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Things I Should Have Said
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In this intimate memoir, actress and musician Jamie Lynn Spears opens up for the first time, telling her unfiltered story on her own terms.
You’ve read the headlines, but you don’t know Jamie Lynn Spears. The world first met Jamie Lynn as a child star, when it was her job to perform, both on set and for the press. She spent years escaping into different characters on All That and Zoey 101. But as she grew up, faced a teen pregnancy, raised her daughter on her own, pursued a career, and learned to stand on her own two feet, the real Jamie Lynn started to take center stage– a raw, blemished, and imperfect woman, standing in her own power.
Despite growing up in one of America's most tabloid-famous families, Jamie Lynn has never told her story in her own words. In Things I Should Have Said, she talks frankly about the highs and lows, sharing what it was like traveling the world as a kid, how she moved into acting and performing herself, what life as a child star took from her, and the life-changing reality of becoming a teen mom. She talks about how she finally found love and how the mistakes she has made have taught her more than anything else. She also shares vulnerably about how the ATV accident that nearly took her daughter's life brought her back to her faith and caused her to reevaluate and redirect her life.
Frank, courageous, and inspiring, Things I Should Have Said is a portrait of a wife, momma, sister, daughter, actress, and musician doing the best she could to show up for herself and teach her daughters to have the courage to love every part of themselves, too.
A Letter from Jamie Lynn
I’d like to start by thanking you from the bottom of my heart for reading the story and events that make up my life so far. I feel honored and blessed to have a platform to share my words and truths. For most of my adult life, I have remained quiet and kept to myself out of respect for my own family and to protect the privacy of the ones I love. When I set out writing this book over a year ago, my main objective was to tell my story, in my own words, and share the events that have led me to where I am. I was so excited to share my experiences as a woman, an entertainer, a mother, a wife, and the product of being a child in the entertainment business. Now, I’ve done that and more, revealing never-before-heard stories of a young girl traversing family, fame, and the complexity that comes from growing up a Spears. Until recently I’ve tried to avoid the spotlight and speculation, hoping to preserve the privacy I genuinely cherish. During this writing process, there have been a lot of personal life events, over which I had no control, that affected the safety and well-being of me and my family. Others have spoken their truth and now I have been freed to share mine.
Writing has been cathartic and set me on a road of healing. My intention in sharing my story is to help others and convey love and compassion for things we still don’t understand about each other. I only ask that people leave room and respect my truth, just as we have done for others. I am thankful for everyone who has been alongside me in this ever-changing journey that is my life. I’m still figuring it out, but it’s time to finally say all the things I should have said a long time ago.
The Business of Family
The beginning of my story is well known. Like millions of babies all over the world, I was an oops. My momma and daddy were already the proud parents of Bryan, twelve, and Britney, nine, when I came along. Before I was born, money was tight for the family, and Daddy had taken to drinking—a lot and often. Momma owned and operated the Little Red School House, where her focus was childcare, not earnings. From what I can ascertain, these were lean times. With two healthy children and bills to pay, Momma and Daddy had decided not to have any more children.
But then Momma woke up one morning and didn’t feel well. At first, she thought she was seriously ill, but after being examined, the doctor confirmed she was in fact pregnant, and already about seven weeks along. “That just can’t be. My husband had a vasectomy.” Momma left the doctor’s office in disbelief. By the time she got home, Momma realized Daddy hadn’t gone for his post-op checkup, and she was furious. “Jamie—I thought you took care to make sure this wouldn’t happen. I walked around for days thinking I was really sick. And now I come to learn that you never went to make sure it took.” Momma didn’t talk to him for days, and she stayed mad for weeks. Daddy accepted another baby was joining the family. Momma just needed a little time to adjust to the idea of another baby at the time when Bryan and Britney were finally old enough to do a lot for themselves. My parents never considered aborting or giving me up for adoption. They were going to figure out how to make it work. Bryan and Britney were excited about having a sibling and everyone began to make plans.
On April 4, 1991, I came into the world and changed the fabric of my family forever. I didn’t make it easy. After hours of labor, Momma was forced into an emergency C-section. I was a long and skinny baby but caught up in weight quickly. We became a party of five, and from what I’ve been told, I brought love and light into everyone’s life. All of Momma’s previous concerns about adding another child to her brood disappeared within hours of my arrival. As it turned out, I was a delightful baby who brought her so much joy and filled a void she never knew existed. I was the youngest by nine years, which meant I became everyone’s baby, plaything, responsibility, and joy. Bryan and Britney were so excited to have a little sister. My siblings participated in just about every aspect of my early life. Bryan was a protective big brother and would occasionally feed and rock me. Britney became our momma’s extra set of hands, and she did everything—bathing, feeding, playtime, and diaper changing. Both Bryan and Britney had their own lives to live, but they always made time for me. We were a loving but complicated family. I guess we still are.
Momma cared for me while my brother and sister went to school. I remember a lot of meals around the table and a lot of happy times when I was young. I was passed around a lot and doted on by everyone. I spoke early and entertained my family with my babbling, and my parents say my theatrical nature showed itself early. I chattered about anything, made funny faces, and was entertaining from toddlerhood onward. I had endless amounts of energy and ran around singing and dancing. Momma says I was smart, sweet-hearted, yet strong-minded. Daddy was often in and out. Momma was so busy with the three kids, she didn’t have time to worry about what he was doing. When he was around, he spent much of his time in a chair trying to convince everyone else he wasn’t drunk.
My memories of growing up in Louisiana are full of warm days in the sun and the craziness that comes with being a part of a boisterous family. Our family was big on togetherness and long on love. Family and friends filled our backyard every weekend. There was a large tree in the center of the yard that provided shade for the hours of playtime we all enjoyed. When she could, Momma made lots of food, and there was usually a grill sizzling. People would stop by throughout the day, which was typical of life in Louisiana. Many afternoons were spent with neighbors and friends. We would play outdoors, ride go-carts, and swim in our neighbor’s pool. But from early on, with Daddy’s struggles and the discord between my parents, I could see that there was something different about my family. It would be several years before I would be able to identify just how different we were from other families.
Anyone who knew us before all the fame would tell you we had a modest home in Kentwood. The town of Kentwood is small; everyone says good morning to each other by name or asks, “How y’all doin’?” It’s the type of place where everyone knows each other’s business, and people are nosy. But don’t cross a local because we protect our own.
My favorite memories from growing up are of all of us around a table together eating Momma’s cooking. She made RO*TEL chicken, peas, and mashed potatoes, crabs—you name it. We all loved her country cooking, but Daddy and Bryan boiling up shrimp and crawfish was a family favorite. Sometimes when people asked if there was extra, she had to answer no. Momma couldn’t risk sharing what little food there was. During periods when money was scarce, Momma learned to make do with what she had. Some nights she would feed my siblings and me first. Then she would eat whatever we left behind.
In my early years, I was the princess. No matter how their lives were changing, Bryan and Britney made me feel special, and they loved me despite my mischievousness. Bryan came to my school one day and spoke to my kindergarten teacher. He said, “How’s she doing here?” The teacher replied, “Jamie Lynn is one of our best and best-behaved students.” Bryan laughed. “This one? No way. She can never sit still!” It seemed early on I knew my audience.
We were a typical family who spent hours amusing ourselves with silly challenges and one-upping each other in fun. The fame and money came later, but it wasn’t like that when I was young. As a young girl, I never thought about how much money we had or worried about whether we had enough. My siblings and I didn’t suffer, but looking back, I can see that the instability in our lives led to periods of financial difficulties. Somehow, we always had what we needed, but I knew better than to ask for anything expensive. I learned that lesson early on, when Momma and her friend took me shopping. Momma’s card didn’t go through at Limited Too, and her friend had to pay for my clothes. The concern in Momma’s eyes belied her reassurances that everything was fine. To this day, I can still remember the sting of humiliation.
My daddy was well known for developing businesses and was good at every job he took on. He worked in construction and welding. He also had a seafood restaurant called Granny’s, known for crawfish and shrimp. At some point he gave it to Bryan, who eventually sold it. Daddy even opened the first gym in our area, and it was a big hit. I remember my sister taught classes there too. Eventually big business came to Louisiana and the gym closed. He spent years working as a welder and a boilermaker. He did whatever he needed to do to support the family the best way he knew how.
At times, the stress of providing for us led him down a nasty path. He spent years in a cycle of bad behavior. Daddy never really stopped drinking, but sometimes he took breaks. It was the time between jobs that affected him the most, and that’s when he would start drinking a lot. Stories of his drinking are family lore. One of the crazier ones happened before I was born. The whole family gathered to take my great-granny Lexie to the Pizza Hut for her birthday. She loved Pizza Hut. Momma worked all day but made an effort to get herself and my siblings dressed nice for the celebration. The family waited on Daddy, who finally came swaggering in, intoxicated. He couldn’t string sentences together and tried to slur, “I’m not drunk.” Momma was fuming mad. Everyone took two steps away from Momma because they could sense something was about to happen. Uncle Austin was unloading the work truck and Momma said, “Get that ice chest down from there!” He placed it in front of a tree and backed away slowly as Momma, all dressed up and looking pretty, stomped around to the back of the house, grabbed a shotgun, and shot up that ice chest. The family just stared as she destroyed the cooler. But Daddy still claimed he wasn’t drunk.
Daddy thought he was a good drinker and that no one could tell when he was inebriated. But the funny thing was, his entire countenance gave him away. The minute his foot would start tapping, you knew he was itching for a drink and was about to leave us for a while. The way Momma explained it was by saying, “Sometimes things just get to be too much for him, and he takes off.” As if that explanation made any sense to a child. Momma tried protecting him with her excuses and tried to keep us kids from seeing him drunk. And as a young child, I didn’t understand how his behavior affected everyone else. I just felt like something wasn’t right. Still, he was my daddy, whose time and attention I craved. He spent most of my life in that cycle of ruinous behavior. His bouts of drinking always caused me periods of torment and sorrow. It would be many years before I could acknowledge and address the seeds of resentment—at Daddy for his drinking and at Momma for how she managed her life—that were planted during this time.
Momma worked hard to keep everything together and take care of us. The fact that Britney was much older made things a little more manageable. She pitched in whenever Momma needed help. Britney took on the responsibility of cleaning and dressing me, and she dedicated herself to making me look perfectly adorable every time. Momma was grateful to have Britney and acknowledges my sister was much better than she was at the girlie things. I grew up feeling like I had two mothers. Bryan would look after me when needed, and once Britney’s career started to take off and Momma started to travel with her for work, his responsibilities doubled. Sometimes Daddy was around, but my relationship with him started to collapse as I grew. I just never knew what version of Daddy would appear, and that made it hard.
I came into the world with a big personality and learned early how to get attention. Everyone’s response to my antics only made me want more attention and I did anything I could to hold on to the spotlight. Sometimes I would imitate someone or sing a song. Music was always playing in our home. Early on, I watched and listened to my sister singing and making up dance routines for fun. I wanted to get in on the act whenever I could, and I’d try to mimic my sister. My whole family got a kick out of me being outrageous. When I couldn’t get attention that way, I would create mischief. I loved to hide. It was a surefire way to get everyone to focus all of their energy on me. Eventually I’d come out of hiding and the array of responses—relief, disbelief, and anger—made me laugh.
One time Momma took us to a store, and I decided to hide in the racks of clothes. I was so tiny, no one noticed me. After several minutes, I made myself known and everyone sighed in relief. From that day forward, Momma made sure someone always had an eye on me. Other times I would say the most outrageous things. Momma held her breath many times waiting to see what would come out of my mouth in public. How I loved to make her cringe! But I made certain Daddy wasn’t around for my pranks. He wouldn’t tolerate that type of behavior.
By the time I entered first grade, our family was experiencing a metamorphosis. Bryan was a young adult planning his next step, and Britney was about to become a household name.
My sister was a natural talent, whose approachable manner and attractiveness ensured she was going to be successful in the entertainment industry. She worked hard at developing her talent, and at fifteen Britney had already built an impressive résumé. Her music demo convinced recording executives at Jive Records to give her a chance. Momma and Daddy were delighted all the hard work was starting to pay off. Like my sister, I was enrolled in dance and voice lessons. My sassiness and dramatic nature naturally led me toward acting. Momma and Daddy made sure I was given all the same opportunities as Britney to develop my talent. My sister was my role model. She wasn’t just full of talent; Britney had an ease about her onstage that I yearned to emulate. I never wanted her career or to follow in her footsteps, only to harness her confidence and magnetism. Some people have suggested Britney’s performance prowess unconsciously swayed me to focus on acting, but my affinity for portraying characters had started at such a young age, it was more like acting chose me.
My sister’s rise to fame brought profound changes to our family dynamics. Momma and Daddy knew that Britney’s long-term success was a long shot, but they were going to do everything possible to get her in front of the right people, build the proper team, and ensure she was compensated accordingly. It was a plan that worked because of the luck that accompanied Britney’s hard work and talent. As deals were made, the family dynamics shifted. Britney had a dream, and that dream was going to affect all of us. Although she remained unaffected early on, my sister’s life became more demanding as her notoriety grew. Everyone made sure her needs were met, and we all became responsible for helping her as she reached a greater level of success. We needed to keep her happy and productive. I was so young as she emerged on the world stage that I didn’t notice how things had begun to change. My parents always expected me to do as I was told. At first, that didn’t seem unusual in the parent-child dynamic. But I was taught to defer to Britney or behave in a way that made things easier for her. Momma said stuff like, “Come on, Jamie Lynn, we don’t want to upset your sister.” It could be something as simple as “Let Britney do that first,” or “If it’s good for your sister, it’s good for all of us.” What complicated things even more was that Momma reveled in the attention that came with being Britney’s mother. People were more interested in who she was than ever before, and I think she loved that part of it.
Daddy’s intermittent stays in the house never ceased to confuse me. He took an interest in everything we did. Daddy insisted upon greatness in anything we dedicated ourselves to achieving. I think it was hard for Bryan because he wasn’t the star athlete Daddy wanted him to be. Through it all, Momma continued with her stern manner of parenting me, but it felt as if she had a different set of standards for my older siblings.
When we weren’t out on tour or managing the business, we would return home to just be a family. I loved going on tour as long as I was with my family or could bring a friend along, but I preferred being home. At home, Momma returned to the kitchen, and we were just kids. For a couple of years, we all went to school. Life really was normal for us. When Daddy wasn’t drinking, things were a little better. Once in a while we would shoot hoops or toss a ball around. He was my armchair quarterback in all things and had advice and opinions on everything. He and Momma had worked hard to get my sister’s career going, and he was certain he knew how I needed to go about things. Even when we disagreed, that version of Daddy was tolerable. The things I loved about him made the disappointment and anger that came with his neglect and absences all the harder. I was often left to deal with these emotions on my own. My brother and sister, already teens by this point, had friends and freedoms that helped them to escape.
Since Momma was an actual educator, she took it upon herself to teach Britney how to drive. Momma took her out a few times and eventually felt it was safe enough for me to come along. My sister was fifteen at the time and didn’t have her license yet. She was driving the black four-door Lexus with a gray stripe that was Momma’s treasure. Momma adored that car, even though it had come to her after a wreck. The car ran hot all the time, but to us it was so much nicer than our previous cars. Britney was driving the Lexus down the road and let the car drift over the center line. Another car came into our lane and Momma had to grab the wheel suddenly to avoid a collision. No one wore seat belts back then, and I was flopping around like a fish on dry land. Britney and Momma were screaming nonsensical words as the car swayed and careened right into a ditch. One after another, we shouted, “I’m fine!” Thinking quick, Momma changed places with Britney. We all knew Daddy would have a fit if he found out Britney was driving during the crash. This was not the first time Momma tried to keep Daddy unaware of all the facts. But Momma told us she did it because she was afraid the insurance issues would be made worse if an underage driver was at the wheel. All the effort we put into keeping Daddy from losing his temper made me uneasy. I was too young to understand the complexities of their marriage, but I was wise beyond my years. Momma always cared more about Daddy’s feelings than doing the right thing. In her way, she was trying to maintain stability and keep the peace. Momma often put us in a difficult position rather than confronting the situation head-on. We all pretended—said things or stayed quiet, as Momma asked—to make sure Daddy was placated and their relationship remained intact. Daddy was on “a strictly need to know basis.” It was easier to manage by letting him come and go as he wished. The concept of “need to know” expanded way beyond Daddy. As the family of an emerging pop star, we all had to learn how to manage information and secrets in a protective manner. Our family, just like so many others, cared, protected, and supported each other to the exclusion of everything else—sometimes even ourselves. Momma’s indoctrination into this way of living was circumstantial, but Daddy’s childhood experiences forced him to adopt this philosophy as a protective mechanism. We protect each other at all costs.
Learning about my father’s childhood helped me understand him better. Daddy’s upbringing was difficult. My grandfather, Paw-Paw June, was a physical man who used his hands to solve problems. Maw-Maw Jean was a good woman in a difficult situation. In those days women didn’t leave their husbands. When Daddy was fourteen, his baby brother died, and soon after so did his mother. Paw-Paw June eventually married Maw-Maw Ruth, but Great-Granny Lexie, Jean’s mother, took part in raising Daddy too. Despite the women’s efforts, my father was raised by an abusive father who made unreasonable demands of his son in all aspects of his life. Daddy was forced to practice sports for hours at a time—past the point of exhaustion. For basketball, Paw-Paw June made Daddy shoot one hundred shots after practice. Daddy loved basketball, but his father made him abandon the court for the football field. He followed his father’s directive to play college football, knowing all along he would have been much more impactful as a basketball player.
Momma’s people were a completely different sort. Momma’s mother came to America from Europe as a war bride who married a Louisianan. Her family had money and were refined and artistic. Music and art were a large part of her experience. Momma makes no claims to talent, but I remember loving to listen to her play the piano and sing in the church choir. My parents were high school sweethearts who stayed together and fell deeper in love. Momma’s love for Daddy was a powerful force and Daddy’s was just different. His love ebbed and flowed as the years passed. The diversity of their experience and marriage created a dynamic mix of passion, talent, and unrelenting determination. As their children, we are the embodiment of their ambitions and hopes, yet driven by our respective dreams and purpose.
The turmoil of my parents’ marriage took a back seat to the growth and management of my sister’s stardom and my developing career. They continued to work together regularly and made unified decisions, even well after they finally divorced in 2002. After the split, Daddy was still in and out of the house all the time. Family relationships are complex, after all. For years, my family has always had the uncanny ability to show up and have a meal together, even if we are struggling with one another. Somehow, we managed to put our grievances aside. The philosophy so inherent to being a Spears has always been, When everything is said and done, we are a family. We may not like or even love each other in a given moment, but odds are it will pass, and we’ll find our way back. We have carried on this way for decades. But as I matured, the demands on me to pretend that everything was fine forced me to sacrifice my own needs.
My Rising Star and All That
Momma tells me she knew the minute I started talking that I was a natural-born performer. Having a large family and lots of people around guaranteed I always had an audience. There’s just something about getting a response from other people that I’ve always loved. I would come bounding into the room twirling and shaking my hips. Once I captured someone’s attention, I just let my imagination take over and performed whatever antics came to mind. As the baby, just about everyone humored me. I loved to sing too, and as I got older, I created variety skits that showcased all of my meager talents. By the time Britney’s first single was released, I was dreaming about becoming an actress. Momma and Daddy agreed to send me to voice and dance lessons, got me headshots, and supported me. The dream of being a performer was always mine, and in no way did I feel my parents were living vicariously through me. I practiced diligently and relished receiving accolades from everyone. Singing was only part of what I loved about performing. My sister’s voice was throaty and strong, while mine was fluid and controlled. People said we were different but equally as talented. But my true love was acting.
As Britney’s fame grew, it caused a lot of strain on the family. Britney’s career took her far from home and oftentimes Momma traveled with her. I could tell Momma was disconcerted by Daddy’s unreliability, and she exhausted herself keeping everything afloat. The periods of neglect and disregard for Momma’s needs led to frustration. I think so much energy was directed to keeping my sister’s career moving that my parents neglected to pay attention to each other. Momma’s anger and disappointment escalated as demands on her time increased. I was the only kid still at home, but I wasn’t the only one who noticed. We all felt the stress. Britney finally said, “Momma, if you leave Daddy, I will buy you a house.” That promise came just at the right time. For as long as Momma could, she tried to carry on with how we lived our lives. In Louisiana, she was determined to maintain her Southern ways, which included inviting friends and neighbors in and chatting with friendly folks. But Britney’s fame changed all that. People started to drive by or walked around the property. Over time there were more and more bizarre incidents of strangers approaching the house. Some people would come up to the windows and peek inside just to get a glimpse of Britney’s bedroom. It happened at all hours. The illusion of safety ended one night when a man pulled up in a white van just outside our house. I yelled, “Momma, there’s someone parked outside and watching the house.” We had no idea how long he had been out there or what his intentions were, but we weren’t taking any chances. The scene was creepy. Momma and I locked ourselves in the bathroom and called Rob, one of Britney’s security staff, who stayed on the phone with us until the police arrived. Soon after, we were living in a new house that provided a more secure environment for me and Momma. For added safety we got two pedigreed German shepherds that were actually from Germany. We flew out to California to meet the dogs, Roby and Ory, to make sure we were all compatible. They were the best, most loyal dogs, and I think they would have killed to protect us.
Daddy didn’t live with us in the new house, but he’d show up whenever he wanted, and Momma carried on as she always had and let him in. For Momma, leaving Daddy was one thing. Staying away was a completely different story. She would justify his visits by saying, “Jamie Lynn. He’s still your father.” Their dynamic added to my own complex feelings about him. I just couldn’t rely on him to be the dad I needed. Observing how my parents said one thing but did something else undermined my ability to trust them.
Perhaps my love of playing characters stems from a desire to abandon my stressors and escape to other worlds. Anytime I quieted my thoughts to take on another persona, I felt transformed. The freeing sensation only added to my enjoyment. I improved my talent by infusing fun into everything I created. The hours I spent developing characters helped me form a clearer view of my future. I always sought out ways to get in front of an audience. School plays, church performances, and even local auditions served as my training ground. I took whatever parts I could get. I played one of the orphans in Annie
- On Sale
- Jan 18, 2022
- Page Count
- 256 pages
- Worthy Books