UPDATED: On Accidentally Having 5 Kids and an Open Call for Joy

Sometimes I get letters from readers. On Tuesday, I got one from Evan. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It moved me, Bob. And so I’m sharing it here with his permission because I like laughing and crying better when we do it together. And because Evan asks an important question at the end, one I thought our community can answer way, way better than I can answer alone.

(Also, his name’s not really Evan. I changed it and other minor details to protect his kids’ story. Otherwise, this letter’s all his. Read on…)

……….

Hiya Beth-

I’m guessing one of the biggest problems being a writer who “puts herself out there,” as you do, is the fact that you get e-mails from people who assume that they know you… or can go to you for advice… or want you to go above-and-beyond what you provide with your blog and request personal inspiration… or whatever.  How annoying that must be!

(It’s not annoying. I love getting letters. I occasionally suck at answering them, though, and I admit I sometimes shove my inbox under my bed, swear to my dad that my room’s clean, and hope desperately I don’t get found out. I’m working on it; pinky swear.)

So, Hi.  I’m here to ask for your advice.  Oh, and to request personal inspiration.

I’m Evan.  I’m a foster parent.  My partner and I got ‘the call’  last year. A baby needed a two-day placement. I figured, “Heck, I can skip the gym for two days and care for a baby.”

That was 401 days ago.

As we settled in to be parents of our little guy, we also learned he had four half-siblings placed in other foster homes.  Our caseworker mentioned it’d be great to have them all in the same home.  We said, “That would be great… but no.”

Then I met them.

Our caseworker reminded us that it’d be great to have them all in the same home.  We said, “Okay… let’s do this.”  After all, we thought, we’re both teachers.  We’re organized.  We’re patient.  If anyone can do this for these kids, it’s us.

So now we’re a family of seven.

At this point in the e-mail, things are about to turn, so I want to clarify by saying this:  We consider ourselves very lucky to have these kids in our lives.  But… well…

We’re still sorta organized.  And I’m a little less patient than I thought I was.  And I do try to remind myself that we’ve done something good for these kids.  Yet, it’s not always easy.  Sometimes I just need to hear from someone who ‘gets it.’

Now these awesome kids are free to be adopted.  And They. Are. Awesome.  My doubts and fears do NOT come from the fact that one kid makes me repeat directions 1,000 times before complying.  Or that another likes candy so much he steals it from daycare and eats it in the bathroom.

My doubts and fears come from the fact that… you know… being a parent is hard.  And the learning curve in which we find ourselves is pretty steep since we didn’t get to grow up with some of our little ones.  And that some of our little ones are relatively big.  And those bigs already have, like, personalities and stuff.  And some of those personality traits are… umm… not always awesome.

We will soon begin the process to adopt them.  And as excited as I am, I am also a little nervous.  I worry that I won’t be able to give them all the time and attention they need.  I worry that I sometimes feel like we’re running a breakfast-eating, getting-dressed, do-your-homework factory rather than a family.

And I don’t want to let the worry consume me to the point where I can’t see the joy.  

And, so I reach out to you.  Mostly, I want to thank you for your blog but I also feel like I need someone to get past the “what you’re doing for these kids is great” and get into the parts where I hear some of the joys of having five kids from someone who has five kids.

So… what can you tell me?  Besides what you’ve told me in your blog posts?  Anything?

If you can pacify me with a “Five times the sparklers on the Fourth of July!” comment… or something more… I would appreciate it.

If not, I get it.

And, if nothing else, thanks for just letting me send my thoughts ‘out there.’  (It’s very freeing)

Evan

……….

Parents Everywhere, did this part slay you?

I worry that I sometimes feel like we’re running a breakfast-eating, getting-dressed, do-your-homework factory rather than a family.

And I don’t want to let the worry consume me to the point where I can’t see the joy.  

It pierced me right in the heart. Killed me dead. Because this? Is Parenting, friends.

I fired off a quick response Tuesday night.

……….

Evan!

a) Your email was rad. I’ll respond at length later but I only have my phone with me right now which makes for a lot of PBS finger typing. (See? That was supposed to read “one finger typing.” I think I’ve made my case.)

b) You & your partner are rad. I know, I know – we’re supposed to be all “we’re not heroes” and “oh, the kids aren’t the lucky ones; we’re the lucky ones!” But can’t we just acknowledge? We’re ALL the lucky ones — us AND the kids — and hot damn we’re rad for standing up for these kids! Yes? Yes. Go, us!

c) Thank you for asking Opinionated Me for advice & inspiration. I have two teenagers, so I’ll take all the People Who Think I Know Something I can get.

d) Dude. Sparklers with 5 kids sucks. That’s 5x the sticks of potentially raging inferno or eye loss. There’s a lot I like about having 5 kids. Giant batches of cookies, for example. Excuses to never have a clean house. But sparklers aren’t one of them.

K. My PBS fonger is all worn out. (Fonger? Seriously, Spell Check? That’s not one you’re going to catch? I love you, SC, but I DO NOT GET YOU.) More soon. Give my live to your partner, too. Or my love. Either way.

Beth

Sent from my iPhone

……….

You guys, once upon a time, Greg and I accidentally had 5 kids. I mean, we can be held intentionally responsible for 3 out of the 5, but the other two crash landed in our crop field before we really knew what was happening, and it’s been a wild, wild ride and trampled corn ever since.

Now Evan and his family are joining the magic and the chaos, which is what happens sometimes when you let Love run roughshod over your Plans, and I’d sure love to gift their family with JOY.

Would you join me, friends? Whether you have 1 or 100 children, would you share just one thing about this crazy kid-life that brings you joy?

……….

UPDATE: Thank you and thank you and thank you for showing up in a big way for Not Evan, folks. You made a difference to a dad in need. A big difference. Over the last few years, I’ve come to truly, deeply trust your hearts, and it was my utter privilege to get to share you with Not Evan. He wrote a letter I’ll share with you below, but I wanted you to hear my gratitude, too. Thank you for making this place awesome. I am so proud of our Village.

Hiya Beth…
 
As much as I appreciate your blog for many, many reasons, I most-recently appreciate you using your powers for good and helping me in my moment of need.  Your village assured me, lifted my spirits, gave me hope, and helped me see myself and my family more clearly.  I owe your readers a ton.  I owe them for getting me through some bummer-thoughts I had a few days ago… and their words will give me a boost for the bummer-thoughts that lay ahead. 
 
I know the saying is ‘Joy cometh in the morning…’ but too many of my mornings seem to include the deep breathing and mental preparations of a marathon runner about to hear the starting gun.  There are kids to wake up and dishes to set and dishwashers to empty and food to prepare (i.e. pouring cereal) and work-stuff to gather and reminders shouted throughout the house… and, you know, all the other family/factory things that need to get done. Yet, amidst all the chaos, morning was also the time when I was able to steal a few moments to check-in with your blog.  The posting of my letter allowed me to gobble up everything that your readers could share.  Each person’s comment gave me a little of what I need. 
 
Life has not gotten easier.  My 8-year-old still needs directions repeated.  And just when candy-stealing has ceased, sister-insulting has increased.  There is and will always be something.  And that’s normal.  That’s the day-to-day. That’s parenting.  And that’s where you and your readers remind me to find the joy.  And, I promise, I’ll do my best.
 
Thank you.

Not Evan

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
68 comments
  1. […] from Emma, except Emma isn’t her real name, so we’ll call her Not Emma, instead, like we tend to do around here. When Not Emma wrote, this is what she […]

  2. Wow! That is an amazing thing to do. Not only is it amazing that you ARE doing it, which it is, but amazing that you CAN do it, that you have the opportunity and the resources to give these 5 kids, who have probably had tough lives so far, a loving caring home TOGETHER, where they can grow together as siblings and as a family, to give them loving caring PARENTS who can and will be there for them when they need the support, who will know their individual personalities and TRY to do their best for them. Looking back at our own parents we can all find things that were not absolutely perfect, but we also know that we forgive them for any little mistakes, and LOVE and need them no matter what – to be given the chance to become the base for these kids to grow and flourish on is surely a blessing, and although it WILL be hard and very tiring at times, those little moments of joy will show themselves without too much effort on your part, just keep an eye out for them – the cuddles, smiles, laughter, stories, happy times together, and peaceful moments when they are all asleep – enjoy them, and love those kids. Soon they will grow… <3

  3. Seriously, reading your blog at 1 in the morning, (while folding my 9th load of laundry tonight because my mother in law is comming over the morning), makes me feel sane again, and know that i am not alone.

    -Nicole
    mother to 3 under the age of 4

  4. My 5 yr old tapped on the bathroom door today, no more than 5 seconds after I finally got in there this morning. To avoid an outburst (his or mine), I cracked open the door to see what he wanted. He said “I just wanted to tell you I love you, Mommy.” Now that makes all this parenting stuff worth it. What a way to start my day! I have two older girls, 14 & 11, they’re complete opposites, one can be outrageously mean with tantrums and yet is my most snuggly, sweet child when she wants. and the teenager acts like she doesn’t need me, until she really does, and that, again, makes it all worth it. You are both (“Evan” and blogger) courageous to take on the great task of loving these children forever!

  5. Oh Evan! A friend of mine sent me an email with a link to this blog post. Why would she want me to read it? Because I have a similar situation to yours. My husband and I have five biological children. A couple of years ago, we met a really great ten year old boy who was living in a foster home in our neighborhood. I found myself in complete adoration for this boy and so concerned about his future. We considered bringing him into our home, and THEN found out he had two siblings. And of course, they wanted to keep them together. Long story….short….we now have eight children. We adopted them a year ago. This journey has most definitely come with it’s struggles. It is by far the hardest thing we have ever done. I SO understand what you said about finding out that you are a little less patient than you thought you were. I am A LOT less patient than I once thought I was. We (my husband and I) continually struggle in my effort to give them all the time and attention that they need. We were not used to dealing with long lasting tantrums and food hoarding issues and ultimately…”personality traits that are not always awesome”. We consistently wonder if we are nurturing and teaching them in the best ways. It is tough! Having said that….I can assure you, that although it has been the hardest thing we have ever done, it has also been the most wonderful, rewarding thing we have done. We see miracles, daily in our home. We are definitely making progress, more and more as time goes by. And with each tiny bit of progress, we feel more and more joy in our home and in our lives. It IS wonderful, what you are doing. So very challenging, but so incredible. How fantastic it is to be part of it all. Hang in there. I promise, more and more happiness is headed your direction!

  6. I have to say if you are accomplishing “a breakfast-eating, getting-dressed, do-your-homework factory” all in one day you are way ahead of me on any given day. I have 6 children (2 sets of twins) and usually I can only accomplish one or two of those things in a day. LOL!!! I think the biggest thing I have learned (and Beth constantly reminds me through her blog) is “ITS OK!” No matter what it is you “THINK” you need to do… laundry…dishes…clothing kids… etc. As long as your kids are loved, happy, and healthy. Nothing else matters….REALLY! When my older kids were little there were several times they slept in their clothes from day, went without underwear until I could clean some, ate left over dinner for breakfast, etc because that is all I could muster up those days… But my kids don’t remember any of that. They remember books being read, bike rides, wrestling on the floor, hugs and kisses and most of all LOVE!!! To make it through each day… Don’t worry about the small stuff and if it isn’t about LOVING those kids then it is all small stuff. Congratulations to you and your partner. May god bless you ten fold on what you give those kids.!!!

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