Bonus Kids

I am a mom, wife, sister, aunt, and even a great aunt. I also consider myself a second mother to my oldest niece and nephew. Due to circumstances way out of my or my mother’s control, she became guardian to them when they were toddlers in 1998.

Chris is now 21 and a senior at Kentucky Wesleyan University. He will graduate next year with a double major in art and criminal justice. He also plays football- #24. Keara is 20, the mom of my 2 year old great nephew, Avery and a CNA. She’s a great mom and works hard everyday to make sure Avery has everything he needs.

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Not Exactly the Cleavers

It was not an easy road to adulthood for these two. They are 11 months apart, so when they were smaller, my mom threw them one big birthday party because their birthdays are three weeks apart. (I’d do the same thing if Cameron and Lily’s birthdays were much closer, honestly.)

There were a few challenges- one had anger issues through high school, money issues and me going off to college, which meant my mom lost her main babysitter. No worries-she adjusted. To add to those things, Chris and Keara have a younger brother and sister, but are not super close to them.

My older sister chose to not raise any of her kids, and the dads of the younger two have done a great job of raising them. Chris and Keara’s dad was unable to do this due to severe mental health issues. He has since stabilized and sees them a few times a year.

My mom got permanent custody when I was 14- this meant I had to babysit a lot. I also had to share my room with them for a short time before I decided to move into the basement. I didn’t want to share my room with two little kids- what teenager would? (My sons share a room, but they are 18 months apart. They’ve shared a room since Lily was born.)

I missed out on some things with my friends because my mom worked a lot in the evenings and overnights, but I grew to accept it. I helped potty-train both kids, and ironically, I’ve given Keara a few tips on this with Avery. I watched them grow up, go all the way through school, have relationships, and all that. I was super late to Keara’s high school graduation because I was working, but I made it. She was 7 months pregnant but still walked, and in her classic style, she did it in heels.

I got married and had kids while they were growing up. When I got married in 2005, Keara was a junior bridesmaid and Chris was a junior groomsman. They were so cute and loved dressing up. They have been great with my kids and they love each other a lot. My kids were so sad when they went off to school. Keara moved back with Avery after being at Western Kentucky University for a year, so we see them a lot. He’s an adorable toddler and has already lived the college life.

I’m sure by now you have questions- did their mom come back? How did they feel about her not being in their life? How do you feel about helping raise kids that aren’t yours?
Yes, Gayle eventually came back. She’s a bit nomadic, so we didn’t know where she was for quite a few years, even with social media.

She had a bunch of different accounts. We couldn’t figure which was the real one. She’s back in the family now, but not without issues. Both kids hold her at arm’s length and will probably never fully trust her. I can’t say I blame them.
For two kids raised by their grandmother and aunt, I must say they turned out great. Keara may have had a baby at 18, but she and Avery are doing great. She’s always been very determined to get what she wants out of life and hasn’t let having a child stop her. Chris is a bit quieter than she is, and they are very close.

They always have each other’s back, because my mom taught them that she will not always be there for them and to take care of each other. (This lesson also applies to my children.) They have great grades in college and I’m really proud of them.

Me? It’s hard when you’re 14 to give up your weekends to take care of two little kids, whether they are yours or not. I did have backup, but it was still pretty hard. I did have breaks, I did get to vent and all that, but it was interesting. It was a good crash course in parenting, though. By the time my kids were ready for potty training, I had it nailed, even with one in a foot cast.

I went back and forth a lot on my feelings about my sister and being a mom in general. There was a time I didn’t know if I wanted kids because I already knew it was hard but I also knew it would be different when they were my own. Obviously, I changed my mind.

I knew right off the bat I would never, ever leave my kids. I can’t imagine not picking my kids up from school or at least coming home from work to them. I joke a lot about my kids being wild or them testing my patience, but I would never miss a day of their lives. I know what it looks like when you miss out on years of your kids’ lives. I couldn’t not know what kind of people they turn out to be.

I was angry at my sister for many years, and so was my mother. I think that’s pretty much justified. It’s cooled down to a “Okay, she totally screwed up but she’s back, so let her attempt to be a mom now” thing.


Everyone’s family is a bit different. Some families are blended and step-parents get bonus kids, in which they have step-children. This can be a great thing, or it can go sour. I’ve seen both. Some families are traditional.

It’s 2018, so anything is possible these days. This is the story of mine. We’re small but we try our best to like each other.

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