In 2003, a movie was released called Cheaper by the Dozen – where Steve Martin plays the role of Tom Baker, a college football coach with his own squad of 11 players (on the field and at home). Having 12 people in one family can be crazy enough, but then things get really hectic as Tom and his wife Kate juggle sky-rocketing careers and 10 kids together.
One of the kids was a little different than the others, so the kids called him “Fed Ex” – teasing him that the Fed Ex delivered him to their house/family. When our family watched that movie, I remember laughing because one of our sons resembled Fed Ex a little bit. Little did I know this was preparing me for our own blended and extended family. Years later, we don’t have 10 kids – we only have 6. For us, life isn’t Cheaper by the Dozen, but it is Cheaper by the Half Dozen.
Having a family like that means we have to sometimes think about how to talk with each other and how we treat other. Lana and I really work hard at treating all of our kids well. Since we are raising young men and women, we have set a few goals for them along the way:
We want them to know they are a blessing to our family. This is why we talk with them and celebrate with them and laugh with them and cry with them. They aren’t just people taking up a room in our home; they each contribute to making our family what we are. Each of them has a place, and a role to play. Our family is better because each of them is in it.
We also want them to be a blessing to their own family. At some point, each of our children are going to move out on their own. Each guy will meet a girl and each girl will meet a guy, they’ll fall in love, and then get married. After that, children will come along, and the cycle starts all over again. We believe that the best way for them to raise a healthy family is to make sure they grow up being a part of one. Eventually, we know that our sons are going to find wives and our daughters are going to find husbands. And when they do, we want them to know how they should treat each other to make their family all God wants it to be. We think the best way for this to happen is to treat them the way we want them to treat us. This means they won’t focus on titles or worry about who is the boss of who. Instead, they’ll look not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4).
We believe that the best way for our children to know how to raise a healthy family is to make sure they grow up being a part of one. The best way for us to build up a family like this is to work at being the family God wants us to be, and some days that work is really hard! The best place for us to learn how to be the family God wants us to be is to follow the examples He gives us in the Bible. One of the best places examples of raising healthy, blended families is found in Genesis 48.
Jacob had a son named Joseph, who went through all kinds of trials to become really successful and really powerful. As Jacob neared the end of his life, Joseph rallied in his strength, sat up on the bed, and said, “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine…” (Genesis 48:5)
As Jacob made this statement, he set these precedents for the rest of us who are looking to find ways to love our blended families:
Make them feel like they are a part of your family. This is more important than how to become a part of your family.
Make sure that everyone knows how you feel about them (and make sure they hear you say it).
When we say this, they will hear us proclaiming this and they will grow up knowing this. And if you and I will commit to doing this, each child that we are called to love will know that there is a place for them at our table, in our homes, and in our lives.