My son wanted me to write about my childhood. So Colby, this is who I was.
I am an only child. I grew up as the only grandchild on both sides of my mom and dad’s family (I have a younger cousin now, he is 6). My mom’s sister and brother were also like my own siblings. They are 11 and 9 years older than me. I grew up with so much love and support, I still have that from them today. As an infant I was a pretty sick baby from what I understand. I was diagnosed with asthma and they had me on a bunch of steroids at 8 months old. My mom and dad did the best they could with what the doctors were saying, not many options back then. I was very blessed from the beginning with the parents I have.
Through elementary school I was the typical girl, chased boys on the playground, protected my friends who were picked on and really tried to pay attention in class but it just wasn’t my thing. I was a string bean until I entered the 4th grade. I started to slowing develop into a girl. I had to go weekly to get shots for my allergies. I remember I got 7 per week. They must have worked because eventually allergies became easier to deal with.
I hardly ever got into trouble, there was never anyone to fight with. I was content to just play on my own. As an only child one would think I was spoiled, not me. My parents worked very hard to provide for us. At times my mom would take on a second job to make ends meet. If there was a toy or something I wanted birthdays and holidays were usually when I would receive it. I spent a lot of time at my grandma’s in the evenings because my dad worked different schedules and my mom would be at a second job. I loved it at my grandparents, dinner with them in the evening and if I was there on the weekend my papa would take me around the lake (Lake Michigan) and to his office to talk with friends. Thursday nights I went grocery shopping with my grandma. Sometimes we would go to the Globe clothing store next door and
she would try on shoes. They were so ugly, but it was the style.
In the summers we would take trips to the cabin in North Eastern Wisconsin. My papa built a cabin on the lake back in the 1960s. We would fish, swim, boat ride and pick blackberries. Evenings were card games and fires on the shore. I usually had three weeks a year there. Eventually when they retired they would spend the entire summers there. I would get bored, but I sure would take some of that time with them now.
The year I would be moving up to 5th grade we moved away from all my childhood friends. Ugh. Very rough. My mom decided to try to get me into a private school, however I didn’t pass the entrance exam. They informed her that I had a reading comprehension problem and was only reading at a 3rd grade level. This started a downward spiral of my self- esteem. In addition to developing early for a girl, I now felt dumb. I was placed into a public school system, I had to go to a tutor for math and reading during a half hour of my day. She really helped me a long. I still wasn’t up to a good student, but I did better. My social status however was horrible. Being new, tall and considered dumb was awful. I was teased because everyone thought I was overweight. I look at pictures of myself from back then, I didn’t think I was overweight. I have always been tall for a girl, but I didn’t think I was what they were accusing me of. I was always picked on. Boys were so very mean. Girls were friends one day and not the next. I was quiet anyway but this made me even more so because I felt like if I acted invisible they would forget I was there. I did have a few friends, it wasn’t all bad. I sure wish I had that little girl back in me at that time, I should have kicked their butts! I was also expected to be independent for myself. I had to get up get myself ready for school, pack my lunch and walk to school. When I would come home I would have to stay in the house until my parents came home. Nobody in, nobody out my mom would say. We lived in a safe neighborhood, however my parents wanted to make sure no one was hurt or anything broken in their home without an adult there.
Anyway, so 5th-8th grade were hard years. The friends I had were always on again off again. It’s the same for my kids today, never know what drama will be drawn up! My parents made the decision again to get me into a private school. Again starting over in a new school was nerve wrecking, but not as bad as the first time. I had great teachers and they made me excited to learn. My reading problems and math issues were conquered for the most part. I always enjoyed reading but now I was taught how to read for the purpose of study. My grades had really turned around. English was my best subject. I loved to write and express my interpretations on novels we read. Still hated math, but I made it through. My high school didn’t have very many options in electives. Choir, band and foreign languages. I had choir. It was okay. I was too shy to do anything other than just sing with the group. I decided to join volleyball, I had never played before. It was so hard. Everyone on the team was better than me, so I worked hard, enrolled in volleyball camps in the off season and summer. I got better! I still had insecurities but I did have friends, my Sophomore year was the best year. Things really turned around for me. I made friends whom I felt were just like me. We didn’t care how each other looked and we had fun where ever we went. I also was in pretty good shape and lost weight due to my mom cooking healthy, joining weight watchers with her and volleyball. I was at this point, the same as every girl in high school at 16. I have never been a rail thin person, after all this weight I have lost I still have hips and my thighs are bigger than I’d like. Anyway, I think everyone has the same thoughts and issues. I got the best job that summer too. I worked at Six Flags on a roller coaster. Best summer ever. I had a driver’s license, my parents bought me a car (I loved that little car), a job so I could afford to drive my car. I met tons of people, made a lot money because that was all I did that summer! Besides go to the after work parties and my friends and I would spend the days off at the park riding all the rides. I was able to get in free because I worked there. My friends that didn’t would get in for a dollar! I worked there for 2 summers and then I got a job at the mall in clothing stores. I didn’t enjoy these jobs as much, but I had to pay for my car and insurance so I worked.
Junior and Senior year was the time I had to start really thinking about what I wanted to do when high school was over. I really liked working with kids. I talked with my guidance counselor and they had a preschool in the basement of the high school. I was able to go in my free study hall and sit in on an activity with the pre-K and kindergarten class. I decided I wanted to be an early elementary teacher. I had many opportunities in my Senior year with the free study and for religion we volunteered our Christmas break at local schools and facilities. Kids were so funny to me and I loved being able to watch their eyes light up when you taught them something.
I graduated (biggest relief of my life). My grades and desire (and money) were not up to par for universities. So I decided to take classes at the community college. I was sure I was going into elementary education. I took some basic classes: math, English and a class on elementary education. This woman was a current teacher for 3rd and 4th graders. She completely changed my perspective. She told each one of us, please make sure this is the career you are choosing. It’s not just teaching kids that is your job. You work for parents, school boards, other teachers and you have teach the way they tell you to. She suggested getting as much experience as possible in the field that didn’t require a degree. So that’s what I set off to do. I worked at daycares. During that year I met my husband, we had mutual friends. He was in town and my friend encouraged me to go out with them to meet. So I did. Well, there went my college career, I didn’t have the attention for it anymore. I finished my year and didn’t enroll again. I spent most of my time working at a daycare and with my man.
We got engaged 4 months from the day we met. It was fast because he lived in Ohio and I was in Illinois. My husband would make a trip every weekend or every two weeks to be with me. We were married about 11 months later. I moved to Ohio. Left all my family behind. My parents moved after I was here for a year. We started having kids 5 years later. I may not have become a teacher, but I sure am doing what I was meant too.. I had a happy and very loved childhood. I have worked really hard to show my parents they have raised the person they hoped I would be. I try every day to do the same for my kids. So far, my kids have made me so proud. You never really understand the love between parents and children until you have your own. It’s the unselfish kind of love. Wouldn’t we like to bottle that stuff and just be able to be like that to everyone? What a happy place this would be!
I wrote this one for my son, he wanted to know what I was like as a child. In short I think I was just like every other girl. We have insecurities, fears, dreams and accomplishments. In a way I am still the same as I was in the past, I can kind of be reserved. As an adult watching your kids grow up you see them go through same issues and situations that you did. I wouldn’t change anything about my life back then. As I said, I had a loving family, people who provided the best for me. If it’s one thing I want to teach my kids, be comfortable with who you are. No one should tell you have to be a size, personality or not be a certain way. The only person you have to please is yourself. You make your past, your future and your right now. Take it!
You make us so proud Amber. You have worked so hard to become the beautiful women and mom that you are. Love you.