By Guest Blogger Jena Penner

That’s not a stock image above, that’s my family. At my 25th high school reunion, someone I hadn’t seen since graduation asked for a recap of the past couple decades. Without giving my response much thought I replied, “Oh, ya know, nothing out of the ordinary, just your typical stuff.” Truly I didn’t mean to lie. I honestly didn’t think I had anything interesting to tell because the life I live doesn’t seem like the reality show others tend to think it is. Perspective is a funny thing!

Doesn’t everyone have enough kids for a basketball team with extras on the bench? Spend a season living in a third world country? Give someone a high-five and think,“Hey. Five. That’s how many college tuition checks we wrote last month?” Have an open international adoption or two? Met one of your kids for the first time in the Harris Teeter parking lot? No? So I’m abnormal and I should have a reality show?

My little life of organized chaos is so typical to me, when people stare, I look behind me wondering what is happening. Then I realize they are looking at us. Is it the sheer number or different shades of melanin? Life happens to each of us. My husband says if he didn’t witness life happening to me, he’d think I was a liar. And sometimes the different scenarios I find myself in are a bit unbelievable.

For instance, last month I found myself part of a group text. Typical and ordinary, except I didn’t know anyone in the group. I tried to remove myself but it wasn’t an option. I asked to be removed via text and phone, but nope; the texts kept coming rapid fire. So, I decided to participate. Why not? Chaperone David was texting, “We are loaded on Bus #2. Aiden is sitting with Alex, Roger with Cooper, Blake with Anderson. We will be pulling out shortly and will be making a stop in Rocky Mount.” I texted,“Since you are still sitting in your cars watching the buses until they pull out, I want to remind you that Aiden, Alex, Roger, Cooper, Blake and Anderson will most likely be going off to college one day soon without a group text from a chaperone. A suggestion from a mom who has dropped multiple kids off at college: Go enjoy your week while your precious one is certainly enjoying theirs. Try not to spend your days staring at the Life 360 app you’ve got downloaded on your phone. If something goes wrong, your phone will ring. David is obviously on it. Take this time to ponder the things you want to teach your kids before they leave the nest so when they do take off, you can rest in confidence you’ve done your part and enjoy watching them do theirs. Trust me, it’s the best show you’ll ever watch.” I immediately got removed from the group text, but the moms started texting me individually. ‘Don’t you use the Life 360 app? I have to know how fast Cooper is driving.’ No, I didn’t let my kids get their drivers license until I can trust them. ‘When you applied for their college…’ Woah. Hold up. They apply for college, not you. They fill out the application, write the essay, apply for the scholarships. You hang out sipping your favorite beverage in case they need to ask you a question.

Parenting is an investment, the greatest investment you’ll ever make. You can pay now or you can pay later. It’s so much easier the earlier on. Invest in the early days and you’ll do more sitting back and reaping the benefits in the later days. My Granny told me if I didn’t fall into bed physically exhausted when your kids are little, you aren’t working hard enough. She was right.

When I pushed out our first babies, I thought it was amazing. Then we adopted and I thought that was pretty amazing too. I’ve recently discovered my new favorite way to grow our family. When your child gets married, you get more kids! The glorious thing is you don’t have to teach them to tie their shoes or make a bed. They waltz in starry eyed and you get to scoop them up and love them right back, even though their love is aimed at your kid.

At my next high school reunion, I’ll be prepared with fun and exciting stories that will scare the best of my friends. And hopefully have a full album of grand babies.


Jena Penner married her husband, Keith, 25 years ago. He still makes her toes curl. She has 7 amazing children. Some she pushed out, some she pulled home. Jena is the Development Coordinator for Lydia’s Hope, which serves the Piedmont Triad community by educating and supporting families, churches, schools and professionals on the effects of childhood trauma using Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). 

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