True Team Building
As a softball player of 16 years, I have been on my share of teams, both successful and unsuccessful. I have seen magic happen as the chemistry just clicks and I have also seen relationships and responsibilities crumble when the dynamic fails. After spending an hour with Maria McCracken, it was obvious that her family is not only a successful team, but it is one that is filled with that magical chemistry.
Maria married her husband, Troy McCracken, in 1996 at the age of 30. Since they knew they wanted a big family, they had to get started right away. A year later, they had their first son, Sam, followed by Jack the year after, and Max the next year. "Troy almost had a heart attack when I told him I was pregnant with the third one. He was literally hyperventilating and almost had to be taken to the hospital. But after the third one, we knew we had to have another. It's the Kings Island rule; everyone has to have a pair!" Maria laughed. So the next year, they had their fourth son, Will.
After having four boys in four years, one would think Maria was done, but her heart still yearned for more. The couple looked into possibly adopting a little girl, but God had a different plan for their lives. Through a friend of a friend they learned that there were two young brothers in a foster home, being cared for by their ten-year-old half brother, Cody. They had been living off bologna and Cheerios. After much prayer, Maria and Troy decided to adopt two-year-old Chase and one-year-old Riley, and Cody went to live with his biological father. "The first question Cody asked me was 'do you have blankets?' He needed to know that they would be protected and taken care of. The funny way that God works is that my son, Jack, looks almost identical to Cody, so from the beginning, Riley has clung to Jack because he saw Cody in him. It made the transition so much smoother, and he still finds his comfort in Jack."
The boys now range in age from 13- to six-years-old and all take after their parents in athleticism (Troy is six foot, seven inches tall, and Maria has been involved in various sporting activities from softball to professional body building). As I tried to wrap my mind around having six very active boys within seven years of each other, I couldn't help but blurt out, "So what are some of the challenges you face and how do you keep your sanity?" To my surprise, she responded with a puzzled look, and after a long pause said "Besides keeping the cupboards stocked, I really can't think of any!" Of course my next response was a muffled, "What's your secret?" "To me, it's all about balance. I could pound my kids to be awesome in school and sports, but there's so much stress in our daily lives that I just want them to know their priorities. Maybe my house isn't clean, the cupboards aren't organized, and the socks don't match, but their homework is done and they get to school on time and I think that's the most important. These days we're so afraid to deviate from the norm because we're afraid of what others will think, but in the long run who cares if their socks don't match?"
The McCracken team may find strength in their similarities, but the team dynamic is enhanced through their differences. As Maria talked about her boys, she beamed, as only a mother can, about each one's individual quirks, interests, and the way they show love to one another. "The social worker told me I was delusional to think that Chase and Riley would be just like my kids, but you should see the way they love on each other."
Maria credits their family chemistry, once again, to the sense of balance and teamwork they have with each other. "I have an awesome husband who I share everything with. I am physically strong, but I know my role as a wife and a mother. Troy is a spiritual leader and the boys look up to him. It's not about being a 'cool mom or dad' because we have to show them who's boss, but that doesn't mean that it's not a priority to have fun with them. I want to raise good, God-loving children. My biggest dream is not to raise boys who are financially or professionally successful, but to raise boys who are good husbands, good fathers, good friends, and all-together good men."
Words to live by: "Make each day a masterpiece"
- John Wooden, and "Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't say it mean." - As seen on an episode of "True Jackson" on Nickelodeon.
Random fact: In the 1990s, Maria was on an episode of "American Gladiator" that still shows up on reruns! Her boys, to this day, think she is a retired ninja.
Leading by example: Troy and Maria got married in the same church as her parents. "My parents have been married 46 years. They are my example."
Celebration: Out of the six, four of the boys' birthdays are within two weeks of each other: December 23, 27, 29 and January 7! The other two were born in the summer.