Andrew McCarthy doesn't remember what life was like before becoming a father.
"I have no idea what I used to do all day before I had kids," the actor half jokes during a recent phone interview with TODAY.com. "I really can’t recall what I used to do to fill my days."
Of course, there’s a legion of Gen X-ers who’d be happy to remind him that at least a few of those days were spent making iconic ‘80s films like “Pretty in Pink” and “St. Elmo’s Fire.” Movies that would forever immortalize McCarthy as a heartthrob along with earning him a lifetime membership in the so-called “Brat Pack.”
In 2021, McCarthy released a memoir on the experience called “Brat: An ‘80s Story.” In it he writes of being “tumbled and tossed in the backwash” of early success and the 500-mile pilgrimage in Spain he took in the ‘90s to rediscover himself in the aftermath of it all.
The five-week walk along Camino de Santiago proved to be so life changing that McCarthy set out to do it again 25 years later — this time, with his son Sam, then 19. McCarthy chronicles the experience in his new memoir "Walking with Sam."
"What I wanted was to try and establish an adult-to-adult relationship with my son, because I didn’t have one with my dad and I didn’t want that to happen with my kids," McCarthy tells TODAY.com.
In attempting to right the wrongs of his past, McCarthy explains that he overcompensated in parenting his son and as a result "pushed (Sam) away to a certain degree."
Camino de Santiago was a chance to connect and redefine their relationship. And, as you might expect, the journey wasn't without its share of ups and downs.
"There were times when we did not see eye to eye and I would just let (our relationship) fall apart, probably for the first time in my life, and risk, 'OK, I don’t know what’s going to happen here with as a result of this fight or this frustration,' and just let him see fully who I am in that," McCarthy says.
“That was something I wouldn’t necessarily (do in the past), because I risk, ‘Oh, what if they don’t like me anymore,’ my kids,” he explains. “And I had an extra burden because my relationship ended with my dad so quickly when I left home.”
But he says that “letting it fall apart when it fell apart” forced him and his son to figure out how work through the rough patches.
"Because we were on this sort of inexorable quest together, you couldn’t bounce too far off the rails, because you’re still going to meet in that town. You’re going to have to deal with it at nighttime," he explains.
On the other side of the journey, McCarthy says he and Sam are in a better place. McCarthy has learned to let go of feeling “the need to solve” his son’s problems. In return, he says Sam reaches out just to talk, something McCarthy says wouldn’t have happened before their trip to Spain.
McCarthy says the journey also afforded him the ultimate luxury: time with his son.
McCarthy shares Sam, now 21, with ex-wife Carol Schneider, and he has two other children, Willow, 16, and Rowan, 9, with his wife Dolores Rice.
McCarthy says that he’s still in the “throes” of parenting and is applying what he’s learned “in real time.”
"Someone I know said, 'Kids ruin your life in the best way.' And that’s my experience."