- Nick Cannon welcomed his 12th child in December — it’s his fourth born in 2022.
- He’s said he carries “a backpack full of guilt” about spending insufficient time with his kids.
- Experts say he can effectively parent across so many households, but it will take a lot of work.
On December 14, Nick Cannon welcomed his 12th child — just a month after the birth of his 11th.
Halo Marie Cannon is the actor, musician, and television host’s second child with the model Alyssa Scott; the couple lost their 5-month-old son, Zen, to a brain tumor in December 2021.
It’s been a whirlwind year for Cannon, who had three other children, Legendary Love, Onyx Ice Cole, and Beautiful Zeppelin, in June, September, and November, respectively. He now shares children with six women.
Shows like “19 Kids and Counting” — which follows Jim and Michelle Duggar, devout Baptists whose faith dictates that they avoid birth control — have drawn attention to the question of how many kids is too many. But unlike the Duggars, Cannon’s motives — as well as those of his children’s mothers, none of whom appears to be in a committed relationship with Cannon — remain unclear.
Can Cannon be an effective father to so many children across so many different households? The answer, some experts said, depends on how one defines the term “effective.”
“Even within one relationship, within one couple, children themselves can have different needs, and so parenting them is going to look different for each child,” said Dr. Paula Powe, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. “Doing it 12 different times effectively is going to be a very big challenge.”
‘People are curious to know what’s driving him’
Cannon first became a parent in 2011, when he had twins Monroe and Moroccan, now 11, with his then-wife, Mariah Carey. But after the couple’s divorce was finalized in 2016, Cannon quickly began having more children.
Along with his twins with Carey and his new baby with Scott, the entertainment mogul is now the father to Golden Sagon, 5, Powerful Queen, 2, and Rise Messiah, 4 months, with Brittany Bell; twins Zion Mixolydian and Zillion Heir, 18 months, and Beautiful Zeppelin, 1 month, the radio personality Abby De La Rosa; Legendary Love, 6 months, with Bre Tiesi; and Onyx Ice Cole, 3 months, with LaNisha Cole.
“He’s a celebrity that’s doing it, and he’s in the public eye,” said the clinical psychologist Adolph Brown, the cohost of ABC’s parenting show “The Parent Test.” “In the circles that I’m in, people are curious to know what’s driving him.”
Cannon hinted in 2017 that his diagnosis with the autoimmune disease lupus five years earlier might be a root cause of his actions.
“I’m probably gonna die sooner than most people. That’s what the doctors said,” he said in an appearance on “The Howard Stern Show.” “So I’m living life like I might die in the morning, so let’s fuck all night! Why wear condoms? I might not be here tomorrow!” At the time of the interview, Cannon had fathered three children.
“Having a foreshortened-future ideology is not healthy, and when you make decisions as a result of that, and it involves other people, it can be seen as selfish,” Brown said.
Cannon himself has admitted that he carries “a backpack full of guilt” about not spending enough time with all his children, especially his late son, Zen.
“There’s this heavy, heavy guilt with the fact of, I didn’t get to spend time like I really wanted to with Zen,” Cannon told the therapist Laura Berman in a February episode of her podcast, “The Language of Love.” “That I have other children even in a similar age that I was like, ‘I’m guilty that I’m not there every day. I’m guilty that the mothers of my children yearn for more and I can only give so much.'”
Cannon’s desire for a large family could have deeper psychological roots, Powe said, citing her experience with patients who have similar desires.
“There are instances when individuals want to have children because they’re seeking unconditional love that they did not receive in childhood,” she said. “I very often see people who want to have large families because they think that it’ll be almost like an emotional security blanket. They think, ‘If I have one child and they don’t like me, that’s going to be a huge rejection. But if I have six, one or two of them are going to like me.'”
Having money helps — but experts say it’s no replacement for quality time
With so many children, carving out not just time together, but quality time together, will likely be difficult, Powe says.
“In general, presence is very important, but it’s also the quality of the relationship that’s developed in presence,” Powe said. “When an individual is spread so thin across six families, it’s going to be hard to not just give time. Time will be hard, especially if you’re in Hollywood. But quality time is going to be harder.”
Cannon does have one major asset on his side: his fortune. Last month, he told The Neighborhood Talk that he spends “well more” than $3 million annually on his children. But even that may not be enough, Powe said.
“Because of the finances that Nick Cannon has available to him, some people would say, ‘As long as the kids are taken care of financially, then that’s OK.’ I disagree with that,” Powe said. “Money is definitely a wonderful thing to have available, but you don’t want to ever try to substitute it for the quality of the relationship that you can develop with children.”
Brown agreed that presence and quality time are among the researched fundamentals that define effective parenting.
To be an effective parent, Brown said, Cannon also needs to focus on boosting his children’s self-esteem, providing consistent discipline, being a good role model, prioritizing communication, showing unconditional love, and knowing his own needs and limitations as a parent.
“In my professional experience, it’s tough. It doesn’t mean impossible, though,” said Brown, who has a blended family of eight children. “He’s not the first person to do this or be in this situation.”
Adolescence could be Cannon’s greatest parenting challenge
In interviews, experts said Cannon’s biggest challenge as a parent may come as his children grow into adolescence.
“It’s more complicated than parenting a child,” said the psychologist Carl Pickhardt, who writes about rearing adolescents for Psychology Today. “The reality is that Cannon and the respective moms have a more challenging period of parenting ahead.”
For Cannon’s 11-year-old twins, “one would imagine, in the beginning, it was cool,” Powe said. “You’re going to be an older sibling to these cute little babies, and that’s something that you could embrace.”
“But as the number of children continues to grow, I would be surprised if there’s not questions of ‘How come we’re not good enough? Why do we need so many siblings? Why do you need so many children?’ So hopefully, those conversations are being had and there’s some degree of openness and of being able to express that vulnerability.”
Especially with Cannon’s younger children, who are so close in age, the logistical conflicts of hitting adolescence all at once could be a major issue, experts say.
Cannon’s children “won’t stay little for long,” Brown noted. “The least of your worries will be crying at night and not going to bed. Teenagers are a whole ‘nother arena, where dad and mom, that extra set of eyes, are so important.”
“You’re going to have these major events coming back-to-back-to-back in the midst of your own career, your own things that you’re doing,” Powe said. “When they’re all hitting puberty at the same time, if they all need you in a particular way, or want to push you away in a particular way, and it’s a time when a parent should actually lean into that relationship with the child, how are you going to be able to do that consistently for all of them?”
Maintaining a working relationship with each of the mothers of his children will be particularly key to Cannon’s parenting strategy in those moments, Pickhardt said.
“His question with each of these custodial moms should be, ‘In what ways can I be supportive of what they are doing and how they are with the kids?'” he advised. “A major contribution that he can make is to help the mom with whatever those issues are. And that depends on his participation in these families.”
Cannon’s days of new fatherhood may be over, but he has his work cut out for him
In his February interview with Berman, Cannon said that he didn’t plan on having any more children. “I don’t have the bandwidth for it,” he told her. “Because I feel like I do owe the women that are currently in my life, I owe them as much energy, time, and effort as I possibly can.”
But with two new babies arriving in November and December, Cannon’s opinion has obviously changed. When Billboard News asked him last month if he still planned to have more children, he responded: “I don’t know, man. I have no idea.”
Ultimately, with the right attitude and willingness to put in effort, Cannon can be an effective parent, Brown said. “I think it’ll be extremely challenging. I think it will require him to be purposeful, present, and intentional within his every move, pretty much.”
While some might be skeptical that Cannon can rise to that challenge, Brown said he’s extending him grace, “because I want it extended to me.”
“When most people find themselves in situations like this — I don’t think most people set out to say, ‘I want my family to be here, there,'” Brown continued. “I think oftentimes what happens is just life happens, and we do the best that we can under those circumstances.”
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