- Tatum O’Neal, an award-winning actress, was married to tennis icon John McEnroe for nearly a decade.
- The two share three children: daughter Emily and sons Kevin and Sean McEnroe.
- In July 2023, Tatum spoke about her 2020 drug overdose and stroke.
Despite all that Tatum O’Neal has gone through, she still has the love of her three children. Tatum, 59, felt the height of success when, at age 10, she became the youngest person ever to win an Academy Award. But in the years following that success, Tatum endured a strained relationship with her parents, the pressures of fame, her battles with drug addiction, and a disastrous relationship with tennis legend John McEnroe.
That relationship, however, produced three exceptional children who looked upon their mother with pride. “I can’t believe I get to see that person,” Kevin McEnroe said when speaking about his mother to PEOPLE in 2023, three years after her near-fatal drug overdose and stroke. “The person I always knew was in there.”
It’s a story of redemption and survival,” said Tatum’s daughter Emily McEnroe. “I hope this can help someone else, someone who’s struggled or someone who has shame or doesn’t know how to move forward. That she has survived against all the odds. That’s what I want to convey: how far she’s come, how far we’ve come. And I think that is healing.”
As Tatum continues this chapter of her story, here’s what you need to know about her children.
Kevin Jack McEnroe (b. 1987) is the eldest son of Tatum O’Neal and John McEnroe. He is a published author, having written Out Town: A Novel.
The 2016 novel “captures the disillusion at the fringes of Hollywood as seen through a haze of drugs, alcohol, abuse, and fallen aspirations,” per its Amazon listing. “An unseen narrator guides us through the dark fairy tale of Dorothy White, an aspiring actress who ‘never quite figured how to get out of her own way.’ Her perfect marriage to an equally golden actor, Dale, quickly turns into one of jealousy and violence. Dorothy ends the marriage yet begins a legacy of self-destruction for the failed couple, as well as their two children, Clover and Dylan.”
In 2014, Kevin was arrested in New York City’s East Village on suspicion of buying cocaine (it turned out to be baking soda, per The New York Times.) He was also charged with criminal possession of prescription pills. He dreaded that he became “just a dopey celebrity son” and faced public humiliation via the tabloids until the charges were dropped after he completed a drug treatment program.
“I got my book deal on the same day as my arrest,” Kevin told The New York Times. “I heard the good news in the morning and spent 20 hours in jail that night. I was sure the publisher would pull the deal. But when I got out and called them, they said, ‘We’re still behind you.’ I cried so hard. From then on, I knew I had to take my life more seriously.”
The novel is a fictionalized account of actress Joanna Moore, Tatum’s mother. “I’d always heard these stories where Joanna was just a screw-up or a drunk, a cautionary tale,” said Kevin. “But I knew there was more to her. That’s what I was trying to figure out. Because even more than the addiction, what she passed on to me was this thing where, when success is near, you get in your own way and screw it up. Because you don’t think you deserve it.”
That chat with The New York Times touched upon how Tatum lost custody of her children to John McEnroe in the mid-1990s due to her cocaine and heroin addiction. Kevin explained why he wasn’t angry at Tatum for her failings. “I love my mother more than anybody,” he said. “She didn’t know about parenting.” Kevin remarked that his mother “kept fighting” to be a part of her children’s lives and that she never gave up.
“I went through this thing that was incredibly hard — being on the cover of The New York Post, marring both my parents’ names,” said Kevin. “But it’s also what allowed me to pull it together. I feel like Joanna saved me, allowing me this novel, this idea: Don’t screw up because you do deserve it. And I’m going to keep writing.”
Sean McEnroe (b. 1987) is an artist and, judging by his Instagram, a passionate photographer. Sean isn’t active on social media, but his May 2021 photo shared how he was selling pictures from a 2015 trip to Nepal as part of a COVID-19 fundraiser for India.
His other posts are often filled with reflections on life. “Through frustration and anger, through disappointment, anxiety, and fear, these emotions emerge as patterns of shadow that we can heal and transform with the light of our own consciousness depending on how we choose to experience them,” he wrote in March 2021.
In 2021, he made headlines when he announced that he married his wife, Niamh, in Sedona, Arizona. “We decided to keep it private until now. We went through a lot of challenges and difficulties this past year,” Sean told PEOPLE when announcing the matrimony. “Niamh was pregnant in the fall but lost the baby at the end of her first trimester. It was devastating, but in the end, it’s made us closer and stronger. And our bond is better than it’s ever been.”
During his chat with PEOPLE, Sean revealed that his wife has been a comforting presence in his life while he deals with growing up the son of a notoriously angry tennis player and a former child star battling cocaine and heroin addiction. “I don’t remember exactly what set me off, but it was something related to my family and traumas from my childhood,” he said, enduring “one of the worst breakdowns” of his life. “It was one of the most challenging emotional experiences I’ve ever had. I remember taking a huge crystal and throwing it as hard as I could through a painting, which also went through the wall, leaving a huge hole.”
Sean said that this breakdown resulted in him ripping apart a Ficus plant, and he was left “crying and screaming, with dirt and leaves all over my face and hair.” Niamh came in, soothed him, and he was able to let go – both mentally and physically. She saved the plant, and it now lives in their bedroom.
Emily McEnroe (b. 1991) is an actress, voice actor, and singer. She made her acting debut in the feature film Futra Days, starring opposite Rosanna Arquette and Tania Raymonde, per IMDB. She also starred in the award-winning comedic short, Hi Mom.
She has a good sense of self when it comes to fame and her family. “The only other person who has ever asked me for an autograph was a guy who said they were such a big fan of my dads they wanted mine when I was eleven,” she wrote in January 2023 while sharing a photo of her signing some photos for a fan.
Like her brothers, Emily is close to her mother. In May 2023, she shared a photo of her alongside Tatum. “Tatum Verbatim.”
Oh– and he did this entire interview w/ a smile on his face after suffering a heart attack two weeks ago that nearly killed him. Gives you a bit of an idea of the kind of guy he is. I am beyond honored to have been a part of this & I hope you all enjoy the ride with us too.
— Emily McEnroe (@emilymcenroe) March 24, 2018
A few days ago, my mom & I had the absolute pleasure of being interviewed & then interviewing, the wild genius that is [Kevin Smith],” Emily tweeted in 2018. “Let me start by saying, his monster talent & hilarity would not even begin to skim the surface. A true talent. A pleasure. Oh– and he did this entire interview w/ a smile on his face after suffering a heart attack two weeks ago that nearly killed him. Gives you a bit of an idea of the kind of guy he is. I am beyond honored to have been a part of this & I hope you all enjoy the ride with us too.
— Emily McEnroe (@emilymcenroe) July 15, 2023
In 2023, Emily was one of the many actors picketing as part of the summer’s labor disputes. She picketed in solidarity with the WGA union and as a member of SAG-AFTRA.