When people discuss their inspirations, parents are often left out of the scenario. One set of parents that truly are inspirational, not only for their own children but for many others both young and old world-wide are Karyn and Tim Colfer. These are the parents of Glee star Chris Colfer. You may have read my post in April where I discussed Chris’ accomplishments and bullying issues as well as his sister Hannah’s rollercoaster ride with epilepsy. This time, I was honoured with interviewing their mum Karyn Colfer who is probably the most amazing person I have had the pleasure to converse with, although I have a feeling that she will deny it and say that it is her children who make her who she is! Not only has Karyn raised two humble, loving and fabulous children, she has done this whilst keeping them both grounded through upset and trauma.
Hello Karyn, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Can I please start by asking you to tell us a little about yourself?
I just turned 49 in January. I love to cook and find myself entertaining a lot so that I can cook for my friends and family. There’s something very comfortable about watching people enjoy a good meal, a nice glass of wine and I love the conversation and warmth it brings into a room.
I have heard you state that Hannah has 50 epileptic episodes per hour, how have you and Tim managed to help her maintain enthusiasm and strength over the years?
Yes, Hannah does have over 50 seizures every hour of every day. But, it is Hannah who has taught us to maintain enthusiasm and hope. She is such a fighter and she gives us strength to keep fighting for her by watching her.
I know that you are involved with CURE (Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy) could you explain to the readers what it is and in which ways you support CURE and they support you?
Cure is an organization that has a panel of Specialists searching for a CURE for epilepsy. It puts 96 cents from every dollar they receive back into research. I support them by hopefully bringing awareness to their cause, by sharing Hannah’s story.
I know Chris has been asked many times about the bullying that he was subjected to at school and I wondered if you could you give an insight into your viewpoint on the bullying Chris underwent, how aware of it you were and if you were able to take action. Also what advice could you give to other parents whose children are dealing with this issue?
Christopher was emotionally bullied, I knew about it. We offered to step in, but he never let us because he felt it would make things worse. Christopher was also much wiser then his years, he was never into the high school drama of things and had the knowledge and strong sense of who he is and he knew he had to just let it go. He did not let it define him. I think as a parent we need to listen and respect what our kids need. If he needed us to be involved; he knew we’d jump in. Communication and making our kids know that the outside world doesn’t make up who they are. It’s what we think about who we are on the inside that counts.
Can I ask yours and Tim’s reactions to finding out that Chris is gay? When did you know? When did he come out? Or was it always just there? Was it something you had to deal with or were you comfortable with it right from the start?
As fans of Chris we just naturally think of him being gay and it is no big deal, something that we have always known is a part of who he is, so it will be interesting to hear a parents thoughts. Again, maybe you could give advice to other parents who may be approaching this subject with their children.
There is no big answer to this question. We love Christopher unconditionally. There was no big moment when he came out, there was no big secret being kept. It is what it is and like any parent we just want Christopher to be happy and to be in a relationship that brings fulfilment and happiness. I have no magical answers to other parents but to say it’s just my job to love him; the rest will take care of itself. We respect his decisions and back him 110%!
Hannah and Chris seem unbelievably close. How much effect did Hannah’s condition and the amount of care that is needed to be given to her have on Chris?
First let me start by saying Christopher is extremely protective of his sister. And Christopher is Hannah’s world. They keep each other grounded. She doesn’t care or understand anything about his fame or stardom. We all love that about her. It was difficult on all of us as a family to see her struggle so much. I know her illness made Christopher grow up faster than any child, it’s an ugly illness. He had to do a lot of things on his own because we had our hands full with her illness.
I read that he started acting classes in order to find his own space?
He was always a Ham!! He loved to entertain from the time he was walking…. He took summer workshops at the local community theatre, but it’s all natural for him.
Did the extent and breadth of Chris’ talents surprise you? I’m sure you’re incredibly proud of him, but did you ever expect him to have so MANY different aspects to his artistic abilities? And do you worry he will spread himself too thin or burn out from the intensity of his work?
Honestly, NO I’m not surprised… His Dad and I would buy him camcorders, laptops, books. He loved History and Music at a very young age, and has written stories since he was 5. It was an escape for him. I worry sometimes he is too tired, but then he has always been like this. He’d be in a Community heater play and be writing for his speech and debate class, he would have three or four other writing projects going on at the same time. It’s just who he is, he needs it like a fish needs water.
Chris has stated that Hannah only watches Glee for Mark Salling, what other interests does she have?
Hannah has your typical crush on Mark, and Cory… She always asks Christopher how they are when he calls her. He always laughs and tells her their fine. She is very athletic. She loves to swim, ride her bike, she is a natural athlete, I would have loved to see what she would do if it wasn’t for these seizures.
How have you and Tim managed to keep supporting Chris’ ambitions whilst dealing with Hannah’s struggles? Also, how have you managed to maintain your own sanity whilst raising these fabulous children?
Tim and I never left Christopher out of decisions. When we flew to Boston to take Hannah to see specialists, we always gave him the option to come with us or stay home….He always came. Through all of Hannah’s illness we never once missed an opening night. I was always “that Mother” in the front row….When he got older and started auditioning for roles in Hollywood, my husband and I would take turns driving him back and forth. It was four hours there, a ten minute audition and then four hours home. Our friends thought we were crazy, but we believed in him. We are still his biggest fans.
What goals and dreams did you have for yourself when you were younger? Did you manage to achieve them or have they been put on hold?
My Son gets his love of the ARTS from me. I was in Ballet for years, High School Drama club, I never had his talent but we share the love of theatre. I had a high demanding job for 11 years as the Director of a Anaesthesia Group, I loved my job but resigned in 2007 to stay home with Hannah full time. It was Christopher’s senior year in High school as well. I look back and am so grateful for that year. Little did I know at the time, that would be his last year at home and his graduation was the beginning of goodbye. He would no longer be down the hall locked away in his room creating his stories…I miss him very much.
Is there anything else that you would like to include?
In closing may I just say I don’t know what normal is or what it would feel like. My life has and is devoted to taking care of my kids. I have often said and believe I am not an amazing Mother but have two amazing children who teach me something new every day. I learn and feel what life is through their eyes. Hannah loves everyone unconditionally and Christopher is proof that dreams can really come true; he has become an incredibly kind and intelligent young man…. I’d like to think in all the crazy we have been through as a family… Tim and I have had a little something to do with who our kids are. We have learned to laugh at ourselves, and we try to live life as if it were a marathon, we pace ourselves…. That way we can keep going and not collapse.
Well readers? What do you all think? Personally, I believe that Karyn is as amazing as her children and I would hope that Chris and Hannah would agree.
Karyn mentioned to me previously that she had written a book but as yet it is not published. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to ask about this, maybe next time?
All families go through tough times and differing degrees of adversities but it takes some truly fantastic, compassionate human beings to be able to deal with this on a daily basis and not only survive but to thrive and use their knowledge to inspire and support others.
To the Colfer family: I genuinely bow down to you!