"My girls have been through a lot," the former model and actress admits.
The "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" newcomer got emotional on Tuesday's episode of the Bravo series, telling new husband Aaron Phypers she worries she "f--ked up a lot" when her daughters were little. The former model and actress expanded on those concerns during an after-show interview with co-star and longtime friend Lisa Rinna.
"It's surreal when you start to see your kids become adults. It makes me cry," Denise tearfully told Aaron on Tuesday's episode. "I just feel like I f--ked up a lot with their dad. I don't want them to look back at their childhood and remember [arguments]."
Denise, 48, and Charlie, 53, were married from June 2002 to November 2006. After a very public divorce and nasty custody battle, the two found a way to civilly co-parent their daughters -- Sam, 15, and Lola, 13. Denise also has a 7-year-old daughter named Eloise, who she adopted after their split.
"My girls have been through a lot," Denise told Aaron. "How I chose to relate to the dysfunction that was going on with their father was to hide it from the kids. I don't know if I did a disservice or not... It just made me realize how fast it goes. Life is so short, and their childhood is so short.”
"You protected them from a lot," Aaron reassured his wife. "You did the best you could."
After the episode aired, Denise sat for an interview with Bravo producers. At the mere mention of her ex-husband's name, she blurted out, "Ugh! I'm so tired of Charlie questions, honestly, on this goddamn show!" But she answered them anyway.
Although Charlie hasn't made a physical cameo on the series, he was featured on Episode 2 after Denise told Sam no dating until she turned 16 -- that included going to the homecoming dance with a boy. When Sam put up a fight, Denise urged her to call her father, who ultimately told his daughter he trusts her judgement.
"What didn't air was Charlie saying that he wanted supervision on the party bus they wanted to take and all the other stuff that was involved," Denise said Tuesday. "And he wanted to meet the boy, which, that didn't happen either, but I did let her go. It's hard raising teenagers, especially in Los Angeles. It's a very different thing growing up here."
Denise and Lisa, who also has two teenage daughters, agreed that kids these days have much more "access" to the outside world than they did growing up -- all thanks to the cellphone.
"I took the phone away, and her dad was in total agreement with me about it and supported it," Denise explained. "And the next day, a new phone number!"
"He got her a new phone?!" Rinna shouted.
"Yeah," Denise confessed reluctantly.
"I think a lot of parents that're divorced are probably going through this, especially when [their kids] become teenagers," Denise said of the difficulties of putting up a united front when the parents aren't always on the same page. "It's really difficult. If they're gonna experiment with drugs, it's usually then. Or alcohol, or have sex for the first time."
"It's very, very different. When I was growing up, my father worked for the f--king phone company, so he would tap the line so he would know when we were lying," she continued. "So they would let us sneak out, and they would show the f--k up at the party! And I'd be like, 'How did my parents know?!' They let us go to catch us."
Denise went on to say her father "put the fear of God" in her and her sister, vowing to kick them out of the house -- in the middle of winter in Illinois -- if he ever caught them doing drugs.
"So I never tried anything," she said. "But here -- you kick your kids out, they'll go to another mansion, another family with f--king Postmates and there's f--king Ubers. They would love to be kicked out!"
"The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo.
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