Alexa PenaVega Credits Her Mom for Helping Her Navigate Child Stardom: She Gave 'a Lot Up for Me'
"A lot of the horror stories you do hear, it's when all these families get split up," the Spy Kids alumna tells PEOPLE
Alexa PenaVega started acting at age 4 and landed in the Spy Kids franchise by 12.
Now at 32, she continues to act in movies like indie drama Mighty Oak and Hallmark's Picture Perfect Mysteries series. The actress married fellow young star, Big Time Rush's Carlos PenaVega, in 2014 and the couple have since welcomed two sons, who they're raising in their Maui home.
But Alexa recognizes that not every child star navigates the spotlight with as much success as she and Carlos have.
"It can be a really tricky industry," the mother of two tells PEOPLE. "But we've had fantastic experiences."
Alexa credits that to "having a really strong team around to kick your butt when you get out of line" and her mother's dedication to her career from a young age.
"My mom was a single mom for a long time and she raised three kids and took me to every audition with my sisters," Alexa recalls. "It was the four of us and we would travel everywhere. My sisters, they could be hanging out with their friends, going to birthday parties, doing all those things, but instead, they were traveling with us because my mom wanted to make sure to keep the family together. Because a lot of the horror stories you do hear, it's when all these families get split up. When you don't have the parent actually raising the kids, it's whoever they're around that actually ends up influencing them and raising them."
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Accordingly, the Florida native doesn't take for granted her mother's sacrifice. "My mom worked really hard in giving a lot up for me to be able to get to the place that I did," Alexa says.
She also appreciates the kid-friendly environment Spy Kids crated on the sets for the movies.
"They wanted us to be kids," Alexa says. "So on our lunch breaks, we would all go out in the field and we'd be looking for scorpions and lizards and crazy things because we were shooting at these abandoned airport hangars. And my sisters, if they weren't doing schoolwork, they were in the prop house learning how to make their own solar ovens and making their own computers because the prop guys were so cool that they wanted to teach all these kids. It just gave us a very different upbringing."
The Spy Kids cast and crew formed "a small little family," Alexa says, adding that her on-screen brother Daryl Sabara "is my lifelong brother."
"When we were filming those movies, we really were like brother and sister," she continues. "And we would fight so much just like brother and sister. And now that we're older, we get along super well. There's so much love. He'll be my bro-bro forever. And there were so many people on those projects, from the crew members to other actors, that are lifelong, just because we worked together so much and for so many years."
Because of her and Carlos's positive experiences with young stardom, they wouldn't hesitate to let sons Ocean, 3, or Kingston, 20 months, venture into show business if they desired. "As long as we teach them healthy boundaries and that they don't have to fit the mold of the industry, that you can create your own mold, then I would say go for it," Alexa says.
Carlos, 31, quips, "I'm going to be their agent, their manager, their lawyer. I'm going to be all of it, okay? If they want to call Ocean and King, they're going to have to call me."
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