, old 4-year-old.”
“He’s my little guide, she said, smiling. “He teaches me so much.”
Joanna recently expressed to People her desire to show her kids that she’s, in fact, human and makes mistakes, too. When asked for an example of how she goes about doing that, the home and lifestyle guru told Scary Mommy she’s always the first to apologize.
“If we’re talking about a certain issue and later on I realize, ‘I don’t think I handled that,’ I’ll always try to say sorry ... I also try to be the first to say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m wrong,’” she said. “I wear it all out and I want them to see where my heart’s lying,” Joanna added. “Just trying to be more of a reminder to them, seeing how I’m living that out loud.”
Joanna said she tries not “to hide or act” like she knows “all the things” as a mom.
“It’s not that,” she said, “I’m learning.”
When the first copies of her new book arrived at the Gaines’ farm in Waco, Texas, Joanna gave some to her daughters — expecting them to just smile and accept the gesture. The memoir is a personal retelling of Joanna’s life story, and covers everything from self-doubt and acceptance to her insecurities and unawareness growing as a Korean-American in a small town.
To her surprise, when she would check on her kids at night she’d catch them reading her book, which made her heart melt.
“I’m like, ‘You don’t have to read it.’ But they’re reading the book. So they actually came to me on that topic of my family,” she shared. “Emme, my youngest [daughter], will actually ask me questions — super thoughtful, like when you said this, what did you mean? She’s processing it,” Joanna said.
Ella and Emme joined their mom in New York in celebration of the book’s debut.
“Typically, Chip comes with me, but he thought it would be special if I brought my girls,” she said. “It’s meaningful for my daughters to be a part of this because, in a lot of ways, I wrote this for them.”
Earlier this year, Joanna and Chip launched their own network, Magnolia Network, and brought back the show that made them household names: Fixer Upper: Welcome Home. Although Joanna has enjoyed being back on our TV screens, she definitely makes more of an effort to shield her children from the spotlight, if that’s what they so choose.
“The first round I would chalk it up to I didn’t know what was happening, and if I could’ve redone some things, I would’ve [pause], but hindsight,” she said of the unexpected notoriety that came from being HGTV stars when Fixer Upper aired from 2013 to 2017.
“Our kids really came to work with us, so it was natural for them to be a part [back then]. But as the kids have gotten older, I let them have their own thing outside of this,” she added, noting that she lets them know when they’re filming and if they want to join in. “Unless they want to be a part of it, I don’t pressure them.”
Joanna Gaines’ book The Stories We Tell is out now.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Star of Fixer Upper and New York Times bestselling author, Joanna grew up in a multiracial family, the product of a unique and beautiful love story between her Korean mother and her American father. Experiencing regular teasing as a child because of what made her different, it wasn’t until later in life that she started to see those differences as the most beautiful part of her story.