Growing up an only child, combined with not having cousins until I was 17 made me a pretty independent person. I related with adults much more easily than children, and I wasn’t ever one of those teenage girls who spent hours babysitting for friends or neighbors.

We spent most weekends at the river camping or with the friends of my parents and many of them did not have children. I found myself not really enjoying the company of other kids my age. When we would eat out at restaurants or go to a movie, I was always irritated by the families that had small children with them. I felt they were disruptive and annoying. As a result, I never really thought much of having a family of my own. I really wasn’t even that thrilled with the idea of getting married.

I guess I was pretty spoiled and used to living my way since there really wasn’t anyone else affecting my decisions or way of life. My parents didn’t live as though the sun rose and set on my head, but since there weren’t others to consider, I typically got to pick the movie on our Sunday family movie dates, and if I wanted the newest fashionable item, I almost always got it. I didn’t ever share a room, other than a brief period of time with our maid when she was between places to live and even that was only for a week or two.

I was 20 before I ever had to share a room on a permanent basis. It was at this time in my life when things changed and in a BIG way.

Just a few months after my 20th birthday, I became a mother. It wasn’t planned, but there I was. It’s funny because I can still remember the exact moment I found out I was expecting my first child like it was just yesterday. My friend Danny called and I was waiting for the results of a home pregnancy test, it came back positive. I remember that I wasn’t scared or nervous. I didn’t tell anyone right away, I took a little time to reflect upon it. I had followed the precautions to avoid pregnancy (well, not ALL of them) abstinence would have been a sure-fire way, but then I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Eventually, I told my dad. We had a very special relationship; he was one of my best friends and someone I could always count on for support and unconditional love. He didn’t tell me he was disappointed or chastise me, he simply told me it would be OK and he would support me in any way I needed. I knew immediately there was only one thing to do and that was simply, grow-up and become a mother.

In March of 1993, along came, at this point in my life, the most amazing gift God had EVER blessed me with. Her name was Taylor and she was my firstborn child. I remember my mom said to me that afternoon when she was born, “Last week I took you to kindergarten and today, you made me a grandmother.” I remember laughing and rolling my eyes.

Well, that was nearly 20 years ago now and here we are today. Taylor is the oldest of six children and about to begin her sophomore year of college.

It DID happen that quickly, just like my mom remarked in the birthing room at Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, CA that rainy March day.

People often ask us when we are out in public, “Are they all YOUR children?” Or they remark, “You know what causes that, right?” I wouldn’t trade our family of eight for ANY family in the world. Each one of our kids has amazing and unique little personalities that make every minute of my life an absolute crazy, wonderful, chaotic, hilarious ride!

I often say, why are there not cameras recording every moment?!? They are VERY entertaining! Is it perfect? NO WAY!!!! Is it difficult? ABSOLUTELY!!!! I know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it is exactly what God had planned for me. I know that BECAUSE of these beautiful little beings I am a better person and a work in progress constantly striving to be more than I was the day before. Seeing the world through their eyes is such a blessing!

Sometimes the noise gets to me. My house was pretty quiet, I didn’t have a baby brother who cried when I was trying to fall asleep or study for a test or an older sibling to rough house with. There were no fights about who ate the last Girl Scout cookie or who washed dishes last night. It was just me and my parents. It never really bothered me as a kid that I didn’t have siblings.

It wasn’t until I saw my own children and the love they all have for one another that I realized what a blessing I missed out on.

I am grateful each and every day that I am a mom. Some days, it might be a bit more difficult to appreciate all the chaos, but for the most part, it’s pretty great. The dynamics of our family are unique to us and I don’t know if I could say I would want it any other way.

As the next week approaches and we begin yet another school year, I am filled with feelings of gratitude for the times we’ve shared this summer. The laughs, the tears, the bickering, the scolding . . . every last bit of it. I know another year is about to fly by, and before I know it they will all be grown and on their own raising their own children. So today, I look around at the six coolest kids I have EVER had the pleasure of knowing, and I thank God for the front row seat.

It may not have been the path I had planned, but clearly it was God’s.

Traci Runge

Traci was born and raised in San Diego and has called Kearney, Nebraska home for the past 18 years. She is married to Darby Runge and together they have 6 children. They own and operate Pro-Tint, a window tinting business. Along with being a full-time mom, Traci is also a Manager and Certified Trainer with SendOutCards, she works with businesses and individuals to build relationships and grow their income through Relationship Marketing. Traci works hard to balance her roles of mother, wife and business owner. She strives to help make the world a better place through kindness and love and leading by example. Traci is committed to her family, church and community and can often be found volunteering in some capacity.