Communities Help Raise Your Kids

Harvested grain fields signal kids are heading back to school in our rural communities.

Some years I want to drag out the summer fun a bit longer. This year, though, I’m embracing a new school year and more grateful we can celebrate the academic highlight.Summer2016-3Our son is starting his freshman year at the University of North Dakota. Our daughters will be first and third graders in our small-town public school. Three months ago, I stood first in our Wishek hospital emergency room and then at the CIH St. Alexius emergency room with our youngest daughter, Anika, wondering if school would ever be the same for her again.

On May 15, as we were heading out to plant our vegetable garden, Anika tumbled down the stairs. She was unconscious at the bottom of the stairs when I found her.

A skull fracture, concussion and broken left arm abruptly ended Anika’s first year of school. She spent late May and early June with limited interactions and slept, slept, slept. Late June, a neurosurgeon showed me scans of her brain to reassure me Anika had a normal functioning brain and had recovered from her fall. This week, she hopefully will get clearance from the orthopedic doctor to get rid of the arm brace she’s been wearing after two rounds of casts on her left arm.brokenarmwithkittensAnika turned seven in July and never before have I been more enthusiastic for a new school year to begin. I have a new outlook on seemingly normal milestones after watching her little body and brain recover from a scary accident.

At times I take my children, our health and our access to modern medicine and education for granted. This summer, as I sat with Anika for hours as she rested, I had time to appreciate the people, systems and services I take for granted.

I’ve thought about the rural health providers in our small-town hospital who took x-rays and performed a cat scan on Anika before she was loaded in an ambulance by our local team on a Sunday afternoon. I sat in the front seat of the ambulance while the driver, a mom and daycare provider, took us to Bismarck.Summer2016-2I’ve thought about the teachers, classmates, churches, friends and family, near and far, who reached out to Anika with notes, gifts and most of all, prayers. We don’t even personally know some of these people. The doctors in Bismarck and their nurses, our babysitter, neighbors, parents, grandparents, all sorts of people have come to mind this summer as Anika rested and healed.

Anika isn’t a kid who stays down for long. Her energy and passion have returned in full force. When she takes her backpack full of brand new school supplies into her classroom and her sister, Elizabeth, walks down the hall into the third grade on the first day of school, I’m going to let the tears of thankfulness fall as they will.Summer2016I feel less pressure as a parent today versus when I walked my oldest child into first grade 12 years ago. At that time, I was a single mom in south Fargo. The self-imposed pressure and expectations were unnecessary as I launched my oldest child into what seemed like a big scary world.

Years of experience and maturity brought me to this point—I now know it’s not all on my husband and me to raise and launch a child. It takes a village, a community nearby and even far away, who will rally for your child in times of pain and celebrate in joyous moments.

I’ve cast the extraordinary high expectations for what my kids should be doing in school. Of course, I want them to do their best, but after a scare such as Anika’s this past spring, I’m thankful each of our kids can receive an education, develop skills and pursue their own passions. I appreciate all those who contribute to the development of kids, the fierce advocates in our schools, the selfless healthcare providers and loving friends and family.Summer2016-4None of us live in a perfect utopia, but I bet you, like me, have some people to be thankful for—let those who support you in broken times and celebrate with you in life’s joys know how much you appreciate them.

Thank your rural healthcare provider, your child’s bus driver and/or your grandchild’s teacher. Be supportive of a parent in your community who makes others appreciate all we have as we raise kids in rural America.

Friends, I’ve become a slacker blogger and am playing catch up. Each week I publish a column in Agweek. You can find it there each Saturday online and in the weekly publication arriving in mailboxes on Mondays usually. I’ll post as I can on here with the many pictures I snap daily! I also update Facebook, Instagram and even now Snapchat (@katpinke) frequently.