Interview: Annie Demko

Author of the ‘Raising Revolutionaries’ essay in the Autumn Make issue, Annie Demko has taken the time to tell a little of her story.

Where do you live and how many kids do you have?
My family and I live in a fleeting bit of country sandwiched between suburbs and cities in Northeast Ohio. Our house is a little red pioneer-built house that sits up close to the patched-over and busy state route that is our road, and nestled into the edge of a woods, overlooking a few corn and soy fields and on their far side, woods again. My husband Jim and I have two boys – twins – who are already seven and a half years old.

This journey has been marked by the reworking of my expectations

What do you spend your days doing?
My days are spent in mostly ordinary things, and are usually crammed so full that I forget to be grateful for them, more often than I’d like. I’ve stayed home full time with the boys since they were born, and this year marks our second year of homeschooling as well. Jim heads out to his full-time, outside-the-home job right around the time the boys are waking up. And then what do we do on a typical day? Once the boys are up, they might play a bit together, then we read for a good long time before stopping for breakfast. After this there are chores, maybe some lessons, or a project. There is plenty of free time (for them), and maybe we head out to a class or spend time with friends or family. My work is about this little and growing homestead of ours: tending and making. (And in the moments when I can, I will sneak in those other things: the little bits that are for me: some writing, spinning, knitting, reading, a little longer than necessary walk to the mailbox or visit with the chickens.)

What do you like most about your family?
I like that our favorite weekend in a long time was the one we recently spent almost entirely at home working and playing outside, moving apart and together in an easy dance as we tended to this place and worked on old and new bits of creating. This is when we’re happiest, which is just how I would wish it to be.

What parts of parenting come naturally to you and what parts are a struggle?
I tend to describe myself as “not someone for whom mothering comes naturally,” though that’s maybe not entirely fair. From the start, this journey has been marked by the reworking of my expectations. This has been one of my biggest struggles: this constant change and uncertainty that are just a part of life (in general) that is heightened tenfold with kids. I like to know what to expect – this is my sense of safety – and I while I’ve lived the constant change for so many years, I still can’t say that I’m used to it. Patience for child-speed and the constancy of parenting (read interruptions and lack of quiet moments alone) are also challenges.

Yet, at the same time, there are parts that come easily. I could sit and read with my boys for hours (and sometimes we come close). I love exploring and learning with them. Encouraging them is natural, and comforting them when they are upset; giving them the space to be kids and grow as they’re ready. And listening. I’m pretty good at that.

What do you need as a parent?
Space, and quiet. I need moments in the day to be able to put two thoughts together in a row. Moments when I can stop and breathe in and out in quiet.

Interestingly – maybe they are connected – I also need to be heard, and seen. I need to be listened to by my boys. But, I also need to be seen and heard as myself: As ironic as it seems, being a mother (perhaps especially an introverted homemaking, homeschooling mother) often carries with it a veil of invisibility, or transparency. While I like my solitude, I also find I need to be visible sometimes – to be understood and connected.

How does where you live affect your parenting?
As I’ve thought about this, the word that keeps coming up is “able.” We live in a sort of unique situation, where our home is surrounded by woods and fields, with only one house across a seasonal creek next to us. So as a parent, I am able to let my boys run free. They’ve gained our trust to where they can head off into the woods and be happily gone for an hour or more before coming back home to the sound of the dinner bell. Because we are actively working to create a functioning homestead where we provide for more and more of our needs, as a parent I am able to provide opportunities for them to be a real, practical, help in our daily living. They can collect eggs that we eat with our breakfast; they help split and stack wood that keeps us warm.

At the same time, we are also only a half an hour from Cleveland, and minutes from its multiplying suburbs, so we are also able to take advantage of any number of opportunities to follow interests and explore. These opportunities are a great thing; they also challenge me as a parent to find a reasonable balance between engaging in them and time spent grounded at home.

What are you especially conscious of as a parent?
I am a perfectionist whose instinct is to believe that there is one right answer. As a parent I am especially conscious of imperfection and the need to find a way to embrace it – for my sake and for my boys’. I also feel keenly all the decisions that need to be made, so many of which will not yield any visible feedback or affirmation for years to come. So much of parenting is balanced on trust and hope.

What nurtures and inspires you as a person?
Making things with my own hands. The fact of having the skill to provide for myself, or to bring something useful into being is quietly inspiring, grounding, affirming. Quiet times alone to read or write nurture me. A cup of hot tea and a back warmed by the woodstove.

I’m inspired by folks who are able to take something old and give it new life, and by those who have a true joy of living – who look at the world with curiosity and openness. And crisp, frosty mornings when the sun peeks over the tips of the trees fuzzy and pale pink.

What is your favorite time of day?
There is a short window of time in the morning that is my favorite time. I wouldn’t call myself a morning person – I drag myself out of bed each day. But if I can manage to do so early enough, there is often a little magical time when I have showered (and so, am awake) maybe Jim has left for work or is out tending the chickens, and the boys are not yet downstairs, and all is quiet. I love this time, and the time that follows it when the boys come down and after a little flurry of activity we settle into the couch with a few books and read.

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
This is a hard one to answer succinctly and without bogging down in all the specific things I would like to do. So I think my biggest hope is to live authentically. To live a simple life, walking lightly; to live the oft-quoted words of Gandhi – creating in our home the world I want to see around us, and then doing what I can to spread that world a little farther. I would like to make choices so that we can live our lives the way we want to – not the way the society we live in says we should (like it or not) and to give my sons the ability to do that as well. I would like to learn how to be present – in time and place – and to replace my worries with joyfulness and gratitude because of that presence.

Is there anything you do that you want to share with our readers?
I do have a tiny little Etsy shop with just a few of my creations. I find less and less time lately to make for the shop, but there it is, and every so often new items appear.

I also write intermittently about our goings on at my blog, Moon in the Window and am always happy to see new faces and make connections there.

raising-revolutionariesAnnie contributed the essay ‘Raising Revolutionaries’ to the Make issue.

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