After the birth of your first, once the coos, oohs, and ahhs have stopped, well-wishers give you the third degree about feeding, sleeping, and childcare. Often, I’ve found, these questions come loaded. People aren’t simply asking out of curiosity — because who cares whether your child is feeding from the breast or the bottle or some combination of the two, or how much the baby’s eating, and how often? Rather, they’re sussing out whether you’re doing things the “right” way or not, whether you’re part of the same club they decided to join. “Good for you, I breast fed too….” Or, “Oh, bottles, really….”
The questions change as the child grows, with queries about feeding and sleeping turning to ones about disciplining and schooling. However, no matter how old Felix gets, one has stayed the same: when are you going to have another kid?
People are often surprised when we say that we’re done having kids, which is how my wife and I have responded from almost our earliest days as parents. The paradigm of the two-child nuclear family still holds strong in our culture, as does the stereotype of the only child as being spoiled, self-involved, weird. This, despite the number of spoiled, self-involved, weird siblings there are out there. And I’ve talked with so many people who say they just aren’t that close to their siblings, or even that they had a difficult relationship with a brother or sister. Still, people ask, won’t he want a sibling one day? You’re going to deny him that pleasure?
Well, sure. I deny him lots of things he wants, as all parents do. That’s just a part of being a parent. Mothers and fathers make decisions about where the family lives, and how they live, based on what feels right, works for the couple, and seems possible. A number of factors weigh into our decision to remain a trio, from the economic (The cost of college! Oy.), to the size of our apartment (Have I ever mentioned how he has to walk through our bedroom to use the bathroom at night?), to how excited we are now that he’s old enough we can travel with him.
Besides, I’ve seen how it can get when the kids equal the adults. One parent takes one kid while the other takes the other. My wife and I like outnumbering the little bugger. We value our alone, solo time apart from the family, something that’s harder to come by when the brood expands.
Of course, talking in this way makes it sound like a decision made of logic, from the head, when having children is an impulse that comes from the…. heart, to put it politely. I know women who have said that they loved being pregnant, and I know women who couldn’t wait to get their baby out and their bodies back to normal. My wife was in the latter category, finding herself fatigued and suffering from back pain, which has since become chronic. And after a difficult, traumatic labor she was left with few glowing memories about the whole experience.
On top of that, neither of us like babies that much. There, I said it. Sure, we loved our baby, but not so much that we miss him, or want to arrest his development. I would so much rather hang out with a talking, walking, creative-minded little person than lug around a simpering, drooling, cross-eyed infant whose communication strategies don’t get more sophisticated than wailing. And don’t get me started on diaper changing. Just because I love my son doesn’t mean I love the smell of his poop.
My revulsion is such that I often feel confusion when people tell me they’re having another kid. My gut response is why? Being a polite kind of guy, I don’t spit that out, I bite my tongue and put on a happy face. I wish other people would keep that in mind when I say I’m only going to have one. People come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, and so do families. Whether you have one, or ten, as long as you’re happy and engaged as a parent, then there’s no need to make judgements.
Different strokes for different folks, right? And our family’s canoe only fits three.
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