Raising Richmond: Q & A with Maggi Tinsley

In the first installment of a new series here on Raising Richmond, we hear from Maggi Tinsley, marketing coordinator at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond and sole parent to two beautiful girls adopted from Hunan Province in the People’s Republic of China.

Editor’s note: Don’t worry, you’re in the right place. While we typically use Raising Richmond as a place to discuss parenting topics/issues/concerns, we’ve decided to add another facet (if you will) to our child-rearing exploration by introducing you to some of RVA’s most interesting parents. We hope their stories inspire you to share yours.

Maggi Tinsley, the true blue North Carolina native and Duke grad, found herself in good old RVA where she got her MFA in poetry at VCU. After stints at the Valentine Richmond History Center and the Virginia Center for Architecture, Maggi now serves as the Marketing and PR queen at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. Maggi jumped into creating her family in 2002 and again in 2006 when she adopted her two daughters from Hunan Province in the People’s Republic of China. When she isn’t on an adventure with her girls, you can find her gathering women textile artists for her infamous Stitch & Bitch meeting every month.

Did you always think or know you would be a parent or did your own journey surprise you?

I didn’t always know I would be a parent. I didn’t play with dolls much, nor did I love babysitting. As a teen I was influenced by the Zero Population Growth movement and thought I shouldn’t have kids. I’ve mostly been un-partnered, so the choice was mine alone. When my 40th birthday approached, I realized I didn’t want to miss out on motherhood, so I started exploring my options.

What do you miss about pre-kid days?

Because I enjoyed my pre-kid days fully — traveling at the drop of a hat, staying up late reading or writing, seeing every movie in the theater — I don’t miss much. I had two decades for me, so I’m ready to give my girls their turn. I have a weekly sitter, so I still get to movies and concerts, if not so many readings and openings. I miss a regular exercise routine, which is hard to maintain as a solo parent.

What is your favorite age/stage and why?

I love five, with its joy of discovery and the inching toward independence that I see again in my younger daughter now.

What one thing surprised you about parenting? or your kid/kids?

My reserves of patience surprised me. I wasn’t particularly impatient before kids, but I can really wait things out now — meals, tantrums, “me-do-it” moments, elaborate tales. Taking up knitting may have helped.

What do you love most about being a parent?

I love sharing my girls’ pride in accomplishment, seeing them choose kindness, getting their hugs and kisses. Especially the hugs and kisses.

How has parenting changed you?

In addition to expanding my patience, parenting has reorganized my priorities; my kids come before my career, volunteer commitments, even some friends. Parenting also wears me out! But while I currently lack the intellectual energy that I used to apply to my writing, I still have an outlet for my creativity in my fibery pursuits.

What is your most favorite thing to do with your kid/kids?

I love to make things with them: cookies, table forts, snow angels, fairy houses, necklaces. An art project begun together can engross me for hours to the point that I neglect to notice they’ve wandered off. I also love wandering outdoors, in our neighborhood or farther afield.

How do you get out of the occasional parenting funk?

First, I breathe. Then I go find the be-ribboned binder ring of customized, handwritten “parenting blessings” a supermama left on my doorstep one difficult day. If I need a break, my wonderful brother is usually willing to make an impromptu visit from across the river.

Give us one good parenting confession. We know you have at least one!

Once I was so angry that I left the house, slammed the door, got in the car and drove away. We all had a tearful reunion when I returned five minutes later from my trip around the block.

What is your parenting superpower?

My parenting superpower comes via those eyes in the back of my head. So far the extra pair has kept my girls from trying anything sneaky.

Do you think you grew up differently than your kids are or is it pretty much the same?

First, the differences are obvious: I had two parents to whom I was biologically connected from the moment I was conceived, while my daughters only know this mother they’ve had from the ages of 12 and 19 months. The world has changed hugely since my childhood of free-ranging the neighborhood until dinnertime and coming home to the offerings of  three TV networks. But important things are the same: our home is filled with love, we try to treat each other with kindness, we watch ACC basketball and we read the New York Times on Sunday. None of us had much time with grandparents, but we are blessed with the fruits of their success.

Did you turn into your parents?

[As] much as I loved my late parents, I can’t turn into them. My mother was generationally even more than her 35 years older than me — baby of her family, relatively sheltered until marriage. Never married, I’ve built a career and had a breadth and depth of experiences she did not, including adopting my children. But I think of my parents all the time, and hope I am a parent of whom they would be proud, even as I do it my own way.

What do you want your kids to know or say about you when you are old and gray?

I want them to know AND say that I loved, guided and encouraged them, that I listened AND heard them, and that I believed in them. I hope that they treat others with kindness and become their own true selves. And I hope I’m around to see them blossom!

Know of a Richmond mom or dad we should interview? Should we talk to YOU? Send us an email and let us know.

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Patience Salgado

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