Confession time. Actually, it’s more like the scene in The Wizard of Oz when everyone discovers that the great and powerful Oz is just a little guy behind a curtain.  I just can’t stand the thought of anyone having thoughts like, “that Dollyhigh woman is raising six children and I can’t even handle two” or “I just don’t know HOW she does it!” It’s time to tell you how I am NOT doing it. The truth is that we probably just have lower expectations and standards for most everything because we have no choice. We can’t do it all well.

Our cars are always dirty inside and out. I don’t fold my underwear. Or anyone else’s. I am terrible about sending birthday cards. I don’t decorate for any holiday other than Christmas (and that is super basic). I quit working full time because that made life in our home miserably sad. I do cook because we like to eat real food, but some nights it’s just “find something to eat” because life is like that. My kids know how to make omelets and grilled cheese.

This was given to me by our home study case worker after our adoption was final. She too had four biological children then adopted two internationally. She had made this when they were young and passed it along to me.

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I have never written a parenting book and don’t intend to. We are a mess over here, but we have figured out that we wanted to do more than just survive; we do not want to sacrifice our marriage, our sanity, or our bank account for our children. We want to raise responsible adults. Some may think we don’t expect enough, some may say we are asking too much of them. We are okay with everyone not being okay with us.

Workload: I don’t do it all.

My children from ages 11 to 17 wash their own clothes. (The 11 year old started at age 9)Yes, they have homework and practice.  I have a husband that I love to have real conversations with, blog posts that I want to write, and books that need to be read. We decided that since we are raising adults that there are some things they can do on their own, and laundry is one of them. I don’t care if my kids clothes are a little wrinkled. So is our life. Wrinkles just don’t appear on my priority list, and I have a list. I’m hoping you do.  I used a Sharpie and marked the dials on the washer and dryer for the cycle that works for us. We don’t sort. Sometimes we wash it all in cold. Life has gone on this way for several years. We have never been turned in to child services for asking our kids to put their clothes away. Their clothes are clean. That’s the goal.

Everyone helps clean up after dinner and clean house on Fridays. I cook, they clean up. It works. We all clean the house because we all dirty it. Yes, they have homework and practice. My boys know how to clean toilets and showers. They can use a push-mower and a vacuum.

All kids pack their own lunches and mostly make their own breakfasts as well. I cook breakfast three mornings each week. Sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong, we are not running boot camp over here. When my oldest comes in from a soccer game at 10:30, I’ve already done her part after dinner. Sometimes we all leave the table to watch The Voice and never make it back into the kitchen.

Finances: We don’t have it all.

Our children have an opportunity to earn an allowance. If their chores aren’t done with a respectful attitude, money is deducted. The allowance they receive for the month is theirs to be budgeted. We don’t pay for fun things they do with friends or stuff they want to buy. If we do something as a family, we pay. This system has two benefits:  1. our children don’t ask for $10 every time we turn around 2. they learn how to prioritize and budget.

We shop first at consignment and thrift stores and actually enjoy the thrill of the hunt. We say “no” to a lot, like cable TV, and new cars. Our teenagers help pay their cell phone bills. Not all of our kids have one.

Relationships: Our children are not the center of it all.

Trent and I go on dates often. Without guilt. The best thing we can do for our children is love each other well.  Our date might just be a walk or Netflix with our door shut. It may be a dinner or coffee out, but our kids know that we like hanging out together.  We also try to spend individual time with our children as often as possible. You can imagine the fight to be heard at a table of eight! We try to nurture their gifts and talents, their interests and dreams. Do we do any of it perfectly? No way.

We apologize often for our bad parenting because we screw up often. I have to do 20 push ups if I yell at my son again. I promised. Self-inflicted consequence.

Mistakes: Our kids do stupid stuff. They get silent lunch, even ISS once. We have had our share of speeding tickets, smart mouths, and failing grades. Lying? Yep. Stealing? That too. We don’t have any magic parenting formulas over here.

We wish our kids came with manuals because we are banging our heads against the wall over some stuff. We will not pretend that we have it together at our house. So when you look at us and say, “I don’t know how you do it!”, whatever you think we are doing…we probably aren’t. Maybe that phrase really means, “man, I feel sorry for you guys!” I’m okay with that . Just know that the grass is not greener at the pastor’s house. Just because we have a lot of kids, doesn’t mean we are good at it.

We have a big family. What does that mean? It means we can’t fit in regular cars or tables. It means that as we parent six kids, we don’t always have time for things that are not necessary. It means that I can’t watch every child’s game. It means I can’t figure out how to be a room mom or team mom and still keep us all alive. It means some sacrifice. Is it worth it? Yes!

I want to encourage you moms who think you have to do it all for your kids. You don’t. We love our kids. We think they’re amazing. We cheer them on whenever there’s an opportunity. I love loving them.  But we also want them to contribute to this thing we call “family”. We need them to contribute. The greatest leaders lead by serving. We want to raise leaders.

Okay, the Wizard is revealed. Just some ordinary parents trying to figure this thing out.