The Parks Family of Eight Rises to Life’s Challenges
Meet the new Plainfield Middle School 7th Grade Softball Coach Bryan Parks, his wife Carly, and their six amazing children.
I have spent the last eight years working in leadership development and the last five years serving on the Avon Town Council. Needless to say, I have had the privilege of meeting a lot of people. However, it’s rare that I come across an individual, let alone an entire family, who I find absolutely impressive in all aspects. Though they love the competition and life lessons team sports provide, the Parks are a family first and athletes second.
I had the opportunity to meet the Parks family in the spring of 2017 when Bryan coached my daughter’s 8U softball team in Plainfield. Early on, I could tell there was something special about this family. His wife Carly was an assistant coach, his daughter Grace was also on the team, and the remaining family members were always hanging out around the fields. Yes, all the children, which were only four others at the time, and even grandparents were present to lend a helping hand. As the season progressed and I got to know more about Bryan and Carly, I could see they were exactly the kind of people I wanted coaching my daughter. In a world where fistfights and unruly parents at sporting events are the norm, I could tell these two had it together, both on and off the field.
When Bryan and Carly decided to start a family, they were faced with challenges from the start. They struggled for several years with infertility and after much research, thought, and prayer they came to the decision of entertaining adoption. They had some help in the process due to the fact a close family member had completed the process of adopting a girl from China. During the process of adoption, they received an amazing surprise, they became pregnant with their oldest daughter Sidney, who is now 13 years old. They were even more surprised two years later to find they were again expecting with their oldest son Jackson.
A few years into their new family the Parks came to the realization they were very blessed to have their two children and believed it was time for them to pay it forward in some way. Believing they had enough love and resources to include an additional member in their family, they decided to proceed with the adoption service in China and Grace was brought home.
Ironically, prior to the end of the process and trip to bring Grace home, Carly found out she was expecting another child, daughter Morganne who is now eight years old.
Now many may think this family appears to be complete, but not quite yet.
“We made a joke one day about having an empty seat in the van,” Carly says. “That ended up sparking our discussion for a 5th child.”
In the end, the Parks were bringing a little brother home to the siblings, Haven who is now seven years old. Would he be the final member of the Parks family? The answer was maybe.
“We had a serious discussion about a 6th child but wanted to ensure we could provide for an additional child without decreasing the quality of life for the other five,” Bryan says. “In the end, we decided we would go back to China for another child.”
In 2017, the Parks brought River home and he made the family complete.
Though the Parks’ home was full of love and joy in welcoming all the children into the family, they have not been without trials and challenges. Haven was diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta, better known as brittle bone disease. He has faced many struggles with simple things in life that most kids take for granted such as walking and playing. After River arrived home doctors diagnosed him with ventricular septal defect or a hole in the wall separating the two lower chambers of the heart. The Indianapolis doctors were surprised at how well River’s condition had been treated prior to his arrival. Grace lives and thrives with ectrodactyly, or limb difference. She does not allow the condition to slow her down, its actually quite the opposite. Grace has the heart of a competitor and the mind of a champion. She is by far one of the most impressive athletes I have ever watched, racking up multiple championships in various sports.
“We push them all to embrace challenge,” Bryan says. “We want them to choose the hard path and appreciate the rewards that life’s challenges bring.”
Bryan and Carly make a point to mention their appreciation for all the assistance they receive from both extended families.
“Everyone has been great from both sides of our family,” Carly says. “From grandparents to aunts, uncles and cousins, we have such an amazing support system where everyone plays a valuable role.”
Carly was accustomed to having a full house growing up as her parents were volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana.
Bryan and Carly believe it is important to ensure Grace, Haven and River are exposed to as much of their original culture as possible. The family makes an annual trip to a local Chinese Community Church as well as celebrating Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival.
“It’s a great experience and learning opportunity for all of the kids,” Carly says. “We are not a bilingual family and generally do not eat Chinese food but it’s important to educate all the kids on various aspects of the Chinese culture.”
So why sports, I asked Bryan. What is it about softball that drives you to spend so much time at the diamonds year-round?
“It’s a great way to affect a positive influence on a lot of young minds at once,” Bryan says. “It’s not about me or what I can do to compete, it’s about what I can do for them in focusing on fun but teaching them to learn, have a work ethic and about pride. Used in the right way, sports is an amazing life lesson.”
Bryan and Carly both love being at the fields and coaching their children. It’s no surprise they are so comfortable doing so as both were raised by coaches. Bryan’s father was a football coach, and his grandfather was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Carly’s parents were both softball coaches and she too has fond memories of spending time at the fields as a child.
So how does a family of eight who spends so much time at sporting events find balance in life?
“It’s not easy, but we have a routine that we stick to,” Carly says.
Bryan is the sole provider for the family working as a solutions architect in the data center field.
“One thing that coaching allows us to do is spend time with the family and set our own schedules,” Bryan says. “As far as finding balance in our marriage, it takes a lot of work from both sides. We are lucky that we have two to three hours every night once the kids go to bed to catch up with each other, talk or just decompress and watch movies.”
As I began to wrap my visit with the Parks up, I had to ask them both for the best advice they could give on parenting. Bryan replied quickly, “Always make joint decisions and have a united front. We never go through with anything we both are not 100% onboard with.”
Carly was excited to follow up with, “Gratitude is the key to happiness in life and it’s contagious.”
As for the future, Bryan and Carly are happy with their family and have no plans to make any new additions. They did however bring Noel, the family dog, home late last year. The kids seem to love having a dog in the house, and Noel seems to complete an already amazing family.