Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tina Bringerud Olson

Happy Birthday Mom!

To celebrate my mom's birthday I thought I would write a little post about how wonderful she is not only as a mom, but as an influential feminist.

She and my dad raised my sisters and me to be self confident individuals who are unafraid to live our lives to the fullest.

It's hard to put into words all the right things my parents did for my sisters and me while we were growing up. Now, that I'm an adult and have friends who are having children of their own, I have a better understanding of how difficult it is to raise kids. My appreciation for my own mom and dad just keeps growing.

Born in Japan, my mom was the 2nd child of four. She, my aunt, and uncles had an international childhood full of traveling and moving. As a North Park student, she majored in Biology which is how she met my dad. They were married and started a life full of outdoor adventures and travels.

One story that always sticks in my mind when I think about my mom and her influence on me as a feminist is the time when she and my dad were living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and working at a camp. I think my mom got a job with the forest preserve (I'm probably getting the exact details of the story completely wrong). Anyway, part of the work needing to be done was clearing the fallen trees with chainsaws. Apparently, women were not allowed to obtain chainsaw operator licenses at the time which my mom completely disagreed with. She had to fight for her right to get the license and in many ways to be taken seriously, but soon enough she was out there chopping up the wood with the rest of the dudes. :) That always makes me really proud of her.

When my parents had me, they were living up in Unalakleet, Alaska working at a private, boarding high school for Native Alaskans. They were dorm parents, teachers, and my mom was the school's cook for a while. She had to spend a month in Anchorage right before giving birth to me because up in the bush there weren't any accessible hospitals or doctors. She had my sisters and me without any medication and tells me she actually enjoyed the experience of giving birth. I don't like to think about squeezing a kid out of me, but being able to talk to my mom about this stuff makes the idea of that a teeny bit easier to handle.

After the school closed down, we moved to Jamestown, NY where my parents raised us and are still living today. To say we had a perfect family life would really be an understatement. Of course there were ups and downs, but I can honestly say my home life was pretty ideal. My parents are very much in love with one another, and this is evidenced by their complete partnership. They were always there for us no matter what and I know now feeling safe and secure as a kid has helped me have the confidence to take risks has been really beneficial for my life.

My family and I always laugh at the way my sisters and I turned out. My mom is a complete naturalist, loves camping and being outside. HATES to shop and doesn't obsess about makeup or clothes. Cat, Mim, and I however couldn't be more different. I mean we like to camp and hike, but when one of your daughter's (me) greatest fears in life is sharing space with a frog or toad, you have to be a bit disappointed. But I don't think she really is ;). She always took us shopping even though she loathed it (which I can understand because Mim takes forever trying stuff on), supports us when we break up with boyfriends, and will chat with us for as long as we need her to listen.

My mom knows more than anyone how overly dramatic I can be. I have been for as long as I can remember. I just have a need to stand on a soap box and make my voice heard even if I'm being completely ridiculous. Which, growing up, I could be EXTREMELY ridiculous. But she never made me feel bad for being who I was. Sure, we can fight. Very well in fact, but at the end of the day my mom has given me so many reasons to respect her I rarely felt the need to rebel. It must be incredibly frustrating to let your kids figure stuff out on their own sometimes, just because you can probably anticipate how terrible things could be for them when they make the wrong choice. But no matter how much I messed up, or embarrassed myself because of my stubbornness, my parents were there for me. They never tried to make me act a certain way and this is something they have continued into my adulthood.

When I got the idea to apply to North Park 2 weeks before my freshman year was set to start, they sat me down and talked me through the monumental life choice I was about to make, but they didn't tell me not to do it. They trusted that I could make my own decisions, and even though they were right about the amount of debt that I would be in FOREVER, I am so grateful to them for supporting me and my move across the country as a 17 year old kid.

Sometimes we like to tease my mom, which we try not to do too often. But I will let her know things she did that mortified me as a kid are things I am super appreciative of today. One instance in particular was during my 5th grade year. New York State has a sex education program called Project KNOW. Your parents have to give you permission to take the class and are encouraged to participate in different aspects of the course. This is to promote dialog at home about different questions kids may ask. Well, in 5th grade you learn all the basics and this includes how babies are born culminating with a video of an actual birth. Parents were invited to watch this video with the class and yes, my mom was the only parent who chose to do this.  As a ten year old, I thought this was SO embarrassing. And of course, I was teased. Now, as I read about all of the protests some parents have against sex education, I realize how lucky I am to have a mom who not only saw its value for her daughters, but was an active participant in our education. And I was never forced into a weird purity ball or made to feel that my body was under ownership of my father until I was given to a husband. Point being, I'm now proud of my mom and the "embarrassing" things she did, because as an adult I appreciate the time and value she's given to my life. 

It's hard for me to write about all the ways  my mom has positively influenced me. I admire her for so many things. She is so loving and loyal, not only to her family but towards everyone who comes into her life. I know I wouldn't be half as independent or self confident if not for her.

And we share the same laugh! :) 

Love you Mom!  Hope today is great!!


  1. A beautiful tribute to your mom, Julia. Happy Birthday to her!

    It's funny how the things that were so embarrassing growing up come into a new light a decade or two later. My own mom was the one who distributed sex ed materials to the parents of all of my friends and insisted on making sex ed part of the sunday school curriculum at church for 5th graders and jr. highers. I was mortified at the time, but now, it's another story.

  2. beautiful, julia!! once again, i'm misty-eyed after reading one of your posts about your family!! :)

  3. what a great tribute to your mom! and yes you most certainly have the same laugh! haha