It’s family first for this First Family of South Dakota. The pitter-patter of their grandchildren’s tiny feet resounds monthly in the halls of the Governor’s Mansion. The First Lady talks of hide-and-seek games and storytime in their home in Pierre, South Dakota. For the Daugaard’s there is no other way of life.
The First Lady and Governor Dennis Daugaard have three children: Laura, married to Jay Mitchell and granddaughter Stella; Sara, married to Tony Venhuizen and grandson, Henry; and Christopher, married to Emily. The Daugaards strive to make family a priority–from Stella’s Dr. Seuss themed birthday party with extended family, to Henry’s participation in dinners at the Governor’s Mansion–they are doing just that.
Linda laughs as she shares, “Henry has become the source of entertainment for important dinner guests and Legislative Pages when he visits. He recently learned the word, ‘tie,’ and the officials light up when he points out every necktie he sees at Grandpa’s meetings.”
Elected to the office of Grandparent
Linda’s fond memory of time spent with her grandmother Mary and eating ‘the worlds best sugar cookies’ is the foundation for her own understanding of what it means to be a grandparent. During these times at her Grandma’s house she developed a love for family and tradition. Linda and Dennis work hard to keep these standards with their own children and grandchildren; going all-out for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. Linda makes sure there are kid-friendly areas in the mansion with bookshelves and toy boxes, she remarks, “we want the grand kids to always feel loved and welcome in Grandma and Grandpa Daugaard’s home.”
The First Lady’s Causes
Growing up, Linda was the third of twelve children. She went on to become a teacher, basketball coach, and a librarian before becoming First Lady in 2011. Her passion for family and education was developed at a young age and continues to follow her today.
Linda’s experience as a mother, teacher, coach, and a librarian has guided her priorities as the First Lady. She believes that helping children get excited about reading promotes success in their education over all. To aid in promoting literacy, Linda has set a goal of visiting and hosting storytime for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classrooms in every elementary school in the state of South Dakota. As of March 2014 she has visited 242 out of more than 460 elementary schools statewide.
The First Lady is passionate about giving children a safe and loving environment to grow up in, as well as a great education and her initiatives reflect this. In addition to promoting literacy, Linda’s other initiatives include FosterOne, Reducing Infant Mortality, promoting STEM Education, and hosting South Dakotans for tours of the Governor’s Mansion.
Being a mother and grandmother brings life to Linda. She lights up when she talks about her grandchildren. For her, being there as they grow is important. She offers the following advice to grandparents:
Listen to the needs of your children, and gauge how involved they would like you to be with your grandchildren. Be sensitive to their needs, and always be willing to lend a helping hand. If they are new parents, check-in regularly to offer support and a chance to rest, as they require it.
Make your grandchildren a priority by scheduling and keeping play-dates with them. They will never forget the memories you create together and the special moments you share. “You don’t need to buy their love,” says Linda “your time is by far your most valuable asset.”
Offer to Babysit-
Every parent, whether they are brand new, foster, adoptive, or seasoned parents needs a break from time to time. Linda remarks, “It is a gift to offer respite to your grown children. You can rest knowing that all groups will benefit greatly.”
Stay in Shape-
In order to keep up with active grandchildren, be active yourself. She suggests,“go for walks and keep active so that you will have energy to keep up with your little ones for years to come.”
The First Lady’s final sentiment is, “the children in your life don’t need expensive gifts and material things, they need you.”