Before a video of Cher Lair went viral, and before she was invited to appear on “Ellen” twice, the bubbly Apex mother drew attention wherever she went.
It’s hard not to, with six rambunctious young boys ages 2 to 13 in tow.
Shopping trips demand coordination and concentration. Arranging piano lessons, Boy Scout trips, soccer games and appointments requires a carefully choreographed schedule.
But this 36-year-old mom loves it so much, she and her husband, Stephen, are having a seventh child in August. And they wouldn’t mind having more, even though they planned to have just two or three.
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“If someone told me, ‘Your body can’t make babies anymore,’ I don’t know what I would do,” Cher Lair said. “I would mourn.”
It’s that seventh child – their first girl – that put the Lairs in the national spotlight. In early April, a friend of the family posted a video of their “gender reveal” party. Cher cut into a cake, saw it was pink, screamed and fell to the ground.
The 34-second video of Cher’s exuberant reaction has garnered 7.5 million hits on YouTube. Within a week of the video hitting the Internet, the Lairs were visiting Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show for an episode that aired April 16.
DeGeneres invited Cher back to her special Mother’s Day episode. She flew to Los Angeles midweek for an episode that aired Friday.
In the first “Ellen” appearance, Cher said she knows people think they’re crazy for having so many kids. But both parents said they can’t imagine what life would be like without their horde of children.
“It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but we’re beginning to see the benefits,” said Cher, a Durham native who now lives in Apex.
“Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of those benefits in the middle of the melee,” said Stephen, 37.
Thanks to media attention and TV appearances, the family has received donations from local companies for the new baby, and they’ve received kind emails and care packages from strangers.
But the family hasn’t had much time to think about their new fame, since everyday life allows little downtime.
“We had a friend over the other day, and she got this overwhelmed look on her face and was like, ‘Is it always like this?’” Stephen said. “I was like, ‘Always like what?’ We’re just used to it.”
Keeping it all together
Even veteran parents like the Lairs still find themselves exhausted and sometimes surprised.
That’s just natural in a home where enforcing bedtime requires feats of strength. A cowbell is tied to the front door, to alert any escape attempts.
“I like how she doesn’t go crazy when we’re bad,” said 9-year-old Campbell.
Stephen and Cher credit two pillars for holding the whole family together: a strong faith in God and frequent dates to keep the marriage healthy.
“Without that, everything else crumbles,” Stephen said.
For Cher, the prayers begin first thing in the day.
“I get up every morning and say, ‘God help me,’” Cher said. “God. Help. I need divine intervention to get through lunch.”
Stephen gets a break during the day in Chapel Hill where he runs a senior care business.
Not Cher. This year she started home schooling the boys: Knox, 2; Shepherd, 4; Houston, 5; Sawyer, 7; Campbell, 9; and Jackson, 13.
“It sets her apart from other moms, that she dares to have so many kids,” Jackson said.
She finally gets a rest in the afternoon, when the little ones nap and the older ones wait for their neighborhood friends to get home from school.
They collect sticks and bats and run off into the woods.
“It’s legitimately ‘Lord of the Flies,’” Stephen said, laughing, referring to the dystopian novel.
‘All I’ve ever wanted’
Cher and Stephen met in New York City, on the first day of class at a master’s program for actors.
All the girls flocked to Stephen, Cher said. For one, she said, he had a Texas accent that’s considered exotic in Manhattan.
But she paid him no attention. Or at least she tried not to. Stephen, though, ignored the other girls and pursued Cher.
“I had a boy break my heart just before that, and I told (Stephen), ‘Sorry, it’s not the season for boys,’” Cher recalls. “And 11 months later, we were saying our vows.”
They married in 2001. Sooner than expected, she was pregnant with her first son, Jackson. She was 22 and still trying to become an actress.
“I was certainly the only one with a baby on my hip at Broadway musical auditions,” Cher said, noting with pride that she still got a few callbacks.
After a while, though, it became clear the baby was a sign that it was time to move from one dream to another.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is sing and be a mom,” Cher said.
That’s why she pursued acting after graduating from Wake Forest University, instead of going to medical school like she had planned originally.
“God had a better plan for me,” she said.
Fairytales, prom and dolls
A girl. Finally. After six boys. Those thoughts shot through Cher’s mind when she first saw that slice of pink cake, leading to the video that brought her fame.
“My mom and I are crazy close,” Cher said. “She and her mom are crazy close. And I always wanted that. The thought of being on the flipside of that is really neat.”
And then there’s prom night, or more mundane activities like going shopping or seeing girlie movies together. The daddy-daughter dynamic. The hours-long phone calls when she becomes an adult.
But that’s looking far into the future. This little girl hasn’t even been born yet, let alone given a name.
There’s also the question of how the girl will fit into such a masculine house.
The boys are mostly horrified at the prospect of a little sister. They almost revolted after one of them realized there might soon be dolls in the house, and they have declared that no room will be painted pink under any circumstance.
Cher says she’s intrigued to see whether her daughter prefers dolls and pink girlie things, or if she picks up the spears and Legos and other toys her brothers love.
“I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like to read these fairytale princess books and put the little dresses on her,” Cher said.
There is already one definite difference, though. Unlike all of her brothers, the new girl won’t be wearing hand-me-downs.
While 2-year-old Knox waddles around in a pair of shorts that’s more than a decade old, Cher excitedly mentions her newest Pinterest board, titled “Baby Girl!!”
Cher already has bought one frilly new dress for the baby girl. But it’s blue, not pink.
Some habits are just hard to break.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran