'Mother Nurture: Life Lessons From the Mothers of America's Best and Brightest'

Leah said she has, and would, do anything to help Steven in his career, including ruining her brand new kitchen cabinets. "We had just built this gorgeous house with ash cabinets and Steven was working on film called Firelight…it was really quite a production. There was a scene where a bunch of cherries explode in a pressure cooker and I hurled the contents of all these cans of cherries on my ash cabinets and as they're slowing oozing down, he's filming. It was fabulous. I lived in the house for eight years, and I never got the cherry juice out of the cabinets. Every morning I'd get up with a sponge and go, it oozed for eight years. I've ruined my cabinets, but I was so thrilled with the shot he got."

Asked about her involvement in the more typical aspects of her son's life, Leah said, "I had the world's record as the one Mom who did not join the PTA. I ruined the hundred percent membership rule." In lieu of spending time at PTA meetings, Leah said she took the kids on trips. "We traveled a lot. We did a lot of camping. I'm a camper, a real basic camper." Reflecting on how she participated in Steven's enormous success, Leah said, "I always used to tell him that guilt is a wasted emotion…but we come by it honestly, because that's the Jewish part." Leah also credits her approach of treating her children as adults. "I never lectured them. I talked to my children as friends, so the advice I gave came out as non-pushy, which is why I think they could take it to heart. I think most kids won't listen to things their parents say just because a parent said it. With Steven, and all my children, it was more of a friendship of give and take. I wanted them to think of me as their ally."

Particularly as her children got older and entered their teenage years, Leah conveyed a sense that she "got it." "I would always tell the kids if you go to a party and you're having a wonderful time, you should leave because they'll want more and then they'll call you again." It was this ability—to give advice that spoke to her children's needs at different points in their lives—that Leah said defined her parenting style. "I was the type of mother who would keep my kids out of school to go get chocolate sundaes because I wanted to hang out… Above all, I never pushed them to do anything, including make their bed." But that didn't mean that everything always went smoothly. "We fought. We screamed, but we did it in a healthy way."

Leah said she also made a concerted effort to expose Steven to the complexity and humanity of the world—experiences which are certainly reflected in the breadth and depth of his films. "We were always adopting or picking up all kinds of people, whether it was the housekeeper or the child of alcoholic parents… We were not class distinct people. We never saw class. If we saw class we actually gravitated toward the lower class, not the upper class. We just felt more comfortable there." Leah said that this is how Steven still lives his life. "Steve and Kate are frugal. They have middle class values. They want their kids to grow up with values. And so, in order to grow up with values, particularly when you're a billionaire, you need to have restrictions. I think that Steven is, above all, someone who sees different people's points of view, whether it's middle class, whether it's someone struggling, or whether it's a lost kid."

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