Steve at What-Do-I-Know has introduced me back to everyone and I have been reflecting as to how much I have changed. Back when I started blogging, it was my lifeline to the world. I had nine kids and sometimes the only way that I knew I was getting anything done over time was from reading my own blog. Other than my kids and my husband, my family was all out of state and I was in Wasilla with no connections. I didn’t gel with friends at my husband’s church, and my friends from high school had all left state for college. We stayed in contact, but as far as real conversations about things that mattered to me, I was on my own. I had a good friend from high school who was temporarily exiled from his people and didn’t have access to the internet and I drew and wrote for him and he did the same for me. He and my blogging friends kept my head above water.
When my kids were really little, I was reeling from having started having them at 19. I tried to make up for it by being ultra proper and stuffy as all get-out. I’m 45 now and the older kids laugh and say that the younger ones have different parents. I’m pretty chilled out. If they act up, it isn’t a reflection of me, it’s performance art and indicative of where they are.
In 2009, I had a disaster hit. Talking about it makes my blood pressure shoot up, so let’s leave it as the 2009 Disaster. My family was ok. I was mentally frazzled. I had plans where I was and the disaster ruined them. It was like my life and everything I had known got the Etch-a-Sketch treatment.
When I started blogging, my kids were roughly 16-newborn and now they are 25-9 years. The older ones are still active in the lives of the younger ones and I have to say that I am the parent of children who are growing up to make the world a better place. In college I majored in English and social work, and my kids have that intent in different fields and are shining their own lights.
My third child just joined the service, but is not yet graduated. When I am, I will probably wear gaudy Swarovski crystaled pins that say, “Soldier's Mom.” (Leave me alone. So I bought three of them already. I have also gained 20 pounds from worry as the likelihood of her going to the Middle East increases.) I didn’t want her to join, but she did, and I decided to be proud of her. Her latest letters have been upbeat and she describes boot camp as “an action packed summer camp from Hell” which is not bad considering that she has only been in for a little while. She is finding it challenging in a good way and is pulling out strengths that she didn’t know that she had, but looks forward to family day and graduating.
When I was in college, I used to brush my teeth with my eldest daughter. I would tell her how important it was to help other people when we could. She called me up a couple of years ago and reminded me of the conversations and said, “I am helping people, Mom! I just planted a crop for a food bank, and that food will get shipped to feed people here and thousands of miles away! It gives me chills thinking about it!” She is active in her church and she remembers me with my large family just not able to form friendships with other moms. I didn’t realize how much she saw, but other women would make plans for make-up parties or other home parties, or even baby showers and I’d ask if I could go and they’d blow me off and say, “You need to take care of your kids! You don’t want to make your husband take care of them!” Number One offers to baby sit or arranges child care for some of those moms who feel isolated in her church now and makes sure they get out. She is the fun (but strict!) big sister to many of the kids and uses her influence. She sent me flowers on her 25th birthday this year and thanked me for showing her all of the world that matters. She is a science teacher and a farmer. She is creating a love of learning for at least the generation of kids she teaches now, and perhaps for their children, and she loves this.
My middle daughter of those three works locally and is with a company that is paying for her college. She is an athlete who loves climbing things and she comes over at least once a week to take her siblings places, or she just hangs out. I like that the kids are tight with her. While her older sister loves church, my middle daughter dislikes it because of what she saw when she was younger with me. I like that she often paddles a canoe around or goes climbing on Sunday mornings as her form of worship. When my husband and I go to see Miss Marine Recruit graduate and become a full-fledged Marine, my middle daughter has already planned her week to ten days to spend with the kids and where she wants to take them. My 12 year old asked me that when she grows up, "Who will I come home to?" By then she will be an auntie and I told her that home will be various sibling's houses!
My teen sons are doing well in sports. I always felt bad that I could not afford to pay for them to be in sports on a regular basis, but a coach put his arm around me last week and said that determination and desire overcomes the lack of early training. My guys are at an age when lots of kids quit sports, and they have been raring to go for years. Now as teenagers, when I cannot afford to pay for something, they can tell a neighbor their problem and offer to weed a garden or help them paint their house. While I fear being charged with child labor, they are learning money management and responsibility. For my own sake I sometimes wish I could raise entitled brats, or maybe just really nice kids whose parents are able to provide for them better than I do now!
I hope this doesn’t read like a Christmas letter.
I never wanted to be a mother who identified herself through her kids, but while I am not a parent who hovers, they are what I did for 25 years. I don’t have toddlers who need constant attention anymore and I am branching into my own life.
This morning I was annoyed because I went to a political event and shared with a manager of a candidate who I like that I’d love to help, and that I really wanted to do something that I could possibly do to get a job later. She was baffled—obviously I am not young and what did I mean by needing experience! so I explained that I’d had nine children and hadn’t been out a lot and I wanted to get experience raising money. Hearing about the nine kids did it for her. She wanted to know how many I had left and she had jobs for us! And everything she said after that involved me and my kids, never mind their sports or when I was actually free! Well, we can always say no, and as far as finding something to do with myself, I got a an urgent plea to help out in a ministry that I did five or six years ago and that would not allow me to take the kids with me.
I was happy with my kids when they were little, but I was also tired and usually exhausted. My dad told me before he died that I had no idea how proud of my kids I’d become as they became adults, and how proud of me he was. He died 8 years ago this November. I didn’t understand how he could be proud of me—I started having kids at nineteen-- and I didn't stop. I joked that I was the poster girl for Planned Parenthood, the reason that they left Alaska for the American Southwest. Then I found out that (among many things) he bragged to his friends about me and about how I did Hospice when I had six kids, three of them still in diapers. I am starting to understand now. Out of all my children, I am most likely not raising a state lawmaker or even a President, but I am raising some compassionate and really nice people. I get tears in my eyes talking about my Marine Recruit and of what my other kids do just because they are awesome people. For so long I thought I was accomplishing nothing and treading water, but it is the opposite.