Interview with Shannon Ralph by The Next Family
The Next Family continues its series on interviews with our writers, this time with the funny and engaging Shannon Ralph. Please feel free to ask Shannon any questions of your own in the comments section.
TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?
I have thoroughly enjoyed blogging for The Next Family. Everyone associated with TNF has been wonderful. I love the feedback I have received from readers. I am amazed on a daily basis that anyone would want to read the drivel I write about my kids and my work and my relationship and my utterly tedious and completely banal day-to-day life. But I sure appreciate that some do!
TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?
I would argue that we are more alike than we are different. We have a mortgage and a minivan and three kids. We deal with juggling work schedules and swim lessons and school plays and doctor appointments and playdates and frantic searches for last-minute babysitters. We have family pizza and movie night on Fridays. We are in bed by 10:00 almost every night of the week (sometimes earlier). We sit up worrying at night when our babies are sick or hurt or sad. We aren’t big church-goers, but we try to instill in our children a respect and appreciation for humanity in all of its weird, wacky, and wonderful forms. We want to raise our children to be happy, healthy, contributing members of society. In reality, the one and only way we are different is that my children have two moms. As far as they are concerned—and I would have to defer to my kids on this one—our family is the same as every other family out there.
TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If not, explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.
I am very lucky in that I come from a family that is extremely open. My mother has eleven brothers and sisters, and they are all quite fertile. So as you can imagine, my extended family is huge. We were very close when I was growing up. We still are, despite my living 750 miles away from most of them. We are a wonderfully motley crew of gays, lesbians, straights, drunks, tee-totalers, divorcees, church-goers, heathens, single parents, married couples, black, white, Hispanic, and anything and everything in between. I think our diversity and our closeness have allowed my extended family to be so open and accepting of my little lesbian family. My grandmother, who was probably my favorite person ever to walk the face of this Earth, adored my son Lucas. She accepted Ruanita with open arms and never let her step foot in or out of her house without giving her a big hug and a sloppy old granny kiss. I am a very blessed woman in that regard.
TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?
I married a rock star. Seriously. My partner, Ruanita, is an amazing mom and housekeeper and chauffer and boo-boo kisser and laundry-washer and dishwasher-emptier. She is really the heart and soul of my home. We recently made major life/work changes. I went back to work full-time after five-years of working only part-time, and Ruanita quit her job to stay home with the children for a year while studying to complete her licensure in Marriage & Family Therapy. If she were not at home doing everything she does, I would be a mess. I would be completely and totally incapable of juggling work and home. I have to applaud all of those mother and fathers out there who do not have a Ruanita. I do not see how they do it.
TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age?
There are so many lessons I want to teach my children. From the frivolous (how to properly fold socks) to the moderately important (how to maintain a good credit rating) to the life-altering (how to marry the person who will make you happy for life) to the life-threatening (do not, under any circumstances, text while driving). If I had to pick just one, however, I want them to learn to be compassionate. I want to be able to say one day that my grown children have good hearts. With all of the stories these days about bullying and teasing and the horrible consequences these acts have for our young people, I want my children to be able to see the humanity in others. I want them to have the ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes and feel compassion for that person. To stand up for what is right and true and kind. If I can manage that, I can forgive the sloppy sock folding.
TNF: Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we, as parents should unlearn?
I am not one to give parenting advice, as I am typically as clueless—if not more so—than anyone else. However, I do believe that children need responsibility. They do not need to have everything handed to them in this life. They need to earn privileges just as adults do. They need limits. They need consequences. They need to make mistakes and understand that Mommy will not bail them out every time. I am SO not one of those parents who believes my children can do no wrong. When they make mistakes, and they will because we certainly did, they need to know that they will be held responsible. Entitlement is the lesson that I think children (and parents) most need to unlearn.
TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?
I don’t really have any words of wisdom. Just keep fighting the good fight. Parenthood is grueling. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, your kids throw you a curve ball. I tell you, I am blind-sided on an almost daily basis. I think parents—all parents regardless of gender or race or sexual orientation or marital status—need to have a little more respect for one another. We need allies in the trenches!
TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family?
I was a member of the 1980s hair band Skid Row. Just kidding. I love reading comments from the readers of TNF, whether on my blogs or others. Keep them coming!
Thank you Shannon for sharing a piece of your beautiful family with ours. We so enjoy your stories!