I don’t know if we’d be able to function as a family without a ton of help.
That’s not an easy thing for me to admit. I’ve always been one of those independent, self-sufficient types who figure they can handle anything on their own. But over the past year I’ve come to realize just how much we rely on our friends and family to help us on this crazy adventure of raising four pre-schoolers at once. And how incredibly lucky we are to have such a terrific community on our side.
Frankly, I don’t know how anyone does it on their own. I feel for single parents who don’t have much support around them, because I can think of no more difficult task than trying to raise a family by yourself. Parenting is exhausting! It’s also rewarding, and fulfilling, and sometimes downright hilarious, but it’s hard. I’ve worked way harder being mostly a full-time dad these past 15 months than I ever have in any office – and that’s with two of us at home.
Luckily, we’re surrounded by great people who pray for us and laugh with us and give us a break so we can go on dates, or have naps. For starters, Shawna and I each have supportive families. My parents live five minutes away, and they might be the world’s greatest grandparents.
If you gathered a focus group of children and asked them to design the ideal grandmother, they’d come up with my mom. She’d much rather hang out with kids than adults, and she loves nothing more than taking the boys on adventures. Of course, I get cranky with her sometimes for bringing them home tired and wired and so high on sugar that they’re practically vibrating. But they have so much fun when they’re with her.
Then there’s our church, which is full of the most generous and loving people I’ve ever met. I could name a dozen families off the top of my head whom we could call up at a moment’s notice and ask if they’d look after a few of our kids, and they’d gladly say yes. There’s a single woman with no kids of her own who comes over every Friday to play, and she always brings craft supplies for Oscar. There are a few families with older boys who build Lego and have light-sabre fights with Xander and make him feel like one of the gang.
And there are so many others who support us in so many ways. Two or three times during the adoption process it looked like the whole thing was going to fall through, and when we got sad and discouraged people would come together and encourage us. They’ve been with us every step of the way, from bringing our little girl home to seeing her hear for the first time this week.
We’re only going to rely more on our community as I start a new job next week and Shawna has to navigate looking after all four kids on her own, plus getting Maliah to various appointments. But really, we’ll always need help. It will look different as our kids get older, less like babysitting and more just being there for them. I was a youth leader for many years, and I know how important it is for teens to have adults besides their parents whom they can talk to or vent at or hang out with sometimes. I’m so glad my kids already know a bunch of other families where they feel totally at home and can just be themselves.
It seems like it’s becoming a rarer thing these days, to be surrounded by people who look after you—especially people from different generations. But it’s one of the coolest things in the world to see up close, and I try never to take it for granted.