Tuesday, March 13, 2012

becoming our parents: interview with Amber

Today is the second installment of my parenting interview series: I'm happy to introduce Amber from Educating Miss Amber. I've been reading her blog for months because I can relate to her on so many levels: she's a teacher, has a son who is very close in age to my daughter, and is just as sarcastic as I am. Read on to learn about how her parenting style was influenced by her upbringing in a small farming community...


Hey! I'm Amber, first-time mom to 10-month-old Liam and high school teacher, and I blog over at Educating Miss Amber. I'm so excited to guest post for Courtney while she's enjoying sunny Florida.


I was excited when Courtney told me that the interview would be about how our parenting decisions have been influenced by our parents' style, because that's something I've been thinking a lot about over the course of the past 10-months.

I'm the oldest of three kids. My dad worked in the grain industry, so we lived in very rural towns. I didn't grow up on a farm, but both of my grandpas were farmers, so I definitely grew up around that lifestyle.  When I was fourteen, my dad took a new job, so I moved during the summer between my eighth grade and freshman year. It definitely changed my world--I'd grown up in a very small town and felt like I belonged there. I moved to another small town where everybody had pretty much grown up together. Feeling like an outsider definitely changed my perspective on things.

How old were your parents when you were born? How old were you when you had your first child? Was your decision about when to have kids affected in any way by your parents' choices?

My parents were high school sweethearts and were very young when I was born. My mom commuted to a college in a nearby town and finished in three years. I honestly don't know how she did it. I remember that I was in middle school when my mom turned 30 and thinking that 30 was so old.

I was 27 when I had Liam.  I liked having younger parents, but I think my mom was really careful to emphasize that it was a lot easier to have a child when you're older, which definitely influenced my decision to wait until I was older.

What are your plans (if any) about the number of children you hope to have? Is your decision about how many children you'll have affected in any way by your parents' choices?

Right now, Craig and I don't really have any plans about the number of children we hope to have. We bounce back and forth between being happy with just one child and talking about names for another one. I don't think we'll have more than two.  My parents' choices didn't really influence my decision about how many children I'll have. However, the age gap between my siblings and me definitely influenced my decision about spacing between our kids. I'm five years older than my brother and eight years older than my sister. I don't think I want my kids to be much more than three years apart.

How does the place where you grew up impact your own decision-making about where to raise your family?

When I was growing up, I wanted nothing more than to escape small town living. Now I think that all of the things that annoyed me when I was  growing up, like the fact that my parents knew all of my friends, their parents, and were close to all of my teachers, would be really beneficial as I raise Liam.

Sometimes I resent the fact that I live five hours from the nearest Anthropologie, Ikea, or H&M, but I like the community where we live. It has less than 2,000 people, so it's small. While the class sizes at the school are getting larger due to budget cuts, they're nothing in comparison to some schools.  The community is also centered in a very tourist-oriented area, so the options for shopping and eating out are better than your typical small town. It's in a really beautiful area, too. I hope Liam appreciates the beauty in the area where we live when he grows up.

How does your role as a disciplinarian reflect on your own upbringing?

My parents were pretty good about giving me the freedom to make my own choices and learn from my mistakes. At the same time, they were strict enough that when I did make mistakes, I knew that there would be consequences for my actions. I'm hoping to be that type of disciplinarian once Liam gets older.

Do you have any memories from your childhood of moments when you thought "I'll never be like this as a parent" or "I hope to be just like my mom because..."?

There are two things that stick out in my mind:

I remember when I was in third (or fourth?) grade, I found a beach towel that I wanted when my mom and I were shopping. It was on sale for 30% off. When I asked her if I could get it, she said that I could have it if I figured out the sale price. The entire time we were in the store, I tried different solutions. She finally showed me the process for figuring out sale prices, and I eventually got it. Now that I'm a teacher and occasionally come into contact with high school students who can't figure out the sale price of items, I think of this experience. I hope that I can provide those types of learning experiences for Liam. (Also, what a great way to keep me quiet. I spent the whole time walking around the store trying to do the math.)

When I was a junior in high school, my mom took me to London. She was working on her Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and was meeting with teachers in a few of the schools there.  One day she gave me the freedom to explore a few of the places I wanted to see like the Apple Corps Headquarters, where The Beatles performed live together for the last time, and a few other places where Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix played (granted it was on one of those walking tours). Being able to go with her was an experience I'll always remember, but more than anything, it meant a lot to me that she allowed me the freedom to explore things that interested me, as well. 

There were those times, though, when she totally overreacted about things. When I was 21, I spent the summer interning on Capitol Hill. I came down with what I thought was strep throat, so I rode the metro to the only urgent care I could find. When the strep test came back negative, the doctor I saw got a little concerned-- apparently when a college student who lives in communal housing comes down with strep-like symptoms it raises red flags for meningitis, so she sent me on to the emergency room at to the George Washington University Medical Center for a spinal tap. I only had cell phone reception when I was in triage. As I walked out of the ER pumped full of fluids (it was just a virus), I was greeted by at least 19 messages on my phone. "Amber, it's Mom. I'm just wondering how it's going." "Amber, it's Mom. I haven't heard from you in awhile. I just wanted to make sure everything's okay." "Amber. It's me again. I'm starting to get worried." "Amber. Seriously. I'm starting to look for plane tickets. Please call me to let me know you're okay."I know I'll be the same way, though.

Now that you are a parent, do you find yourself acting more like (or less like) your own parents than you anticipated? How so? Are you at peace with the similarities/differences?

Oh my goodness. I find myself acting more and more like my mom every day. Most of the time, I'm okay with that.

How has becoming a parent changed your relationship with your own parents?

My mom is really funny about being a grandma. She was in a car accident a few years ago and lives in a nursing home. She always brags to the other ladies about being a "young grandma." She really loves her grandchildren, and I really love that about her.

I think I'm most surprised by my dad, though. My sister and I like to call him the "baby whisperer." He is really good with crying babies. He's also done a couple of really cute things-- like putting together a collection of all of the 50 state quarters for Liam and my niece.  Little things like that definitely make my heart melt.


Thanks so much to Amber for her candid responses -- and I hope you'll stop by her blog to check out what her darling son Liam is up to lately. Check back tomorrow for an interview with Megan!


  1. I totally agree about having children closer together. My husband and his siblings are all five years apart, and aren't that close. My siblings and I are all 2 years apart and we're extremely close. I know it all depends on personality as well, but I think it's great being close in age to your siblings!

  2. What a neat guest posting series! I look forward to reading more of them!!

  3. I loved having young parents, too. When I think back to how young I felt in my early 20s, I can't imagine throwing a kid into the mix! Those brave souls! :)