Strictly speaking, Matthew McConaughey is a father of three. Ask the Oscar winner how many kids he and wife Camila Alves McConaughey have, however, and you’ll get a different response.
“We’ve got Levi, Vida and Livingston as our three children that Camila and I created and Camila bore,” he says in his trademark Texas drawl. “But we’ve got four children in the house — and one of ’em is 91. That’s Mama Kay. That’s my mom.”
For the past four years, McConaughey’s mother has been living with the Dazed and Confused star — who goes by “Papai,” the Portuguese word for “dad,” in a nod to Camila’s Brazilian roots — and his family. (“And I suppose she’s gonna be with us ’til she moves on from this life,” he muses.) The experience, he says, has been “really wonderful,” with Camila involving her mother-in-law in her work and online content. That’s helped the McConaughey matriarch feel “needed” and “in the game a little bit.” Her grandchildren, meanwhile, are getting a “wonderful, wonderful, wonderful lesson” about the importance of taking care of your elders.
“They’ve got their grandmother living in the house. And they’ve got their own relationships each with her; they have their own arguments each with her,” he says. “Her politics can be different than ours, and we all just discuss it and have it out loud. …. It’s fun.”
Following the 2020 release of his New York Times-bestselling memoir Greenlights, McConaughey has found a way to connect with younger readers. Publishing Sept. 12, his picture book Just Because guides kids through life lessons brought to life via playful illustrations by Renée Kurilla and the actor’s famously folksy style. “It was a Bob Dylan folk song in my head,” he says of the singsongy tone in the book, which was inspired by conversations with friends about the importance of communicating with kids as they hit their teens and beyond.
“Being a father is the one thing I always knew I wanted to be,” says McConaughey, who notes that he wrote most of the book between the hours of 2:30 and 7 a.m. while staying up late one night. “Camila and I work every day to try to be the best parents we can be, and kids are on my mind a lot. And as they grow, the moral bottom line needs to be the same, but your style has to change.”
Many of the lessons — “Just because they don’t hear you, doesn’t mean you have no voice” is one — emphasize that things often aren’t black and white. What looks like a failure can be turned into a strength; compromise and respect can be found even when two people — like his kids and their grandma, perhaps — disagree.
Matthew McConaughey teaches his kids to not ‘feel entitled’ because of their famous last name. Matthew McConaughey teaches his kids to not ‘feel entitled’ because of their famous last name