Theresa Verslues shares her thoughts and experiences of life, parenting and marriage.

TheLastWord_VersluesTheresa Verslues knows a bit about raising a family. After all, she and husband, Herb, raised nine children, and this year marks their 58th wedding anniversary. Married at age 19, Theresa recalls struggles yet says the best years of her life were spent raising her family. Here she shares insights about her life as a  “domestic engineer.”

Keep it simple: Back then the living was different; I was different and younger [chuckle]. My family gave me such joy. Our lives were simpler than today because we didn’t have a lot of money, yet we never felt
poor or deprived. We did things that didn’t cost like going to the country, visiting family or neighbors. If I brought home a ball from the grocery store, it was a big deal, and the kids would play with it all afternoon. Because we didn’t have a lot of stuff, anything new was appreciated. We laughed a lot. Looking back at old school pictures, one brother wore a shirt with a leaf pattern, and then a few years later there was the younger brother with the same shirt, but it was faded. There were lots of hand-me-downs.

Love: I love all of my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren equally. All are special but different in their own ways. Although I don’t feel age in my mind, I have body issues. I still try to be there whenever I can. If they call to go to lunch or a sporting event, I am there if at all possible. It is a blessing when we can be together.

Discipline: It takes a lot of love and discipline to raise a family. Everyone had chores, and all pitched in to help. We also spanked our kids. When two children ran off one day, all I could tell them was, “Wait until your dad gets home!” They might try something once, but it didn’t happen again. Firm love is important. The discipline sometimes hurt me more, but I knew it was important to teach the right way, or they would never learn. One night after a spanking, I felt so bad I had to go upstairs and kissed them all goodnight.

Key to marriage: We’ve had good and bad times in our marriage. Communication is important, and it doesn’t mean you are going to always agree. The important thing is to talk things through. Two come together to be one in a marriage, but it is important to be individuals as well. Herb and I are very different; I am the softie. Back in our day, you got married to raise a family. Whenever we had another child, it was
the more the merrier. Herb sometimes worked two or three jobs to make ends meet.

Coping with tragedy: We lost our son, Chris, in 1993 in a terrible accident. At the time he was newly married, and his wife, Kelly, was three months pregnant. This loss is still hard today; it takes a part of your heart with them that never gets replaced. I told Chris, “I have to put you on the back burner,” but I think about him, and I have to talk about him. That is what helps me.

Advice to parents: Be someone whom your children can look up to and follow in a good way. Although children have more material goods today, I see some parents who don’t spend enough time with their children. I stayed home with mine and then went to work at Gerbes part time when my youngest was 12. I saw a little boy at church this morning with his great-grandmother. I thought of what she is doing for him; you could see he was following her.

Strength: I believe in God. He is my best friend. I talk to Him I don’t know how many times a day. My  religion is my strength. Without God we can’t do anything. We wouldn’t be here without Him.