8 isn't enough ... life with 9 children
An inspiring story of 1 special mom with 9 unique kids
Nine children, ages 3 to 19 years old, make Mother’s Day a pretty special time for Kristy Goodnight. After all, that’s a lot of hugs and kisses to go around.
“It’s wonderful day. I thought I would never be a mom,” Kristy said. “Mother’s Day is not something I take for granted. I’m grateful to my mother and grandmother, who taught me to be a mother . I love it.”
But when you consider each child has his or her own special needs, life can be amazingly hectic and difficult. And what’s the biggest challenge for the mom of nine?
“Probably laundry,” she jokes. “Would that sound crazy if that was my answer? I think more than anything, it’s working to meet each kid’s individual needs where they are at that particular moment. And then looking ahead, some of the kids aren’t as independent as they should be when they hit that magical 18 mark. Some are not ready to go out into the world yet. Some days that’s the scariest thing for me.”
Kristy’s story began as it continues now with her husband John. They loved kids then as much as they do now, but they couldn’t have any of their own.
John was a foster care agent. He was 26 at the time and Kristy was 22 when they met Luke and Josh, 7 and 2 respectively. Then two years later, they met Kathryn and Daniel, a brother and sister who were 6 and 4 then.
“After we got them, we kind of thought we were done,” Kristy said. “We weren’t sure though and we kept our certification to get more kids placed with us. Then two years later we met a set of precious little twins – Juliana and Josiah, then 4, who were half of a sibling group with Paul and Caleb, then 7 and 5. They were in an emergency situation. Their life would be pretty demanding. We thought we could add four and we already had four, so eight sounded about right.”
But what sealed the deal was when Juliana said to John, “All my friends have a daddy. I don’t have one. Will you be my daddy?”
Maybe some could still say no, but not the Goodnights. Their hearts are too big and their skills at taking care of kids with special needs too strong. All of their eight adopted children have medical and/or behavioral needs.
The Goodnights take their children from their home in Corsicana to Cook Children’s to be treated at the medical center. Kristy jokes her kids have many “ists” – endocrinologists, neurologists, psychologists …
“We have all of our specialty care through Cook Children’s,” Kristy said. “We really appreciate the cohesiveness of care. The specialties share information with each other. One doctor sees what the other doctor has done. There’s a great consistency of care. The other thing we like is we see the same doctor every time in their specific specialty and that’s not always true with other places. And we see a slew of doctors for everything from cerebral palsy to autism to emotional issues. We see doctors for behavioral issues, intellectual issues, growth issues – a wide variety of stuff. We are at Cook Children’s on a regular basis.”
Of course with the number of kids and the challenges that each bring, Kristy admits that she sometimes wonders if she’s the best person to care for them.
“There’s always days where I think I’m not doing the best I can and I think surely I can be a better mother,” she said. “I look around and the laundry is not done and the house is a mess. And then I remember the alternative. Without us, they wouldn’t have a family at all.”
Kristy chuckles. “And then I realize, I’m better than nothing.”
Needless to say, John says his wife is selling herself way short.
“She keeps everybody grounded, including me,” he said. “He keeps me focused on what’s important and not letting things bother us that might get in the way of that fact that we’re all in this together. She’s the most loving person that I know and you can tell she wears her emotions on her sleeves. You can look at her and know our kids are extremely important to her.”
And with that kind of love, why stop at eight, right? The Goodnights realized they’d experienced so much as parents, except what it was like to raise a newborn.
Kristy and John looked at other countries, but nothing came to fruition. Then they found a story on a new spin on in vitro fertilization – adopting an embryo. The embryo had been frozen for 10 years and was made available to the Goodnights. They only knew the age of race of the parents, but nothing else. They made the decision to take the baby without knowing anything more. They were used to facing challenges and they would be up for one more challenge.
So far, the newest member of the family, Jude, has been healthy. But he's still a toddler in a house with eight other children. Kristy says that’s OK because one more person only adds to what makes the Goodnight household special.
“The love. I love having a family. There’s just so much love in this house,” Kristy said. “There’s always someone laughing. It’s so much fun. I never expected that and the way the other kids care for the baby. It’s just tied everybody together in the ends. We have sweet kids with big hearts and that’s given us the ability to love everything we’ve gone through.”