Amy Roloff: “We Are Not Just Surviving, We Are Thriving”

Inspirational mom alert! Little People, Big World‘s Amy Roloff sat down with Celebrity Baby Scoop for a thoughtful look inside her busy life. The dynamic mother-of-four who lives with dwarfism chooses to thrive and not just survive in a ‘big’ world. Amy opened up about her charity and upcoming musical, her dreams for the dwarfism movement, life inside her reality-TV family, and how she doesn’t let the ‘what if’s’ determine or guide her life.

CBS: We hear you are set to star in One Night in Frogtown, an all ages musical (with frogs!) on Saturday, June 5th. Please tell us all about the play.

AR: “The story is about diversity and uses music as a metaphor. Frogtown is a message about understanding, acceptance, and respect. I’m thrilled to be asked to be a part of this wonderful story and performance. Right now I’ll be narrating the story.

I’ve been a teacher and continue to advocate acceptance in oneself and in others via speaking engagements and through out my life for a long time. Philip Pelletier has written the story and composed the music plus several others giving their talent to the performance. They approached and asked me if I was interested in being a part of this wonderful story. I of course said ‘Yes.’ It is another dimension in giving the message about diversity and acceptance. The performances often support a program or charity in the local also.”

CBS: We love your reality TV show Little People, Big World! What are the main messages of the show?

AR: “There are multiple messages that the show addresses including advocacy and education to others about dwarfism. So many different images come to most people’s minds about dwarfs and people with dwarfism. We wanted to let people know we are a lot more regular than people may think. This is our norm, and we wanted to normalize dwarfism.

Just because we, and others, may come in a different physical package we still have many similarities. We are individuals, a family that have challenges we have had to overcome but we still live life to the fullest. Viewers see that we are more similar to themselves than different. We are not just surviving but we are thriving in life.”

CBS: You have been the first TV family to normalize dwarfism. What are your dreams for the dwarfism movement? Also, please give us an idea of the everyday barriers you face in a world that is geared toward able-bodied people with average height.

AR: “The dwarfism movement is part of a bigger movement of diversity and accepting the physically differences in others. The message about diversity and acceptance and education will always be ongoing. The gap is smaller but everyone needs to continue to advocate that no one is better or worse than anyone else. Our differences is what makes each of us unique and we all have something to contribute to society. We need to be the best that we can be in who we are.

The biggest barrier I think I have faced, and probably many others, is the attitude of others. I may be short and have dwarfism but pleas don’t perceive me as being limited – not only physically but intellectually. You can change or fix, perhaps, your physical environment but attitude and perceptions is much harder to change and that is why we have to keep giving the message of diversity is OK. It makes life richer. We each have worth and purpose.”

CBS: So many reality TV shows that film in people’s homes have ended in divorce. Why do you think this happens? How do you safeguard your family from this ‘curse’?

AR: “Anytime you add a major event into your life, especially media that gives more people an insight into your personal life than is normal, it is bound to affect your personal life to some degree. I also think you need to go back to the original reason you wanted to do TV and go back to that. Sometimes that gets lost.

I’m not going to say having TV in our lives has not been hard sometimes but we focus on the reason we got into it in the first place and are we still OK with it and making the personal sacrifice. We take it a year at a time.

I have told my kids that their life comes first – school, friends, activities and TV follows us we don’t follow TV. It’s a reality show. To keep them grounded. They are important and their life is important.

Matt and I have continue to be active in other areas of work and we do charity work. I have my own charity foundation, The Amy Roloff Charity Foundation which I’m thrilled about. I think because we have kept the kids life normal as normal can be when you have media in your life and Matt are into other things our life will continue after TV. Our faith also plays a big part. Faith is what keeps me grounded.

We also have a good production company and the producers that are here with us are wonderful. They help us tell a story and more stories. The people (crew) have been to the most part been consistent without a lot of change over with different people. That helps too.

The affect of having TV in our life in the long run has been personally positive and the message we have tried to put out too has been received in a very positive manner … Just look at all the new little people shows popping up everywhere. People have told us that we have inspired them but also the stories we have heard have inspired us also.”

CBS: Tell us about your 16-year-old daughter Molly. How does she make out in a house full of boys?

AR: “She holds her own and I think the boys really look up to her and rely on her especially when I’m away for speaking engagements, business and my charity foundation. She is the balance and stabilizer in our family. She is a growing into a wonderful young independent woman. She does like it when I’m home so that makes me feel good too. She is doing wonderful in school, loves hanging out with friends (what teenager doesn’t?!), plays volleyball, reads a lot and has a little spontaneity.”

CBS: How is your 13-year-old son Jacob doing after his accident? Have you noticed any changes in him since the serious incident?
AR: “Jacob is a typical 13-year-old teenager in personality. He is bright, does well in school, gets bored, loves the computer “techy” world, games, loves to horse around with this brothers and friends, plays soccer, a little martial arts, but is sometimes stubborn and not talkative. The typical ‘What does Mom know’ attitude that most young teenagers embrace during their awkward stages of life is what he is going through as he finds himself and discovers more about himself and others.

I think he is doing well after the accident physically and mentally. He didn’t really want to go near the trubechet for months afterward but he got back in the saddle and worked a little on the next one – that is still in progress. We had a good family friend pass away and that may be have been a bigger affect on Jacob’s life, for all of my kids. But he is doing good.”

CBS: Your twin boys – Zachary and Jeremy – are about to turn 20! What are the plans as the boys enter young adulthood? Moving out of the house? College? Girlfriends?

AR: “Both Jeremy and Zachary are enjoying life. They are going to a local community college and the plan is to transfer to a college/university. So they have more schooling to go. Right now they are still living at home but have begun to look beyond that to see what it would take to get a job, have a car, move out, school. They are keeping busy and still playing a little soccer. No girlfriends right now. They are enjoying the time with friends.”

CBS: While one of the twins (Zack) was born with achondroplasia like you, the other (Jeremy) was not. In fact, Jeremy is quite tall at 6’1! How have you approached their differences and helped them celebrate who they are?

AR: “Their difference is their ‘normal.’ So for the most part the boys have done quite well. There personalities are defiantly different as well. They are two individuals and we have tried to help them appreciate themselves and do their best for who they are while still appreciating the other. Sure they have their frustrations but they often come back together too.”

CBS: We heard that Matt designed playground equipment for your children when they were young. Did you and your family experience barriers at local playgrounds? Is Matt hoping to expand his designs to playgrounds throughout the country for children and families?

AR: “Matt built a lot of the fun structures on our farm long before TV came along for his kids. Matt is creative and very much a dreamer. So what kid wouldn’t love to have a western town to pretend to be a cowboy, or a treefort and be Robin Hood, or just the opportunity to explore and be a kid on a farm. We have been fortunate to live where we do and give the kids what we hope is a great wonderful childhood experience.

He doesn’t have plans or expectation to design playgrounds anywhere else, at least not right now.

For the most part I didn’t have any experiences of barriers at playgrounds when I was growing up. For the most part it was the monkey bars I couldn’t reach and maybe some of the climbing equipment which I couldn’t climb – the leg reach was too far.”

CBS: How did you and Matt address his DUI with the kids? What do you teach them about safe drinking? Drugs? How about safe sex?

AR: “As the kids have grown up, I have been pretty upfront with them in letting them know information on all sorts of areas, including drinking and safe sex. To me information is knowledge and that is powerful. I can’t be there with them all of the time and regardless of what others do this is when they need to think of themselves and what they need to do, their behavior and about making choices and consequences from those choices – positive and negative. Parents aren’t perfect either, including us, and so we talk about it.”

CBS: When you and Matt first started your family, were you worried you would pass down your dwarfism genes to your children? What did the doctors tell you? Did you experience discrimination during your pregnancies from the medical community? Society at large?

AR: “Matt and I knew pretty much what the possibility would be of having children with dwarfism. But then we think our parents did a pretty good job, we turned out OK, I think we may be pretty good parents whether we have average size children or a child with dwarfism.

We also have had, from my memory, a good experience with my doctors during each pregnancy. I have been asked questions early on as to why I would want to bring a child into this world knowing they could have ‘issues and/or challenges’. Our thinking was and still is, it is not up to us to determine someone’s worth or purpose or that they may face challenges. As I mentioned before, a lot of what someone may have to overcome is attitude, from oneself and others.

Society at large still discriminates. We will never get away from that, but overtime it is less but still there. So if you begin to think more about the ‘what if’s’ you may end up not doing anything at all.

My greatest experience, purpose, and thrill in my life has been being a mom. I think my kids are doing pretty good.”

CBS: Tell us about the Amy Roloff Charity Foundation.

AR: “Starting up my own charity foundation, The Amy Roloff Charity Foundation, has been one of the opportunities I took from being on TV. I want to continue to reach out further and help out others. The areas that mean a lot to me are kids, youth at risk, disability groups and single parenting. We have helped out organizations for: dwarf sports, adult intellectually challenged work centers, a home for teen/young single moms, a family homeless shelter, parents who bring in foster kids and senior low income housing.

The current events ARCF is doing a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. The Haiti port of call we will be working with another non-profit to bring in much needed items to help out the many kids that are now orphaned. It’s a cruise with a mission, so come join us and get more information on our website. The dinner and golf tournament event Aug. 22 – 23 will benefit the Shriners Portland Childrens Hospital.

We put on fundraising events and also participate in other fundraisers so that we can continue to reach out to smaller organizations here and abroad that do good things and help them continue to do good things. A little help for a BIG world. Each of us can help somewhere sometime anytime. People can go to here for more information on donating and participating in the events we have planned.”

CBS: What are we to expect in the upcoming season of Little People, Big World?

AR: “Lots more adventures, chaos and real life. Perhaps another farm project, I continue to reach out in the community, the boys go to college, Molly and I see if we can plant and survive a garden project and so many other really good family stories.”

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