Our blended family—Jaylee, 22; Holly, 25; Jordan, 23; Sierra, 28; and Lindsay, 27.

As most of you can probably relate, this year has been a roller coaster. But, not like a Busch Gardens’ fun roller coaster…more like an old, unstable roller coaster that doesn’t work quite right with no seatbelts, and you want to get off, but it never stops. I’ll start by saying that our blended family had a lot of changes this year.

My husband, David, and I have a total of five children. I say “children,” but technically they are all adults. I sometimes tell my friends that the children aren’t ‘real’ adults yet—they are just not children anymore. It’s a complicated but beautiful mess.

The 28-year-old daughter got married two years ago and then had a baby. Because 2020 caught us all off guard, she ended up quitting her job to stay home with the baby because of daycare COVID-19 issues. The 27-year-old daughter was planning on getting married in the spring and was moving to the panhandle.

Well, as you can imagine, the wedding venue (that was totally paid for) cancelled, so we had two weeks to throw together a COVID-safe wedding in our backyard. After the wedding, she found it practically impossible to get a job in a new city, especially during the height of quarantine. So, she was freshly married and unemployed. For months.

The 25-year-old daughter was laid off in January 2020 and was looking for a job during quarantine. She was unemployed for months as well. Then the 23-year-old son was laid off from his retail job when the mall closed because of COVID. And to top off the employment fun, the 22-year-old daughter was laid off from her hospitality job working in a hotel. Yes, that’s right—we had FIVE unemployed adult children—and all of them had adult bills. It was the best of times.

But, with all that being said, the gift of quarantine was time. Time to reflect. When the children all became ‘adults,’ I clearly thought that it was going to be a relief—emotionally and financially. I have learned that although we may have had the opportunity to raise them under our roof for a brief 18 years, the parenting just changes as the children grow up and out.

And over the last few months, I learned to be thankful that I still have children that pick up the phone and call me (or text me) when they have a problem. I get calls about everything, from what to do if the washing machine doesn’t seem to be draining to “I’m not sure I can pay my electricity bill this month.”

I jokingly told my husband the other day that I almost miss the days of science fair projects, drum lessons and cheerleading competitions. Almost.

I was listening to the song “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts. The lyrics really spoke to me in our current situation.

“I hope you never look back, but you never forget all the ones who love you, in the place you left. I hope you always forgive, and you never regret, and you help somebody every chance you get. Oh, you find God’s grace, in every mistake and always give more than you take.”

I know this year was difficult, but in spite of it all, we had a chance to slow down to really see how blessed we all are. Psalms 127:3 tells us, “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.” May we all have blessings and rewards in 2021.

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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.