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May 13, 2012

Love is an amazing thing

DUNCAN — For most, being a mother means more than having a child; it means being responsible for the challenge of raising another person.

The amount of love required to deal with 3 a.m. feedings, toddler tantrums, teenage dramas and finally having to let go when a child comes of age is immense, especially if that child has come to the family from another.

All of this is all too well-known to Edie Stewart.

She and her husband Kevin have four children: Andy and Anthony, both 18; Abbie, 15; and A.J. 13. While Andy, Abbie and A.J. are theirs from birth, Anthony Shircliff came into the family April 2008 when he and Andy were in eighth grade.

“His home care left him needing a place and (Kevin and I) both liked him,” said Stewart. “We felt like it was the right thing to do because we had the room and the means.”

All of the Stewart children felt the same way and believed that it must have been meant to be because they all have the same initials. Although Stewart admits that there have been challenges, it has been a wonderful experience and Anthony is just as bit her child as the other three.

All the children are active in several activities and are good students, as well as good citizens. This can be credited to the parenting strategies that Kevin and Edie have instituted.

Since the birth of Andy, Stewart said she has been blessed to be able to stay home with her children and not work. While she has a college degree and worked before having children, staying home was part of the parenting plan she and her husband worked for before starting their family. She volunteers at the schools and is involved with several church committees when not caring for her children.

“It’s crazy to me that I’ve never had to work because God has always provided for us,” she said. “I wanted to be home to teach and play with the children. I do not take that for granted.”

Stewart said being a mom is the best job in the world and is also the greatest challenge. It has made her aware of her responsibility for her kids and has made her want to make a teaching experience out of every opportunity.

“I can’t think of another experience that has made me grow more and search my heart,” she said. “It is the most fun thing you could ever do.”

Despite the fact that her children joke that their parents should be on the show “World’s Strictest Parents,” she has a close relationship with them all. One of her parenting philosophies is that children need boundaries that can only be lifted once the children are ready.

“They aren’t able to set boundaries for themselves and I try to be honest with them,” she said. “It’s not easy, but I’m a mom first, and I’ve never been afraid to say ‘no’ or to discipline.”

While she isn’t afraid to say “no” to her kids, Stewart said she tries to not make that her first response. She likes to discuss the situation with the child before making a decision in order to determine if they are ready for what they are asking.

Church also plays a big part in the way their family is run. Since Andy was in first grade, Stewart has been a part of a mom’s prayer group that meets once a week, which she said has made a big impact on her as a mom. They are all deeply involved with activities at Immanuel Baptist Church.

She likes to give her children thoughts to hold on to such as “be kind,” “always say please, thank you and I’m sorry,” and “God made you to be special, so be somebody special.” While she gives them things to hold on to, Stewart is constantly packing away memories for herself to keep.

With the upcoming graduations of her “big boys,” these memories are becoming more precious each day. In the fall, Andy will be going to the University of Oklahoma, while Anthony will head off to Southwestern Oklahoma University. While it is going to be hard to watch them go, she knows it’s something they’re ready for.

“On the campus visits, I could see how excited they were and ready to jump in and I hadn’t expected to feel that they were ready. I’m going to miss them but I’m excited to see what they will do,” she said. “Next week is going to be so busy but I want to enjoy the memories and keep these precious memories together.”

Being a mom to her four children has made Edie realize that a mother’s heart isn’t just a small shape, but a neverending well of love where it grows deeper.

“I don’t think about sacrifices I’ve made as sacrifices and that’s because of love,” she said. “Love is an amazing thing.”

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