A tip on how to score points with your mom, kids: Surprise her with a hello.
So says Diane Gronkowski Walters, whose son Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots star tight end, takes to the field in Super Bowl LIII alongside QB Tom Brady against the Los Angeles Rams.
“After every interview at the end of the game Tom Brady says, ‘Hi, mom, hi mom’ ... and every once in a while I see Rob up there on the interview and I’m like, OK, he’s gonna say 'hi, mom,'” says Walters.
“And then,” she continues, “they’re like, ‘OK, thanks Rob,’ and he’s ‘OK, thanks,' and he walks away. And I’m like, where’s the 'hi, mom?' Right? Like, Tom, come on. You need to teach that to Rob.”
Walters’ refreshing say-anything attitude shines through in her chat with anchor Sheinelle Jones in the latest episode of “Through Mom’s Eyes,” a digital-exclusive series for TODAY.
Walters talks about raising five boys — all now roughly the size of Rob (aka Gronk), who stands 6'6'' — and all professional athletes: Gordie, 36, in MLB, plus Dan, 34, Chris, 32, Rob, 29, and Glenn, 25, in the NFL.
That’s an impressive achievement — five for five. And Walters, who divorced her sons’ dad in 2008 and since remarried, says being “organized is huge” when it comes to parenting challenges.
She recalls filling two grocery carts to feed her growing brood and shares a family-favorite meal (chicken souffle, anyone?). She also didn't get too attached to her possessions.
“My kids did whatever. When they were growing up I had a couch and a TV in the family room,” she says, adding that less was more for rough-and-tumble boys who tackled furniture and each other. “So I just didn’t have anything.”
She took a laissez-faire approach when her kids fought or got competitive. Her take? “If they’re not getting hurt, you just let 'em go.”
She let household duties go, too. “I didn’t make them clean up their rooms; they really didn’t have chores,” Mom says. “I would go through and thought 'well, your bedroom is a mess,' and I would pick up, like, a wet towel or something, but if that’s how they wanna live, that’s fine. You know, you just shut the door. I was not tough at all.”
She did, however, insist that her sons were “very good, respectful young men” and did well in school. “I definitely made sure that they had a good education,” says Walters. “That was big.”
That’s because Walters always saw the big picture about the life of an athlete. “You just have to have an education because sports does not last forever ... You have a limited amount of years, and then after that, you know, you have to do something else with the rest of your life.”
The conversation is fitting, as Gronk, whose nine NFL seasons have brought him fame, fortune and serious injuries, contemplates his future after the Super Bowl game on Sunday.
When people ask her if this is Rob’s last season, Walters shrugs. “My response is that you’ll probably know before me... He could wake up one day and just say, ‘OK, I’m done.' I think though that Rob has a bigger future ahead of him than he has now. I just really do.”
Either way, Walters has another wish: “I would like to meet Tom Brady’s mother one day.”