Lucky No. 13
Family, football, and faith. How a former NFL lineman and his wife balance a life with 13 kids.
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons
When former NFL lineman Bruce Collie met Holly, it didn’t take long for either of them to realize they’d found the perfect match. Although Bruce takes great pride in winning two Super Bowls, his utmost joy comes from his family—a wife of 26 years and their 13 children. Nowadays, the Collies own and operate Brewster’s Pizza in Wimberley, where they all pitch in to support the thriving restaurant. So, what’s it like having 13 kids? Surprisingly copacetic, actually. Bruce and Holly are masters of parenting, and were happy to share the keys to their success.
Bruce and Holly on...
Having 13 Kids
We came to faith at the same time and wanted to do things the way it says in the Bible. We did away with birth control because we believe children are a gift. You don’t pick your gifts, so we never checked if it was a girl or a boy, either. We lost our first one but didn’t give up on God—and we never looked back. It’s not for everybody, but it just worked for us.
The hardest was the beginning; two was the hardest for us. With one, we were figuring it out—we had no idea what we were doing. When we had our second, the first hadn’t really started walking. But once we had one moving and one relaxing, it got better. After that, it became more familiar and we relaxed our parenting style. Having a positive attitude helps. Rather than thinking, “Ugh I have to change another diaper,” you think, “There’s going to be a day when I don’t get to do this anymore, and I’m going to miss it.”
Have faith. Never give up. Be consistent and follow through with what you say. Your word means something.
We take them aside and confront them privately when there is an issue. We discipline our children the way we want to see them discipline their children.
It’s not about trying to ruin their spirit or who they are as a child. But, do you want to be confident if your child was running toward the street and you yelled ‘stop’ that they’d actually stop? It’s all about safety.
We try to let them learn how to handle their own disputes, instead of letting mommy and daddy fix it. What are you going to do with that in your future? And sometimes we don’t have the full story, so we can’t make the right decision. We always call in both parties and sit them down and let them talk. We ask, “What’s the right thing to do?” and get them to own it.
Having a House Full of Teenagers
We don’t do ‘teenager’—we do a coming of age ceremony when they turn 13 years old. It’s like a bar/bat mitzvah, except we aren’t Jewish. Being a teenager is like being in limbo-land, so instead, we call them ‘young adults.’ The Bible talks about being a child or a man—not a teenager.
Even on a date, they need to have a sibling escort. When we started having kids we talked about how we would handle it. I asked him, “Would you have minded if my brother had come along with us on our dates?” And he said, “Not at all, because with you, my intentions were correct.” We don’t “date.”
Instead of dating, we call it courting. If somebody wants to come into this family, we’ll have them come in and work. They’ll be around the brothers and sisters and have their guards down. You really find out who somebody is that way. You find out if you’re compatible without all the dating “stuff”—washed car, makeup, and so on.
When the kids turn 13 they get a ring as a promise to abstinence. If they make the choice to do something different, then they can give us their ring—it’s totally their choice.
It’s a routine with flexibility. These days, they’re always coming and going—I’m like Mission Control Mom.
You don’t get a phone until you drive, and we have a group text so we can always be in communication and know where everyone is.
We have a washer and two dryers. I will do a load or two in the morning and be done with it for the day. The kids are starting to do their own, though. We used to always do yesterday’s laundry on the following day.
For food, we order cases from the same supplier we use for the restaurant. Sometimes we go to Sam’s, too.
Everybody homeschools—we just do it full-time. With extracurriculars, though, it was not easy. We’ve testified at the senate in support of the Tim Tebow Bill. In 34 other states, homeschool kids can play sports at the public school. The coaches at Wimberley High School would have loved to have our boys play football, but we didn’t think it was worth enrolling them in public school just for that. Instead, they joined a six-man team, and for the past two years, we were driving 600 miles a week just to get them to practice and games. The EmilyAnn Theatre in Wimberley has also really saved us. Our kids have been able to be involved in directing, acting, singing, set building, and costume designing. Overall, homeschool has been a plus.
Working in the Restaurant
We bring them into the restaurant early. Our youngest, Dennison, will take out pizza and breadsticks to customers; he loves calling out the orders. There will be one person in the restaurant and he’ll scream their name when the order is ready, just because he can.
It’s great practice because you’re going to serve people your whole life—in one way or another. Whether it’s in your relationship, children, parents—you’re going to serve. It’s great practice and there’s a lot to learn about how to treat people.
Leaving the Nest
We encourage our kids to follow their passions. We don’t want our kids to be doctors or lawyers unless that’s their passion. We’ll try to facilitate any opportunities to help them. It’s going feel like a change when Jensen moves to Nashville [to pursue a music career], but we are nothing but happy for him.