I am number four of six children born to my parents between 1953 and 1966. While having that many children today may seem a little wacky, I remember families in my old neighborhood that had even more. Child bearing was very different back then. Back in the day, the really odd family was the one down the street with the only child. As Darrow and I began down this road together, I often wondered just how many children would cross our threshold. I still have this romantic image of the two of us in this big old house bursting at the seams with little ones.
Now having spent a few years doing this, I’ve come to recognize the realities of being a parent. Forging ahead with child number two in 2009 was a bit of a leap of faith. There were financial and logistical issues that we fretted over, but in the end felt that in our family there would be at least two children. Now it seems as though two might be the right number, though neither of us have closed that door. The idea of having three or four children seems like a lot given what I’ve experienced with our two boys. But this issue—the how many—continues to pop up in our lives.
We know someone who has four children. They are a beautiful family. Recently we discovered that he and his partner are considering a fifth. Crazy? Sometimes it seems so. With just two it’s difficult to imagine that many. I asked him once how he handled having four. He said that it gets easier, because the kids end up entertaining each other. I imagined that the type of existence they lead is more small town and simpler than ours. Their life must lend itself to having that many kids. It has to.
One of the hardest parts about being a parent is the demands that both boys place on us, especially T. He needs a playmate, a consoler, a target, a dinner-maker, a juice-pourer, a sleeping companion and a buy-for-me machine. He is getting too big to be picked up and carried anywhere, but that doesn’t stop him. Anticipating our answer, “you’re too heavy,” he will lob heartstrings logic to convince one of us that carrying him up stairs is the right thing to do.
“Up please! Because I’m tired.”
“Up please! Because I haven’t seen you today.”
or the worst
“Up please! Because I love you.”
There are days when the requests for something are constant, flung one after the other after the other after the other. Sometimes it feels like I can’t give anymore. That’s when we usually get a babysitter.
We have good friends who have a daughter and were notified that her siblings would soon be available. In just over a year, they are going from one infant to three. Another beautiful family that simply said yes to one and now might have three. How about that—does that sound crazy? The circumstances under which they would adopt, makes the premise of having three young children seem manageable for them. They also have family around them, something that we don’t have. But it isn’t ever just a financial or practical decision. It’s the struggle to under, regardless of the circumstances that we each face, how many children can we handle? How many do we want to handle?
In November, we were presented with an opportunity to adopt another child. At first, my reaction was no, no, H-E-double-L, no. Lucas had just turned one and our lives felt really full. But Because of the circumstances which I unfortunately can’t share, it became this notion that was not so easily dismissed. I began to consider it, then coddle it, then agonize about it. We were given some time to think it over before giving our answer. I think we both at different times were yes and then no and then yes again. It got to the point where I would just ask Darrow, “what is it today?” I kept thinking that we should just do it, that it would mean a lot to our family, and like everything, we would figure out a way to make it all work. The rational side of me though countered with the fact that my long-distance commute was not about to change anytime soon. Darrow is the primary care-giver on weekday mornings and evenings. The rest of the time we play man-to-man defense—that is each of us takes a child. Another child turns the man-to-man into a zone defense and triage care—who is squawking the loudest, who is the most in need right now? Adding a third would have meant making serious changes that included financial ones. We realized quickly that we were in no place financially to handle this—it wasn’t something we had ever planned for.
In the end we decided not to. It was a hard decision that part of me still regrets. I wonder if it were a different time, If our lives were structured differently, more simply, would the answer have been yes. Our family life is sweet right now. I love being married, enjoy our children and look forward to getting home each night to the little brood. And until there is some permanency to our situation with our foster son, our life is still unsettled. Someday soon it will not be that way and at that time we may choose to have another. The answer to my question is, that I don’t really know. I believe that our life will simplify as the boys grow up and we will again begin to wonder—how many?