When Tyler and Beth Nichols, of Mansfield, Texas, decided to start a family, they threw themselves in headfirst. Knowing they wanted to adopt siblings, the couple ventured into the amazing, complicated world of adoption. Little did they know just how colorful their lives as a new family of seven (yes, seven!) would turn out to be.
Speaking to director Daniel Kelly in a touching 2015 film short named The Nichols Adoption Story: From 5 Kids to 1 Family, the couple told their story.
The couple’s motivation was a personal one, owing to the early childhood experience of Tyler’s grandfather, who was fostered. “My grandfather was in a sibling group of six,” Tyler explained, “and so back in the day, in the 1920s or 1930s, he got on a train leaving Fort Worth with all his brothers and sisters, and they kind of marched them out at every stop.”
“People would say, ‘I want that one,'” Tyler shared.
Tyler’s grandfather was deeply impacted by the loss of his siblings, knowing that somewhere out there were the brothers and sisters he had been separated from. He suffered from an “underlying sadness,” Tyler’s grandmother Martha explained. It turned out that the young boy was fostered by a family who needed another strong pair of hands to work at their dairy farm, but all was not lost. The disbanded siblings eventually found one another after almost three decades of separation, but much of the damage had been done.
“If we could keep a family together,” Tyler responded, “that’s what we would really like to do.”
The adoption forms were hard to fill out, the prospective dad shared candidly. They asked pertinent yet deeply sensitive questions relating to physical and mental trauma and developmental difficulties, trying to work out what prospective parents were willing to take on. “It’s basically ‘What can you not love?'” Tyler described. “At least that’s what it felt like to us.”
But the couple was realistic, and focused upon what they were prepared to do, which was a lot; they were prepared to adopt between two and four children in a sibling group. The couple spent seven weeks in Bogotá waiting for the resolution of their case, and then the call came: they were being offered four children, and their baby sister. In 2015, when the couple was interviewed about their story, Yohan, the eldest, was 9, Patty was 8, Wilson 7, Oscar 6, and little Heidi, the “baby,” just 4 years old.
It was more than the couple had initially been willing to take on, but they were overwhelmed with love and excitement and accepted the challenge with open hearts.
Yohan, the eldest, presented the most challenging behavior. “It’s hard, because you can’t take it personally,” Beth contributed. “My oldest had seven years of not being able to trust someone who was supposed to be a mom […] he had to re-learn what a mom was supposed to be.” And that’s when the couple realized something else about this wonderful, complicated group of five; Patty had been “mom” to her siblings before the Nicholses arrived. At the age of 6, little Patty was running the show.
It broke the Nicholses’ hearts.
“She was the one that brought them all together,” Beth shared. “She was the one that assured them, ‘We’re gonna be okay’ in terrible circumstances.” For three or four weeks, Patty would lay beside Beth when she comforted the crying baby, Heidi, watching intently and making sure that Beth was “doing it right.” It had, after all, been her job for so long.
“We de-briefed every night,” Tyler shared, “because we’d never been parents before […] we were becoming parents while they were becoming children in a family environment.”
Today, the children are growing up beautifully, and the family is together most nights of the week, building that sense of closeness. They’ve already missed so much, Beth lamented, that they don’t want to miss a moment more. Plus, they want their fabulous five to understand that this family is for keeps.
“The thing that has held us all together was creating one big family,” Tyler added sagely. “One big team to take on the world together.”