My five children sit around our rectangular kitchen table—the one we had to upgrade to in order to fit all of them—eating (or protesting) their dinner. The toddler repeatedly tries to climb out of her booster seat (because she's too sneaky for straps to work!) onto the table to claim more food from her sibling's plates and squeals echo against our walls.
I sigh because I have to stand up yet again to move her down and barely get a bite of my own food in between calls to my motherhood duty. There are many moments of chaos in our household, far different than what I grew up with as an only child. But, I wouldn't have it any other way.
My home is filled with lively energy and laughter, imaginations that run wild as they pretend the floor is lava together, and many helping hands to divide up our housework. It's filled with love for each other—and between their dad and me.
It feels whole and complete.
In contrast, I grew up very differently. I had a single mom as my primary parent who worked her tush off to provide for me, along with completing school herself. I grew up in after school care, summer camps, babysitters, or summers home alone watching too much TV.
I rode the bus because she had to be at work when I got home from school. I grew up sharing holidays and spending every other weekend traveling a total of four to eight hours there and back to visit with my dad's side of the family as the court ordered. I loved being with both sides, so I often felt torn between the two.
I was an only child until my half-siblings were born when I was a pre-teen, and even then I didn't live with them. My relationship with them was more so of a babysitter that came into their lives occasionally. I enjoyed spending time with them, but we are a decade apart and our worlds were vastly different.
It was a very divided childhood that was often lonely. I didn't want that for my kids.
I've worked hard at my marriage—even though we got married at only 19 years old and statistics were stacked against us—to keep united and in love. I am blessed to be able to stay at home with my kids, sharing summers together and picking them up in our packed van from school every day.
Having five children is completely different than what I grew up with, the concept of sharing time and space is a lesson they are learning far earlier in life than I did! They constantly have the built-in playmates I wished for growing up.
My childhood is the essence of why I am the mother that I am today, because I wanted my children's life to look much different than my own. It's also why I chose adoption for my first born when I was 16 years old because I didn't have that to offer her then.
I have always wanted stability, a fully present mom and dad, the gift of sibling friendships, a comfortable home, faith, and much laughter to be the foundation of my childrens' lives.
My children have a lifestyle completely different than what I knew growing up.
Where it was often just my mom and me sitting at our tiny table for two, my children are surrounded on all sides as they eat.
Our two-bedroom apartment was usually silent with exception to the occasional Backstreet Boys music dance parties or the mumbles of the TV screen, yet my children don't know a silent house! Their squabbles and giggles echo within our home.
My friendships always had to come from outside the home in the form of sleepovers or playdates, while my children always have someone to play with on a rainy day.
My mom just had me to read a book to and tuck into bed, but my lap is filled with children on each knee and multiple bedtime stories and tuck-ins.
My childhood wasn't perfect, yet it made me who I am today.
It gave me the driving force to do things differently, to make changes in myself and give my children more. It's more than just material things or the size of our home—it's the stability of having a united love in their mom and dad. It's the fact that they have each other to lean on and learn from both now and forever.
The family I created is so different than what I grew up in, and it's perfect for us.