What is the average number of children per family in the United States? The average number of children has been slowly declining, from 7 in 1800, 3.8 in 1900, 2.3 in 1960, and just below the replacement rate of 1.9 in 2010 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But no matter where you look in history, the average pales in comparison with a remarkable woman who opened her heart to twenty children. Here is the story of Dianne Miller.
With a two-year-old son and another baby on the way, Dianne Miller was a busy wife and mother. Even though her own mother didn’t teach her how to cook, clean, or run a household, Dianne quickly learned the ropes and felt that she had a full and comprehensive life. She worked full time in the office of her local hospital, so organization became her middle name. Life was good. Life was hectic. Life was complete. Or so she thought….
One day at the hospital, a young couple awaited the birth of their newborn baby. They already had a two-year-old son that they couldn’t care for. It was obvious to Dianne that the toddler boy had been tossed aside to many caregivers, as he wasn’t nervous to talk with her at the hospital. The couple didn’t have any supplies for their newborn or the bare necessities for their toddler. They had absolutely nothing. Dianne’s heart broke with compassion for this little boy.
Even though Dianne didn’t know the young couple, she offered to take their little boy home for a couple days so that they could bond with their baby and not worry about their son. She didn’t even ask her husband if she could bring home another child. She just did it. She knew that the little boy needed her, and she was there for him.
The boy’s parents didn’t know Dianne from Adam, yet they agreed to let her take their son home for the weekend. The boy was a model child, and Dianne knew that he needed to go back to a family that couldn’t properly care for him. On Monday morning, she returned the boy to his parents. But not before she had the realization that “I can do this.” Dianne’s heart was forever changed with a limitless love of children.
She became a foster parent and continued to make a difference in the lives of many more children. Dianne gave birth to her own daughter, and yet fostered two siblings for a couple years. She later adopted them into her family.
Dianne decided to open a licensed day care so that she could stay at home with her own children and support her family financially. On any given day, she was responsible fo
r eight to thirteen children, between her own and her customers’ children.
Foster care approached her again with the need for taking care of teenagers. At separate times, she brought three teens into her family and nurtured them through their turbulent periods. They eventually went back to live with their parents. But even these teens became part of Dianne’s heart as she opened her home to them.
During these years, Dianne’s marriage began to unravel and she found herself a single mom with five children. She relied upon her brothers’ help for housing, grew her own food, raised chickens for food and eggs, and treated everyone with fairness and love. Her family became a cohesive unit of worker bees, with each child having a weekly chore. From setting the table, to clearing the table, to washing the dishes, to drying the dishes, each and every person had a job for a week, and the family needed to function together in order to survive.
Eventually, she remarried a man with two children and she became pregnant with their new baby together. Life was good, and they couldn’t wait for their new baby girl’s arrival. They even had a name, Ronda, selected months before her due date. They were one big happy family waiting on their little bundle of joy to arrive.
But life had another twist in store for Dianne. Her husband died unexpectedly of a heart attack seven weeks before her baby girl arrived. She drove herself to the hospital for the delivery and learned to cope with being a widow with five children plus a newborn. Her children all knew that they needed each other to survive. So they worked together to manage the garden and household.
Dianne realized that she had to be the glue to keep the family healthy for the sake of her newborn daughter. She didn’t want to “lose that baby” and was determined to do everything in her power to keep her family happy and healthy. Today, Dianne calls her daughter a “lifesaver,” but I suspect that all her children think of her as their own “lifesaver.”
After being a widow for sixteen years, she married a man with two children of his own. He is a friend from her childhood who remembers her as a little girl. Good things come to those who wait.
Dianne opened her home and heart to twenty biological, step, foster, and adopted children. She proudly claims twenty grandchildren today, with a great grandson now and a great granddaughter on the way. But three of her children do not have children yet. So she is hopeful for even more grandchildren some day.
Ronda, her daughter, called to offer even more insight of her relationship with her mother, who is her best friend. Ronda expanded upon Dianne’s philosophy of always putting others first and her never-ending positive outlook on life. When Ronda ha
s a bad day, she calls her mom who somehow puts a band-aid on the situation. By the end of the call, Ronda doesn’t recall why she was upset in the first place, as Dianne magically puts everything into proper perspective and makes everything okay.
In Ronda’s eyes, her mom is one of the most intelligent and creative people she knows. And when they go out on the town, even outside the Zionsville area, people constantly stop to chat with Dianne. She remembers their names and stories and encourages them along the way!
Today, Dianne works at Marsh Supermarket at Boone Village; and her effervescent smile radiates from behind the cash register. She enjoys drawing and reading in her spare time. She also crochets little “somethings” for her favorite children who come through her line. Her heart full of love has now blossomed beyond her own family and is extended to her customers’ children.
I asked Dianne to share parenting tips for us all. She told me that she took her family to church every Sunday. She also believes that people should connect to their children by reading to them, playing board games, going on bike rides, no TV in the bedrooms, saying bedtime prayers, and loving them unconditionally. Her advice to parents is to stick to your word. If you say “no candy” in the checkout lane, don’t turn around and buy them candy if they throw a tantrum. Be consistent in your parenting.
Dianne continues to keep in touch with her children every day. She is a modern mother with technology. Now instead of tucking them in bed at night, she texts them in bed to say goodnight!