Southlake's Clayton Reed has a Sevenfold of Family Love and Commitment
by Rhonda Ross
When Clayton Reed’s oldest son, Jack, turned nine a few years back Clay realized that the days remaining with his firstborn under the family roof were numbered and the time was quickly approaching when his oldest child would head out into the world. As a busy executive, the realization was a sobering thought. He considered that the years left to have Jack skillfully prepared for adulthood were passing all to quickly. To better conceptualize the passage of time Clay went out and bought two jars and 468 multi-colored marbles, one marble for each week until Jack turned 18. “Every week,” Clay said, “I conduct my “marble ceremony” where I move one marble from full jar to the other jar.” Today, 250 or so marbles later, Jack is now 14 and each jar carries almost the same number of marbles. What began as a way to help a Dad stay focused on the resolve to raise his children as the bible mandates now serves as a reminder that one day the marbles will be gone and the time represented can never be recovered. This Southlake Dad has yet to lose his “marbles” and knows a thing or two about time management. Clay and his wife of more than fifteen years, Heather, are busy raising not only Jack but also his five brothers and one sister.
The Early Days
Born in Waco, Clay Reed grew up in Florida before heading off to Hyles-Anderson Seminary College in Chicago. While living in the Windy City he met his wife, Heather and they began their life together as Clay started to move up in his corporate career with Fed-X Ground. After nine years in the corporate world Clay started his own service business, resigned from Fed-X and in 1998 took an unpaid internship at a church in Arlington, bringing his then small family back to the Lone Star state. “The paychecks stopped coming in, but the bills didn’t,” Clay laughed. The everyday operation of running a successful business long distance from their townhome in Arlington kept Clay and Heather running, the frequent flyer miles piled up, as did the marbles representing the number of days Clay was away from his continuingly growing family.
Two years after Jack was born, Josh joined the family, followed by brother Eric two years later. After two more years passed Matthew was born, followed by Tyler two years later and then Abby, the lone sister, came along after three more years. With the birth of Jacob a year and a half ago, the Reed family numbered nine in total with seven kids from age fourteen right down to one and a half. Yes, they have enough family for their own baseball team. Heather sees herself as a Bench Coach to Clay’s General Manager spot.
Heather comes from a large family, “I was number 7 out of 8 children. We’re all very close,” Heather told us. Some of her clan has even relocated from the Chicago area to Texas. Clay is one of three children but all are close and involved in each other’s lives, his parents are staff members at Trinity Baptist Church and Trinity Baptist College, the same Arlington church that Clay interned at. Growing up in a tight-knit family, being away from the kids and Heather so much started to take its toll. One of the first friends to encourage Clay to start a church was his business attorney, former Southlake Mayor Andy Wambsganss and a few months later that sentiment was echoed by one of his employees, Lindsay Polyak. After weighing the decision carefully, Clay and Heather brought their family to Southlake and in 2009 held the first service of Southlake Baptist Church at Carroll High School. Today the church holds a multi-year lease on an piece of property known as the 1919 building on Carroll Ave and Clay proudly said, “We’ve almost doubled in size in the four or five months we’ve been in the building.”
Deciding to leave big business behind and be a “stay at home” Dad brought monumental changes to the entire Reed family. “I’ve always maintained a home office,” Clay commented, “but now I’m actually in it.”
A Day in the Life
A typical morning at the Reed house starts with a family breakfast. “We share breakfast together every day but Sunday,” Clay said. “The boys pretty much take care of their own breakfast, getting their oatmeal or cereal, every boy has a job to do.” The family gathers around an enormous rectangular table, the result of pushing two large tables together, surrounded by chairs and benches. Grabbing the milk isn’t a problem. “We have two of everything,” Clay points out, “two refrigerators, two ovens, two dishwashers.” It’s a good thing they have refrigerator space, they go through a gallon of milk a day, as well as a loaf or more of bread and rolls. “Breakfast acts a way to reset our day, every day, it’s been the best thing,” declares this proud Dad.
After the boys have cleaned up their breakfast they head off to school. The commute isn’t far, all the school age Reeds are currently home schooled and the large, completely outfitted classroom lies just off the kitchen. Each child has their own workspace and school starts promptly at nine. Heather, a teacher herself, started homeschooling with Jack, “It was kind of like weightlifting, starting small and adding on. I got used to teaching one and added a new one every two years, “Heather laughed. Clay added, “Now we have a Math teacher come to the house. As the higher grades come on, we don’t want any limitations that could restrict their potential.”
With Jack approaching high school, Clay said, “We are wrestling a fair amount with making sure he is ready for the future. He wants to go to West Point and currently 15% of West Point applications come from home schooled students.” Switching to public school in the future isn’t out of the question. “We’re narrowing things down, it’s impossible to duplicate a chemistry lab here at the house,” he laughed.
"The foundation to our home is our relationship with each other." Clayton Reed
Juggling school schedules isn’t the only logistical challenge of having seven kids. Imagine all the extra curricular activities kids today participate in and then multiply by seven. The Reed family uses a togetherness factor to help organize their multi-level schedule of activities, grouping activities together. “All the boys take Jiu-Jitsu together on Monday and Wednesday nights and we all go,” Clay explained. Heather chimed in, “Multiple kids going somewhere at the same time.” Everyone takes piano or guitar lessons too and the teachers come to the house and teach each child, one after the other. “People either come to us or we choose something we can all do together, and the group mentality works for now,” Clay said. He was quick to point out, “You just can’t overcommit.”
When it comes time for the family to head out they all pile into the family Suburban outfitted with three bench seats instead of the customary captains chairs up front. Travelling short or long distances can be an adventure with a family of nine. “We went to Disney this year,” Clay mentioned, “Just getting through security, it’s like planning and travelling for a tour group. We often bring someone else along to help, my Mom, my cousin, sometimes the kids teacher, and we make use of babysitters at the properties.”
The fact that all the kids are friends as well as siblings helps in more ways than just during travel. The boys work together as a team, taking care of a great deal of their own laundry including all the family napkins and towels. “I sort,” says Heather, “Then after they finish the wash they deliver it back to me to fold and put away.” The brothers also pitch in to help keep the house clean. Their Mom said, “You don’t see a lot of knick knacks around and that’s because it’s easier for them to help clean without all the extras.”
On the Home Front
During my tour of the Reed house it was remarkable to see the thought that went into arranging or building each area to maximize the space and make life manageable for the large number of people living under one roof. From the double appliances to the size and layout of the rooms, careful consideration was given to making life comfortable for the family. The oversized boys bedroom resembles a ranch hands bunkhouse with orderly bunk beds lining the walls interspersed with two single beds and yet, the room somehow reflects all the different personalities living in it. “We have empty bedrooms,” Clay told me, “They just really enjoy being together.”
The tour included a trip to the backyard to see the moveable chicken coop. “The boys are a big help to me out in the yard,” Clay said showing me the coop that is set on wheels and they move a few feet each week keeping cleanup at a minimum while also fertilizing the lawn. Heather reached down into the coop and offered me four fresh eggs and Clay laughed saying, “Yeah, we’re thinking we could use a cow.”
Dining out with this group can be a big undertaking both in logistics and expense. “One of our family traditions,” said Clay, “is every Sunday after church we head to Johnny B’s, it’s just what we love to do. Before you even ask, it costs about $65.00.” Logistically, this family getting in to line ahead of you at any restaurant would probably make you turn your head. “Everyone walks up and asks, “Are they all yours? And they aren’t being rude, just curious,” said Clay. Heather added a story about one meal at Chipotle when the head count changed and somehow Matthew slipped under their radar and was sitting at someone else’s table eating their burrito. “It happened so quickly,” she said, “The customer laughed it off and said it was no big deal.”
Some people say that having a second child is easier but imagine for twelve years the Reeds added a new child every two years. In Clay’s opinion, “The hardest was going from 3 children to 4, we had to go from man to man coverage to zone. After we had three or four that were six years old and younger the others were age seven and up. They learn a fair amount of independence and are so helpful.” Heather agreed, “They are kind of like a little adult, they know the routine, they know all the chores.”
"The hardest was going from 3 children to 4, we had to go from man to man coverage to zone." Clayton Reed
There is no doubt being a parent changes you. According to the Reeds, “You think about yourself a lot less, you come home and there is so much activity. You’re never lonely.” Being a parent in these difficult economic times is no picnic no matter the size of a family but Clayton Reed looks at things differently. He said, “Life changes. I went from owning my own company to living on the proceeds of that and starting a church.” But, as Clay mentioned on his blog the changes have been good. He may no longer have “Executive Platinum” airline status but that’s okay, he prefers family style meals to those served in first class.
“The foundation to our home is our relationship with each other,” Clay said. “Tonight is our date night, Tuesdays and Fridays is our time to connect.” Ever since their son Jack was young, a babysitter comes every Tuesday afternoon. Heather gets a little free time and then Mom and Dad enjoy an evening together, sans the kids. On Saturdays Clay spends a few hours out enjoying time with all the kids so Heather can have some time at home or to run errands. Looking fondly at his wife, Clay said, “She really makes things work around here.”
As we sat in Clay’s home office, he pointed to a wall lined with books and said, “Raising children, you have to grow as a parent. Many of these books, both secular and religious, are on parenting. You grow as a parent, all the time. You have to invest in knowing how to parent just like learning how to run your company.”
An old proverb states, “Any man can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a Dad.” Clay Reed, Pastor, Community Volunteer, Husband, and Father is one special man who definitely has what it takes. The next time you have a decision to make about missing that football game for a conference call or missing that family dinner to stay at the office a few more hours, pause for a moment and think about the two jars of marbles on the shelf in Clay Reed’s office. One is emptying far too quickly for this Southlake Dad. Stop and ask yourself this question just as Clay does, “Is it worth a marble?”
Photo Credits: Lindsay Polyak Photography