It is a job more challenging and interesting than most. 

Living near Sauk Centre, Lee and Pam Wolbeck are parents to five boys: Zach, 25, Mitchell, 21, and Adam, Evan and Ryan, triplets at 16. With Mother’s Day coming up, Pam is grateful for her family and the blessing of healthy children.

“To me, it’s really not about a Mother’s Day tribute when I think of what raising children requires, because it’s just as much Lee as it is me,” Pam said. “I’ve tried to instill in them that your family is really important. Whether you get along with your brother or not, that brother may annoy you, but at the end of the day, he’s still your brother and we’re still a family.” 

After Zach and Mitchell were born, Pam and Lee were told they were having twins with their third pregnancy. Pam went into labor at nearly 29 weeks, and it was at the hospital in St. Cloud where she found out there was one more.

“They did an ultrasound there and found a triplet,” Pam said. “We had no idea we were having triplets. We were of course absolutely shocked, and we were really scared because they were not due for another 11.5 weeks.”

Pam was taken to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis where the triplets were born. The premature babies stayed nearly two months before going to the St. Cloud hospital for another couple of weeks. Pam visited them every day after seeing Zach and Mitchell off to school, and Lee was also able to go with her on weekends.

Finally, on Mother’s Day weekend 16 years ago, they were able to bring their babies home, making it a household of five boys.

“We were not sure if the surprise baby was a boy or girl. I was happy that it was another boy because I wasn’t really sure what we would do with one girl,” Pam said. “We already had boy things at our house and were used to raising boys.”

Lee and Pam are both grateful that, even though the premature births could have resulted in life-changing disabilities, they have five healthy sons. However, having five active boys is a challenge unto itself. The dinner table needed to grow to accommodate three more chairs at once, a larger living room and more bedrooms were added to their home and the family had to trade in a Chevy Impala for a minivan, a vehicle Pam had been hoping she would never have to drive. 

“Being a mom of five boys is not easy,” Pam said. “I guess I’ve just become a boy mom. I wouldn’t know any different. There are a lot of things you just do not do with five boys, such as shopping for clothes. You don’t have a lot of fluff in your life. You have a whole lot of very dirty laundry and have to cook for hours making a lot of food that is gone in a matter of minutes. It can be really tiring, but it’s very rewarding, too, and now I’m getting girls, too, as both Zach and Mitchell have wonderful girlfriends who are both so good to me.”

The boys notice their mom’s work ethic, helping when they can and learning from her and the way she cares for others.

“She’s hardworking, teaching us that you’ve got to work hard for things in life,” Mitchell said. “She’s always cleaning and doing laundry until who knows how late at night. We can ask her about anything; if we have something hard in life we need advice on, her and dad are both good about that.”

The parents also teach their boys how to have fun. Lee enjoys fishing with Zach and Adam, and Pam always has a good time camping and spending time at the beach with the family, keeping up the trips as the family expanded.

“We went from a tent to a small travel trailer, and next we bought a motorhome when Mitch was born,” Zach said. “When the triplets came around, the campers got a lot bigger; we had to find one with triple bunks in it.”

Pam also likes snowmobiling, playing cards, bonfires, baking and other activities that include time with Lee and their family. She and Lee are their sons’ biggest fans in sports as they always attend their events from football and baseball to trapshooting, robotics and demolition derbies. Pam’s least favorite family activity is trying to get five boys together for a Christmas photo.

Adam and Evan might be identical, and have similar personalities, but each of the five boys are unique individuals in Pam’s eyes. Zach and Evan are similar in personality, both laid back and outgoing with people. Mitchell and Ryan are early to bed and early to rise, always busy doing something outside or in the shop. Adam and Evan are more interested in sports and hanging out with friends, while Zach and Adam love to go fishing. Zach, Mitchell and Ryan are very mechanical. Evan is light-hearted and compassionate.

Pam said the boys joke about her having favorites, but she really doesn’t and tries to treat them all the same. If the boys are asked who they think would be mom’s favorite, the majority vote is usually Ryan.

“I listen to her half the time,” Ryan said.

Sometimes, not listening can be hard on the house. With five active sons, the walls and furniture can take a beating.

“We played hockey in the garage, and I checked Evan into the wall and put a big hole in there,” Adam said. “Mom said, ‘You guys are paying for it, and you guys are doing the labor.’ She taught us not to do it again, but we did.”

Holes in the wall were not uncommon as the boys grew up.

“I’ve patched holes in sheetrock,” Lee said. “Another time, Evan threw a battery at Adam; he ducked and it broke a window.”

The boys’ version of the story is different – with a bat instead of a battery. While playing baseball in the living room, Evan’s grip slipped on the bat and it went through the window.

“I picked up the glass and told Mom I threw a battery at Adam,” said Evan, who paid for the replacement window and has since squared away the real story with his parents.

While there may be brotherly fights and broken objects, the family pulls together to support each other when things get tough, such as when Pam’s mother was ill and passed away from brain cancer over three years ago. Whenever there is a situation, the boys always start by calling their mom.

“When you see how they handle challenging situations, then you know you’ve done a good job,” Pam said. “As a parent, your reward is when you see how they stick behind you or each other and are willing to help others. We’ve tried to instill that importance of family in them as well as practicing their faith. I’m sure if asked, they will say Mom is strict about going to Mass.” 

With her sons growing up, Pam often finds parenting to be less physically challenging and more mentally challenging. Zach has his own home not far from his parents, Mitchell will be moving out to his own home soon and the triplets all received their driver’s licenses in March. As their mother, Pam prays for their safety but is also proud to see them growing up, going to school and getting jobs they like. Lee and Pam have tried hard to be examples of good values, making good choices and teaching the value of working for what you want.

The boys hope their mother will be able to relax more in the future, although they always see her thinking of herself last.

“She’s always caring about others before herself, and if she wasn’t doing well, she’d still care about others,” Evan said.

Pam is grateful for the men her sons have become, but, as Mother’s Day approaches, she acknowledges the team effort there was between her, her husband, the family and community.

“It’s not easy to raise children in this crazy world, but our parents instilled good values and the importance of faith and family in us, so we have tried to pass this down to our children,” Pam said. “We have a lot of fun years ahead of us as they all find their paths in life. Being there for my children and being part of their lives is the greatest reward for me as their mom.”