The Polston Family

My Life and Times of Having Six Adopted Boys

By: Deborah Ehler Polston

While most of our friends are experiencing the “empty nest”, or being Grandparents for the first time, we are stuck in a time warp of changing diapers and falling out of bed for the 3am feeding. I don’t remember navigating through the house in the dark as being so challenging. Now, my body isn’t getting with the program and won’t cooperate with jumping to attention out of a dead sleep. As I stumble out of our high four poster bed and hit my head on the post as I round the corner, I then have to make it down two flights of stairs to the kitchen where I prepare the bottle. Then, it’s back up one flight of stairs to the baby’s room, oh no! I forgot to grab the diaper and wipes.

The Polston family with their four daughters, six adopted sons, two sons-in-law, and grandchild; back row from left: Adam Voran-23 (Michelle's husband), Rachel-19, Kevin-15, Cheryl-21, Brian Burnett-25 (Diana's husband). Front row from left: Michelle Polston Voran-23, Michael-6, Joel-5 (in front), Ricky with Jeremiah-3, Deborah with Jonathan- 1, Brandon-8, Diana Polston Burnett-25, and Brock Burnett-2 (grandbaby).

I pick up the crying child, round the corner, back down the stairs, grab the diaper and wipes, up the stairs and back in the baby’s room, only to find his sheets are all wet. You guessed it, back down the stairs, through the kitchen, down another set of stairs and into the laundry room, now this is where the fun really begins. I have to turn on the overhead light to search through the mountain of clean clothes left from the day before because I was too tired to put them away. With one hand holding the baby, bottle, diaper and wipes, I begin the search through the towels, underwear and socks, virtually blind because I’m not wearing my contacts. It’s never easy; the baby sheet was still in the washer from the last load of the day never being put into the dryer before I fell asleep in my chair a few hours ago. I opened the washer, grabbed as much as I could with one hand, and threw it into the dryer. After transferring all the wet clothes into the dryer, I shut the dryer door, turned it on, lights off, and made my way out of the laundry room and back up two flights of stairs to the baby’s room. With no baby sheet, I stretched a blanket over the mattress and tucked it around the four corners, looked comfortable enough.

By now the baby was fully awake; I knew I had to calm down to be able to get him to calm down. As I rocked and hummed a tune, it wasn’t long, I put myself to sleep. The Baby! Oh there he is, sound asleep in my arms, empty bottle on the floor. I gently put him in his bed, covered him up, and made my way back up one flight of stairs to my bedroom. By 4am I was back in bed only to find my husband snoring, I gave him a nudge, he turned over and the snoring stopped; now I watched the clock for the next hour thinking about everything I had to do that day. The alarm clock went off at 6am; this is where being deaf in one ear comes in handy. I turned a deaf ear and buried my good ear into my pillow; I had one more hour to sleep. My husband rolled out of bed and began the morning ritual of getting our six foot four, fifteen year old son up and out the door to the bus stop by 6:30am, He comes back up stairs to take his shower, and then gets me up to get my shower while he goes down to the boys room to begin their showers, all four of them. While all the boys are at the table eating their cereal, I come down stairs with the baby and feed him. ”Good morning Boys!” ”Good morning Mom!” I get a kiss from my husband, who then makes his way back up the stairs to finish getting dressed, because he takes the boys to school on his way in to work.

Our day begins; it’s always pretty close to the same every day. So when our friends all share stories of where they’ve been or where they are going, I just smile and look down and realize I have oatmeal and what appears to be snot on my shirt. Yes, I do the inevitable, I lick my fingers and rub, rub; rub till I can only see a hint of it left. I don’t even look to see if they are looking at me because I know they are. That’s okay, I have lost all pride in this process, but I have found something far greater, the love of not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but six adoptive sons. And they are what get me out of bed every morning looking forward to their smiles and hugs and kisses.

Our parenting did not begin with these, but with our four biological daughters, 25 years ago. In fact, I thought we had parenting down to a science and couldn’t understand why other parents were having so much trouble keeping their kids under control. My orderly life was turned upside down five years ago when we adopted a sibling group of three brothers. Coming to the decision of taking on a sibling group was not an easy one. My husband and I spent several years praying about what we should do; find an infant, or maybe two small children? Do we go international or adopt from the states? There were so many choices, but for us only one answer was the right one.

After looking through the sea of faces on the internet, our hearts became softer toward those children being passed up for babies. You know the ones, they don’t look quite like us, they may have a physical or mental challenge, or they may come in sets of two or three or four. It was the sibling groups that gripped my heart, the biggest challenge most of these kids have is in their numbers. Most people are not willing or able to take on more than one child at the time; at least that’s what we thought. I looked at my husband sitting beside me at the computer, and with tears in my eyes, I said, “Honey, look at all these children who need a Mommy and Daddy. I want to love them; I want to give them a home and family. We can do this; we have enough love to share with a sibling group”.

That was the beginning, six years ago, our search for just the right children for our family. As we prayed and searched, we prepared, we became licensed both as foster and adoptive parents. Even though we did not want to foster children in an ongoing kind of way, we wanted to be able to have them paced in our home right away while we waited for the adoption to go through. And that is what happened, when we found our three oldest sons, they were in another foster home in our state. We were able to get them transferred to our county and into our home within a month. Within the year, they were adopted.

The story does not end here; in fact our story is still going after five years. After the first three boys were placed in our home, we did not know how we were going to do it but were excited to give it everything we had. We knew God would not abandon us for doing what we felt He wanted us to do. I tell people it was like unleashing three tornadoes in the house, drawers pulled out routinely, a six foot mirror came down off the wall, a china cabinet fell over, pictures and curtains all found their place on the floor. And in the midst of all this, we received a phone call from the same case worker the boys had, saying the birth mother had another son who became the responsibility of the state. Never did we think we would be faced with this decision, to take on the infant brother of the first three or reject him. Of course we took him, at three weeks old; he found his place right outside our bedroom in the study now a baby nursery.

While we were adjusting to all of the changes, we had two daughters getting married just three months apart. As I was buying the food for the second wedding, I got a phone call that the birth mom had another, the fifth son born and the state wanted us to take him as well. Needless to say I dropped to the floor in Sam’s Warehouse and cried. Shock had set in, and I dreaded making the call to my husband. I didn’t know how we could possibly take another child, and I didn’t know how we could turn one away either. After pulling myself together, I told my husband about the call and he spent the next three days up on a ladder painting the house. At the end of the three days he came down and said, “Okay, let’s talk! What is your heart telling you in all of this?” And I said back to him, “Honey, I don’t know how we can turn this child away, he belongs with his brothers and I believe he’s ours. God will provide what we need as long as we are doing what He wants us to do.” Of course he had already come to this himself in the three days he had to think about it.

We had two beautiful weddings, gained two new sons-in-laws, and two days after the second wedding we traveled to pick up our infant son, the ninth child. Oh yeah, did I mention we moved to a bigger house between the weddings? We now had more room to spread out and not feel like we were on top of each other. The next two years were spent with more adjustments, daily calls from teachers, our first grandbaby, and another; you got it, another phone call. The sixth boy in this sibling group had been born and we were not surprised anymore, we knew he was ours and we were all excited!

Today as we wait for the finalization of our baby’s adoption, we are enjoying a very busy household, trying to find laughter in the simple things. The day-to-day stresses seem to melt away with each “I love you” and new milestone. We welcomed in another grandbaby this year, both are also boys. I have the whole family together once a week on Sunday evenings, I look forward to seeing all the children together and enjoy watching how they are growing closer every week. What a tremendous blessing our children are. This would not have been the path I would have chosen for myself and I’m sure I speak for my husband too. My path would have been more boring and self absorbed, I’m sure. Instead, we are fulfilling a very exciting life dedicated to our children. I am very thankful God chose us to be the parents of these ten children, and it is my prayer that we are found faithful in helping to raise them to find their destinies.

Now, if I haven’t scared you off by now with the reality report, let me tell you how these adoptive children, our six boys, have enriched our lives. It took me about three years to realize you cannot raise little boys and little girls the same. The girls were perfectly content playing with their toys quietly and by themselves, the boys will dissect or dismantle every toy they have in order to see how it works or just make it into something else needed at the time. I was perfectly amazed one day when I looked outside the window and saw the seven year old with a bow and arrow he had made out of tree branches and his shoe lace. It really was quite amazing and he was able to shoot it pretty far. I didn’t think much about it, just accepted it as cute boys play until the five year old came running inside yelling his brother had shot a squirrel out of the tree. I thought that was quite imaginative and decided to play along. I stepped out onto the deck only to find a dead squirrel, and the hunter was no place to be found. Needless to say I confiscated the weapon and brought the boys inside to wait for their Father.

I’m trying, I really am, and I know little boys need space and lots of freedom to explore their world. That’s why we moved them onto four acres; the cul-de-sac could not contain them anymore. They climb trees and make forts out of whatever they can find. And when I ring the dinner bell, yes we have a dinner bell as lame as that sounds, it was the only way they could hear me. You should see them run for the back door when they hear it; usually bringing in something they picked for me like wild flowers or poison ivy. And I have learned to always check their pockets before they come inside, I never know what may crawl out.

This past Spring break I was going to have all the boys at home with me. I knew I had to think of something to make the most of the week. Then it hit me, sand! I would buy a little sand to make a small area for them to play in. I called the sand company while the boys were down for a nap and asked them to bring me some sand for a 12 by 12 area (12 feet by 12 feet). They said they would be able to deliver it right away. That was perfect; I could surprise the boys when they got up from their nap. When the truck arrived, I noticed how very large it was and heaped up with sand. I didn’t think much about it, he probably had a few more stops to go after me. The man got out of the truck and saluted me, yes saluted, I thought it strange myself. He asked where I wanted the sand and I showed him the tiny 12 foot by 12 foot area. He just looked at me and I looked at him then he got back in his truck and began to back it up into my yard, nowhere close to the sand area.

I could see the ground beneath the truck’s tires begin to sink, all of a sudden the back of the truck tilts up and sand begins to flow out of the truck’s backend. I yelled, “Okay, that’s enough!” ”You can stop now!” ”STOP!!!” The man gets out of his truck and walks over to me. We are staring at each other again, “Um, that will be plenty, thank you.” At which he replied, “Maam, this is your sand, now where do you want it?” I chuckled; I thought okay he’s trying to be funny. ”This is all I need” and I pointed to what he had dropped on the ground already. I just need to fill that 12 by 12 area over there. He said, “Maam, did you tell the office 12 feet by 12 feet or 12 yards by 12 yards? “ In which I replied, “Well, I’m sure I said 12 feet by 12 feet, at least that is what I meant. Then he said, “Maam, you just purchased 16 tons of sand now where do you want it?” I chuckled again, but I was not smiling, “Well take it back, what am I going to do with 16 tons of sand?”

He then said, “I don’t know Maam, give it away to your neighbors, now where do you want it?” I pointed to the small pile of sand already on the ground and watched as he dumped all 16 tons onto my back lawn. After getting my signature, he drives off giving me another salute, leaving eight inch rivets in my grass, and a six foot mountain of sand.

Okay, this is where you can either use the sand to bury yourself, which I did think about, or just enjoy the moment. I told my 15 year-old son to go get all the pails and shovels and throw them onto the sand. When the boys got up from their naps, I told them I brought the beach to us. The look on their faces was priceless, as they ran up the mountain and rolled down, over and over again. I got my camera and recorded the moment, not wanting to think about how I was going to explain this one to my husband. I made sure all the boys, including the six foot, four inch boy were standing on top of the mountain when their Dad came home from work, all waving to him, hopefully to lessen the blow. He just shook his head and walked in the house, I don’t think much surprises him anymore. The rest of the Spring break was spent moving sand from point A to point B and spreading the rest around in the grass. Well, I don’t think the boys will ever forget it, we definitely made a memory.

With the girls, we were able to travel all over the United States and visit each state, camping most of the time. I look forward to doing the same with the boys. Another thing we did with the girls was to take them one at the time, on a trip of their choosing, when they graduated from high school. The boys are already talking about where they might like to go. So when our friends are talking to us about their retirement or empty nest, we just smile at each other because we know we will experience that too, in just about eighteen years from now.

We are not alone, more and more couples are choosing to adopt late in life. You don’t have to adopt a large sibling group like we did; there are thousands of children in our state alone waiting for a forever family. I would like to leave you with this one last thought; one week before we were to meet our boys, the oldest boy, then ten years old, said to his case worker, “Go ahead and let someone adopt my baby brothers, nobody will ever want me, I’m too old.” It was that sweet boy, I fell in love with and now I can call him my son. We were able to offer hope where he had lost all hope, and show him he has a wonderful future ahead. You too can be that hope for a child that’s lost all hope.