We have five kids.
Three are grown and flown.
Our babies, our twins, are getting ready to enter their last year of college.
Our twins on their birth day.
I was smiling in this picture, but inside I was terrified. I knew how much work one infant could be, and now I was going to have to take care of two plus the two older ones, and I still had a full-time career job!
One of the first things we did was to decide that I would leave my job (and my career as it turned out). This decision did not come easily. In fact, I waited until the absolute last minute to decide and then I had to choke the words out to my boss that I would not be returning – to a job I loved working for a great company with great people.
I spent the next three years agonizing over the loss of my career. A career that I had worked hard to build and where I had spent many years since my twins were born when I was in my late 30s.
That is, I agonized over it in between the many sleepless nights and the endless feedings and non-stop poop patrol.
Having children over a 10-year span meant that just about the time I thought I was done with breast feeding and diapers and potty training, it started all over again.
I remember thinking I would never get them off the breast and out of diapers and all of them into school.
I remember wondering if I would ever be able to go to the bathroom alone again or take a shower without a kid watching me or get a full night of sleep. Or have uninterrupted sex with my husband again.
Yes, I went there.
These are vivid memories even as my youngest two turn twenty-two.
Having babies, though, is only the beginning of the journey. There are many times, as kids grow up, that you long for the simpler days of non-stop feedings, burpings, and diaper changes.
The challenges of parenting don’t go away once you leave the baby and toddler years – they just become different.
You have to learn to navigate kids going to school, friends and bullies, homework, extracurricular activities, sex and drug education, learning to drive, dating, snarky teenagers, high school jobs, college visits and applications.
Parenting challenges never seem to end. They just evolve into newer, different, and potentially more life changing challenges.
Oh, and sleepless nights return once you have teenagers. Teenagers have a way, similar to babies, of putting a damper on your love life, too.
Yes, I went there AGAIN.
Just about the time our lives started calming down, we added a fifth child to our family. Our niece came to live with us permanently when she was 13. She came to us through the Division of Family Services because her birth parents were not taking proper care of her.
Our family dynamics changed dramatically as we shifted bedrooms and our lives to accommodate another smart and beautiful young girl into our home. She fit neatly, chronologically, in between daughter #1 and daughter #2. In many ways, the transition was smooth. The most difficult part of this journey was dealing with the shenanigans of birth dad and step mom who did everything in their power to sabotage her success and happiness (but that is a story for another day).
So, we ended up with five kids.
Our five girls in 2010.
It is true that good kids can come from bad families and bad kids can come from good families. We have plenty of evidence of that in our extended families.
We have five really good kids. We are truly blessed that they love us and each other. We have a good family.
We have worked hard to provide our five girls the best possible chance for success. It has not come without a little luck, but it has come mostly through a lot of hard work on everyone’s part.
Each of our girls left high school and college with a good education, a strong work ethic, and a lot of family support. They have all entered adulthood with good jobs and good futures ahead of them.
So, we are in the final stretch. As our babies enter their last year of college, we can rest more easily because they have already secured their futures after graduation.
One of our babies has already received a job offer from a company that she loves doing work that she enjoys! The other one is working on graduate school applications and has the support, advice, and encouragement of some really awesome college professors.
Our babies move into college three years ago.
We are almost done with paying college tuition. One of the last piles of going back to school food and supplies for the girls is sitting in our living room waiting to be loaded into cars.
We have gone through fifteen straight years of high school and about the same number of years of college. Wow.
That’s a lot of sleepless nights, diapers, school supply lists, backpacks, shoes, back to school nights, school conferences, orthodontia, piano lessons, homecoming and prom dresses, fender benders, high school plays, track meets, band concerts, boyfriends, laughter and tears, and graduations.
As we look toward a totally empty nest, we are starting to set new goals for just the two of us. Travel, hobbies, retirement (maybe some weddings and grandchildren), and, yes, even romance.
Because we didn’t make it this far without a lot of love.