Becoming Mom and Dad

A version of this article appears in the spring 2019 issue of STILLPOINT magazine under the title “Vocation as: saying yes.”

After Lily and Jonah, children had a habit of joining the Kreyling family unexpectedly. First it was Kate—their youngest biological child who the doctors called a statistical anomaly and the Kreylings called a miracle when they discovered her by accident at a 6-week IUD checkup, already 12-weeks-old. Then it was Sam—a 12-day-old baby boy who needed a place to call home after leaving the labor and delivery wing of the hospital. And then it was Sky and Cam—two siblings with severe trauma issues who needed a temporary home after their adoptive placement with the Department of Children and Families fell through.

Jake ’04 and Lauren x’08 Kreyling had originally made plans for a family of four and became a family of eight. Kate came into the world as a small but healthy baby, despite the three unsuccessful attempts to remove the IUD early on. And Sky, Cam and Sam got new last names. All have a permanent spot at the dinner table and a personal set of plastic dinnerware and utensils—in a color of their own. Like pawns in a game of Candy Land, Lily is green, Sky is purple, Jonah is blue, Cam is orange, Kate is pink and Sam is yellow. This holds each child accountable for washing their own dishes and brings a sense of order and predictability into an ever-evolving household.

It requires a lot of intentionality to make this work. Lauren has chosen to be a stay-at-home parent and is homeschooling one of their children this year.

“I used to go back and forth about whether I should go back to work,” says Lauren, who was a childcare provider when Lily and Jonah were young. “It never felt right. We are raising these kids and that’s a really big job, so I’ve felt at peace being home with my kids and that being my goal. My job is to teach them the love of God and to raise them— knowing that they are safe and loved.”

While Lauren is at home with the kids, Jake is putting in long hours as a firefighter for the Beverly Fire Department—working two 24-hour shifts a week. On his days off, he spends much of his time making extensive modifications to their house so that it can fit their ever-increasing family.

On Sam’s official adoption day in December of 2016, the Kreyling family snaps a picture with the deciding judge in their “Love Makes a Family” shirts that read “Team Kreyling” on the back. Front row, from left to right: Cam, Jonah, Lily, Sky, Kate. Back row: Lauren, Sam, Jake. 

“We are constantly changing our house to adapt to our family because our family is turning out to be something different than we originally thought,” says Jake.

Although they’re still dealing with behavioral issues that come with adopting children who’ve experienced trauma and also the normal, routine battles of getting their kids to wash their hands and get along, the Kreylings have found a family rhythm.

Around their gargantuan dinner table, they pray together and recap their days. Their six children are animated and polite, discussing their favorite mythical creatures (a wooly mammoth in Kate’s case), the play they are writing, and the possibility of turning a bike into a sled. Cam is poking at the butternut squash with his orange fork, staring at the squash as if to will it into oblivion, so he, too, can have dessert.

Seeing them now, one wouldn’t know just how far they’ve come as a family. Two years ago, Sky was almost entirely non-verbal. Her default response to every question used to be “I don’t know” and now she answers at length. And small but positive changes in Cam’s behavior show that he’s starting to heal from years of trauma. A loving home has worked a lot of magic for those two. And the adoption of Sky, Cam and Sam has had a remarkable impact on Lily, Jonah and Kate.

Again, in May of 2017, the Kreyling family celebrate by taking a picture with the judge who just made Sky and Cam’s adoption official. Front row, from left to right: Lily, Jonah, Sky, Cam, Kate. Back row: Sam, Jake, Lauren.

“It’s funny; we talk about the future and what our children want,” says Jake. “Jonah told us, ‘I want to build bridges for poor people in other countries and I want to adopt.’ Our eldest wants to have eleven kids—six adopted and five biological. She wants to be a pediatric nurse.”

Since that first “yes” to Kate in 2009, Jake and Lauren have learned that their original plans for their life were too rigid. They had to trust God first—and find out the reason for it later.

“It’s not been without severe heartache. But the heartache over whether or not we were going to lose Sam in that first year,” says Jake, referring to a long period of uncertainty about whether or not Sam would return to live with his biological mother, “prepared us to say yes to Sky and Cam. First you exercise your faith and then see why.”