Amy Roloff might be alittle person, but she has one of TV’s biggest hearts. She recently announced this is their family’s final season of their beloved reality show, Little People, Big World, so we caught up with the busy mom of four – she’s super involved in her charity – to talk about explaining her height to children, raising three trouble-makers, and convincing people to take her seriously.
How do you explain your height to young kids who may not understand?
When kids ask questions about me or point or make derogatory remarks, I know the parents are embarrassed, so I’ll take it as an opportunity. The most important thing to me is that the child is inquiring, so it’s my job to be an advocate and give accurate information, even if I’m not in the mood. I don’t like when parents shush their kids, because it’s a wonderful opportunity to educate. Taking small opportunities to educate your kids, like driving in the car or walking to school, helps them be comfortable with themselves, which is really empowering. Once you’re comfortable in your own skin and you can see differences in other people, it’s not as scary.
What’s your parenting philosophy?
To give my kids a good foundation of responsibility, character, moral values, and discipline. Each [child] has [his] own character, and you really have to find and emphasize what’s good about [him] and help [him] realize what [he's] not so great at as well.
I’m also a fan of providing as much information to my kids as possible. I also allow them to have input, so they have a better understanding of what I’m trying to teach them. Sometimes parents expect little kids to act like a 15-year-old, but they’re not there yet.
What do you wish you had known about becoming a parent?
It’s great to be an at-home mom and be so involved, but I forgot about me during all that time. I always put myself last on the ladder, and there comes a point when you have to think about what you like and what you want, especially when your kids are out of the house. I wish I would’ve taken a bit more time establishing friendships and trying to figure out areas I really wanted to be involved in. Family always comes first, but forgetting about yourself isn’t a healthy thing, either.
What’s it like to be a mom in a family with three boys?
It’s hard to say because I have great boys – they like having their mom around. And they never say, “Oh no, that’s just a boy thing.” With living on a farm, they’re great at incorporating their friends who are girls with what they do and having them go along on hikes. It’s been a riot raising boys. Yes, they have stinky socks and their sports equipment all over the house, but I let them know it’s not just Molly [her daughter] and Mom’s job cleaning the house; they have to do their part too.
Your son, Zachary, is a little person like you, while his twin, Jeremy, is average-sized. What’s been the hardest part of that situation?
Playing soccer. He works very hard to be the best player he can be on that field, because he knows he has to. He knows he has to work hard just to be the minimum or for people to think he can be on the team. It’s frustrating for him when he sees his brother. Sometimes he looks at average people like, “What are you complaining about? Put a little effort into it and you can have the world!” But he has to convince people who automatically assume he can’t do anything, which gets frustrating.
What’s it also like also having average-sized kids (Jeremy, Molly, and Jacob) in the family, as a little person?
My interpretation is that being a little person parent you really have to establish early on that no matter how small I am, I am the mom, the kids still have to listen to me and be a part of the family. Overall, they’ve done quite well, especially being in the limelight like we are. Obviously, I’m not picking up my kids – they’re heavier and taller than me. So you learn to use your voice creatively to show [your kids] affection or be tough, rather than physically.
Do you think people take you less seriously because of your size? And what do you do to combat that?
I ask myself that question a lot! I try to be as real, honest, truthful and heartfelt as I can when people first me so I don’t have to keep re-selling myself and re-justifying what I do. I’m not good at being “salesy.” When people see someone who’s real, it’s refreshing. I just do the best I can. I’ve taken the burden off myself to convince every single person – if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. I’ll just find a different way.
How does being on reality TV affect what goes on in your house?
Of course, it’s going to affect the dynamics and what’s happening in the family, like any other big event. But one area that is affected is discipline. Sometimes when you want to discipline your kid, you think, “I know what I’m doing, but are people going to get it when they watch the show?” But it’s about what’s best for our kids, so if necessary, sometimes I’ll ask to take five. What I need to explain to my kids is more important than what they get on tape.
TV may have also affected my relationship with Matt. We may not take as much time together, but once we realized that, we addressed it. One thing I do worry about the most is friendship. How are the kids going to have friends, and are those kids’ parents going to be okay with them being filmed? My philosophy has been that the TV follows us, we do not follow them, meaning we don’t stop our lives because we have a film crew in our lives.