5 + 8 = Lucky 13 The Carter Family's Adoption Adventure By Rajayne Cordery Married for over thirty years, Bob and Julie Carter have chosen an exceptional path for their lives. In addition to raising five biological children, they have legally adopted eight youngsters over the past sixteen years, now ranging in age from 3-16. Before moving to Georgia twelve years ago, their incredible journey began in Missouri. Their story is a testament to the abiding love and selfless generosity of the nurturing human spirit. Their tremendous parenting adventure began 29 years ago with the birth of their first child. Seven years later, they decided to become foster parents while they still had five of their own children at home. Initially, the Carters did not intend to adopt. The foster programs goal is reunification. Realizing that a little girl they were caring for was not going to be reunited, they decided to adopt her. Now 16 years old, she is the eldest of the eight adopted children in their wonderful family. The couple explains, They have the same growing needs as our biological kids, honestly. All kids want the safety of a nice family atmosphere and someone they can rely and depend on. A typical day begins at 6:00 am. A hearty, traditional breakfast is served at the table, and usually, most everyone is in attendance. After dressing and getting ready for the school day, Bob takes the children to the school bus stop, where he waits with them every morning. The children know their responsibilities, whether its folding laundry or setting the table. This is not a TV show or a movie with Steve Martin. Its real life. Its sitting down for dinner every night, someone loading the dishwasher and someone cleaning up. He adds, laughingly, Its a group-participation sport. Asked if it doesnt become overwhelming, the couple explains, Its what were used to, and weve been doing this for almost 30 years. Its our routine. They wouldnt trade it for the world. Both Bob and Julie have full-time professions. How do they manage to juggle the schedules and be such responsible and caring parents of such a large group of children with varied activities and needs? We split up and conquer a lot, Bob grins, as he explains that Julie is very organized, and they do their very best to make as many events as they can on the childrens calendars. Julie keeps them all in view. They explain that there is an A and a B list, and they do everything in their power to participate in all items on the A list. Finding time for each other is all about how one defines that. They explain that a lot of their time together is spent on the childrens activities. Weve carved out a lot of our togetherness with that, Bob says. And they spend one night a week out, just the two of them, exclusively in each others company. Its a very traditional, family-based life. Its not out of the ordinary for us. We have always made our family our priority. It just so happens that we have thirteen kids! Bob exclaims. Christmas morning in the Carter household is an all-day celebration. It begins very early in the morning. The children each open a gift, one at a time, while the others watch. They take a break, clean up and keep going. They eat breakfast and continue unwrapping individually, taking time to play with their toys in between. Bob smiles, Its a very traditional, family-around-the-Christmas-tree type of celebration. Blending a family has been a highly rewarding experience for all of the Carters. Speaking of the benefits to the children, Bob says, Its helpful to give them a little different perspective on life. They see a whole different side of it, growing up with different entities unlike a traditional family would have. It has been a great experience for everyone. The Carters philosophy on life is grounded in the importance of teaching their children to become more well-rounded, empathetic people through their family experience. They attest, The benefits reach out in ways, generationally, that you cant really calculate. The incredible mark you are going to make on young people is almost immeasurable. You cant fathom how far down stream its going to impact other peoples lives. When asked to offer advice to couples considering adoption, Bob and Julie say, Adoption should be entered into with eyes wide open, heart wide open; there is a lot to be shared. With an open and adventurous spirit such as this, it would seem that thirteen is a very lucky number, indeed.