I can’t tell you how many times Johnny and I have been asked how we've raised such chill kids. To be honest, I’m never quite sure how to answer this question. Our boys are good kids, with big hearts and a view on life which many times are very different from their peers. Growing up in the shadow of cancer’s grip has a way of keeping life in perspective. Our family story is not unique; it’s just full of random chapters, out of order, which have ultimately shaped our views and perspectives.
Johnny and I were both raised in small, close families. I was brought up as an only child, yet our home was full of people on any given day. My parents were in ministry so I learned early how to share, love unconditionally and to roll with the ups and downs. Johnny is simply a very easy going man with a big heart. From the time we were married we made the decision to bring our kids up in a way they would never fear us or doubt our love for them. To this day our dinner table is a place of laughter, sometimes tears, disagreements, open conversations and truths. Life in our house is very lively, and never boring to say the least. Johnny and I have always been the parents, in charge, but we have and do play with our kids, living life beside them, the good and the bad. We don’t hide a whole lot from them. We have always believed in being honest with our boys so they never have a reason to doubt us or our word. We tend to deal with issues that arise as a family, a unit, with honest discussions which may not always be fun or what we want to hear. We all have a voice in how we deal with things, though as parents we make the final decision, we have never made our kids feel insignificant in anything affecting their lives. We simply do life TOGETHER. We have failed many times as parents, screwed up, made bad decisions, and disappointed both our boys and each other. Life is not meant to be perfect, without bumps and bruises. Instead it’s really about living out loud and outside the box, together.
Looking back, I believe with all my heart we are where we’re supposed to be as a family. We could fixate on the past, the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s but then we’d lose the whole point of living life outside the box, wouldn't we? Our boys’ chill factor comes solely from two things: One, knowing God’s in control even when we aren't and two, believing and understanding their parents love them unconditionally, PERIOD. Are we perfect, do we have it all together, oh heck no! Our boys will be the first to express this fact to anyone who asks but at the end of the day we are a family. This last year has been the toughest we've ever lived through. Hurts, betrayals and yes ,even boundaries have been pushed, all combining and coming together, attempting to pull us apart, destroy who we are and rip our faith apart, but by God’s grace the complete opposite happened. Instead, we have come together, as a family, everything on the table and found our footing, not in perfection, or any other wild idea of what a nice normal family looks like. What we have found in the chaos is grace, forgiveness and a beautiful example of life outside the white picket fence.
Life lesson # 11: Don’t be afraid all to live your life outside the box; you never know what’s waiting for you!
Life for us, the Dowling and Olachia family, is typically nothing like a Norman Rockwell painting to say the least. But you know what? I’m OK with that. Depending on the day, Micah can leave us speechless without a filter, Joshua can leave us scrambling at the last minute, I can drop a full glass of tea all over the table or Johnny can forget to pay a bill. Anyone curious and willing enough to be a fly on the wall will find Johnny and I listening to the boys music in our SUV, at a concert of their choice, watching a Disney movie , football, hockey or the Walking Dead together. Basically it’s all pretty random stuff to be honest, but pretty typical around here. Is everything my taste, absolutely not! Do I believe in being involved in your kids’ lives, and making them apart of yours, YES! Boundaries are absolutely necessary and essential but so are open doors. Yes Johnny and I dress up in costumes with the boys for Halloween; we ride roller coasters right beside them, try crazy concoctions, and act like loons as much as taking part in both deep and ridiculous conversations with our children. As parents, we allow them to see our faults just as much as our accomplishments. Most importantly, we share our faith, our walk, or lack of it at times with God not just in front of our boys, but beside them. We’re real everyday people, and that’s exactly how we want our boys not only to see us but to know us this way.
I am humbled knowing our kids, at 15 and 17, can be themselves out in the world and with us, not ashamed of who they are . I am always amazed and grateful our boys welcome their parents and grandparents in their lives. True, they make a lot of decisions without us on their own these days as it should be, still it’s good to know they’re willing and do come to us for guidance without fretting the outcome. Do they roll their eyes when I kiss them in front of their friends, oh ya, they do! On the flip side of the coin though, every morning on the way out the door Joshua, Micah and Johnny stop for a kiss and a hug. We've learned never to be ashamed of our kids, even when they mess up, who of us hasn't? After almost 18 years of being a mom it’s a blessing to sit beside my teenage boys and have them rest their heads on my shoulder no matter who’s around. We can be goofy together, laugh out loud, share life experiences and be open and honest with one another. So we aren’t perfect, we’re awkward at times, we are most definitely far from having it all together, and nope we aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we are our own unique kind of family, chilled and warm at the same time, just how it should be.