After raising eight children (one biological and seven adopted) to adulthood, and fostering over 20 more, I met my wonderful husband Mark. Not only did Mark embrace all of my children, but he also shared in my desire to parent even more. Mark and I would later adopt three more children through private agencies and welcome two more biological children as well.
As you can imagine, we often get questions asking why we would take on so many children and our answer is always the same, “Why not?” We have plenty of room in our home and lots of love in our hearts to raise more children, so why wouldn’t we. Being parents is the most important thing to us, regardless of how our children come to be part of our family. We have the same joys and trials as many typical families do.
Considering that two of our younger children have special needs, another question I am sometimes asked is “how” we do it. And, that too, is pretty simple. Our aim is to raise our children to the best of our ability and for them to do the best they can with the capabilities they possess. We prefer to say capabilities rather than disabilities. Each child is uniquely wired, so raising them “the same but differently” is a must. I know that sounds confusing but it means treating them equally yet managing their needs differently. As in any family, what works for one child may not work for another, and we recognize this. Some of our children have been easy going and strive to succeed. Others test us every minute of the day and seem to want to learn the hard way or no way at all! Of course adopting children that have been in foster care is sometimes more challenging because they come with extra struggles. And although the teen years have proven to be especially challenging, we know that they all grow too quickly and there is light at the end of every tunnel.
Another way we manage, is by making the commitment for me to be home with our children. By having a stay at home mother, we avoid the added strain and financial burden of finding good childcare. Mark’s work schedule allows him to be home from work each day at about 11:30 am and he is always willing and able to lend a hand, whether at lunchtime, or other times throughout the day. His schedule also provides the flexibility needed to attend doctor visits and any special appointments that our children with special needs may have.
We have learned many things through the years as our family has grown. One thing we do to make life easier is to PLAN AHEAD. For instance getting out necessary items such as clothing, lunches, school supplies and whatever else might be needed for the next day. That definitely reduces time (and stress) when morning arrives. Each evening, when everyone is settled down, I also get out diapers and make any bottles that may be needed during the night. Although planning ahead is essential, it’s equally important to be prepared for sudden changes along the way!
Since we have two children with special needs, we are actively involved with Early Intervention Services. Every weekday there are service providers that come into our home at different times to provide therapy sessions. It has been a great help to us as we learn new ways to teach our children. During these times, if they are working with one of our little ones, I spend special time with the other child. Also when one is napping, or involved in another activity, I take that time to play with the other child.
Our two school-aged children currently attend a private Christian school. We home schooled our children for 7 years, which we really enjoyed. During that time we were able to devote special times to each of them doing things they enjoyed. They were involved in church groups, piano lessons, 4-H, scout groups, summer soccer, etc. When we were preparing to adopt our son we knew he was going to need open-heart surgery, so we decided to enroll our older children in school to allow us time to prepare for his arrival. This allowed us extra time with the younger ones and gave the older children time to adjust and have a new schooling experience and it seems to be a really good fit for everyone.
The older children have responsibilities around the house, such as taking care of the many pets we have, drying dishes and doing extra things when needed. We have always believed that if you choose to have a large family, it is the parents’ responsibility to be in charge of the children and most of the household work. We do believe that the children should be taught some responsibilities as they grow and mature. However, they should be allowed to be children, as they grow up so fast already.
We have a large, six bedroom home with ample space and a lot of land. We have a play yard, pool, trampoline and playhouse so there is never a shortage of things to do. We also have gardens in
which we grow a lot of our own food for home processing. This provides for some wonderful family times and greatly reduces our food bill. We also raise livestock that provide us with meat that is healthier than store bought products. Being as self-sufficient as we can, helps afford us the ability to provide for such a growing family.
We have also learned to make time for ourselves and make sure to get sitters occasionally so that we can fit in date nights whenever possible. Our families are a great support to us when we need it. They have helped during times when our children required hospitalizations. Our church has also been a blessing during those times by supplying meals for us, and helping in other ways. We are very active in our church activities and believe it has been a good foundation for our children.
When asked to share our experience of being part of a large family, I was delighted. What was more difficult for me was when asked about overcoming some the challenges. For us, having a large family is not a challenge. It is our calling and we feel fully equipped for the task. We know that every child in our family was given to us for a reason. If we had given up early on, we would not have our children. Adoption is real love in action, and is a way of life for us. And although parenting comes natural to us, adopting can be likened to running a race. In order to reach the finish line you must run the course, no matter how long it takes. And as you might imagine, we don’t feel we have quite reached that finish line yet!
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