“I didn't think I was going to be taking on all this responsibility,” he said. “I knew I was going to have a couple (children) of my own. Growing up, we were going to have two kids, a white picket fence and a dog.”
Instead, he ended up with an overflowing five-bedroom house, packed with bunk beds and groceries. He and his wife, as well as their biological children, wouldn't have it any other way.
“Before another child would come, we always asked our own children” if it was OK, Evelyn said. “They loved the attention. They always had somebody to play with.”
Firm but loving
For a while, William and Evelyn had children in every grade in the Midwest City school system. They didn't have a minivan or a bus, so they hauled the children around in two cars, adopting a meticulous schedule built around their work shifts.
Evelyn, who teaches parenting skills through Community Health Center Inc., worked the 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift. Her husband, who does asset protection for Walmart, worked from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
“He would drop them off, and I would pick them up,” Evelyn said. “We would just maneuver the day to get them back and forth to school and activities.”
They established a strict routine for the children and a code of conduct. Both were necessary, William said, to keep the kids on the right path.
“If they would've stayed where they were, they would've been rebellious and wound up in gangs or prison or dead,” he said. “They came here for the discipline.”
Among the rules:
The household maintained a firm 9 p.m. bedtime. The children didn't necessarily have to go to sleep at that time, but they had to be inside their rooms with the doors closed.
“My husband would always get off work later in the night,” Evelyn said. “I had to give him his time. So after 9 p.m., we didn't sign any papers. We didn't give any lunch money. And then once a week, we would just go out on a date.”
Home for holidays
Now that many of the children are grown, Evelyn and William have established another rule: Everyone must come home for the holidays.
“That's mandatory,” William said. “You have to come home for either Christmas or Thanks
Evelyn said she's done taking in more people, although life already has proved her wrong. The family has grown. Three grandchildren — ages 5, 3 and eight months — are staying at the house, and Evelyn's mother has moved in with them, too.
“I told my Mom that the day she passes away, I'm putting the house on the market and getting a one-bedroom condo,” Evelyn said, laughing.
William is more pragmatic.
“The inn is never closed,” he said. “There will always be someone here. We've come to realize that.”
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