Parenting ALL the Phases
As we wrap up our Parenting Through the Phases series, we thought it’d be appropriate to ask a couple that is parenting ALL the phases for some wisdom and advice. Amanda and George Casiano stepped up to the plate and gave us a glimpse into their exciting life. Here’s what they had to say:
Tell us a bit about your family – What is it like to parent children that are in all the phases simultaneously?
We are a family of eight. Amanda is a full-time public school teacher and George is a work-at-home dad and luthier/musician. We are parenting all of the phases right now with our children being ages 16, 13, 11, 9, 3 and 1! The two oldest are boys and the four youngest are girls.
George affectionately calls this series “Ruining the Phases” because we know we have made mistakes with our kids and there is always room for improvement in parenting. Having two pre-schoolers, one in elementary, one middle-schooler and two high-schoolers simultaneously means our family is changing all the time, and there’s always going to be a mess somewhere. It can be overwhelming and exhausting, and it’s easy to fall into a place of reacting. We’ve experienced that before when we find ourselves in a reality version of “Whack a Mole” (without the mallet!) that is quickly getting out of hand because we are meeting kids’ needs one after another and handling crisis after crisis. Then when you think you’ve finally got things under control and you think you’ve got the kids figured out, they change on you!
To keep your sanity and joy, you really do have to expect the unexpected, embrace change, be flexible, and choose your battles wisely. That being said, the one thing that never ever changes and is the same in every phase with every child is the need to teach your children to love God and love others… starting with each other!
As a blended family, how did you make the transition from a single guy and a mom of four to a family unit of 6… now 8?
When we got married, Amanda already had four children from a previous marriage. At that time, the boys were 8 and 10 and the girls were 3 and 5. We will be celebrating our 6th anniversary in July.
Something that was incredibly important to our “blending” as a family was seeking out Christian marriage and family counseling. Amanda and the kids had some healing to do from the previous marriage and divorce. The kids accepted their new stepdad and eagerly called him “Daddy George” which shortened to “Dad” in a matter of months. Amanda had to learn how to function as a wife in a healthy marriage – to resist taking the lead or becoming passive, and to walk side by side with George, making decisions together, but ultimately trusting George’s leadership for the family as he grew into his role as a godly and loving husband and father.
We learned how important it was for George to build relationships with the kids before becoming an authority figure or disciplinarian. George also had to change the way he thought. His priorities had been about taking care of himself and his needs, like any other bachelor, but after getting married, his mentality immediately had to shift to taking care of his wife’s and kids’ needs first. He had to push away childishness and grow up fast. In a typical marriage, you get to ease into that shift by first learning to live with one other person, and then, perhaps, have children (typically one at a time) years later. George had to learn it right away!
After three years of marriage, our daughter, Emma, was born followed by our daughter, Grace, just 18 months later. George had never parented babies before, so the last few years have been a new adventure of snuggles, silliness, and sleepless nights.
What are the challenges and joys of having children in each phase? How do they interact with and teach each other?
The joy of having children in all of the phases is you get to see the world from multiple perspectives. Every day is different, so it’s never mundane. You get to see your kids overcome challenges, give advice to each other, comfort each other and celebrate each other’s victories. We celebrate every victory together whether it’s our baby’s first words, our toddler pooping on the potty, our children earning school awards or our teen getting his Driver’s Permit.
One challenge of parenting several children is constantly needing to adapt because a strategy that you used during a particular phase with one child isn’t necessarily effective with the next because the children are so different from each other. Another challenge is time! We are all together a lot, so we have to be intentional about regularly scheduling one-on-one dates with each of our kids. Planning a family fun event can also challenging because the kids have different developmental interests and abilities.
What advice would you give to parents who are considering forming a blended family?
Find a good Christian marriage and family counselor right away. Even if you don’t think you need one, you do!
How has your faith influenced your parenting?
When you know how much grace God has given you, it is easier to give grace to your kids when they make mistakes and to teach them to give grace and forgive others. We pray with our kids, point them to God, and always remind them of God’s love!