02 May 2007

Not Four

On the Eleventh, and penultimate, Day of Four , I think about what makes four

We are three in our family, not four, but Curious Girl is convinced she is getting a baby sister soon. From the Tooth Fairy, no less. She is quite insistent that the Tooth Fairy brings " a real baby sister." (Wikipedia gives no hint of this power, so clearly, it's not true. I have to say, googling the tooth fairy brings up an interesting array of sites, like this one. But I digress.)

Curious Girl would love a little sister. We have a little sister around the house most days--sometimes the stuffed hippo with a Christmas hat (currently wearing one of CG's baby onesies) is pressed into service as the baby sister, sometimes it's a stuffed cat, rarely the doll, and sometimes the baby is invisible. Sometimes CG is the big sister, sometimes she is the mama, and sometimes she wants me to be the big sister along with her, or to play mama to her and the baby. Other days, CG is the big sister while baby sister is out at school or the babysitters. And in all this play, Curious Girl is invariably solicitous, generous and creative. She feeds baby, takes baby to the doctor, transforms herself into a surgeon to place a feeding tube in baby, or stays with the baby the whole time while some unfortunate task must be completed. It's great.

Politica and I didn't go into our adoption intending to have one child, or any particular number of children. We'd thought about adopting two at once, very briefly, and decided that was not a good move for the children who would be involved. But we never had a vision of how our family would be sized. We each have small families (one sibling each); I'm close to my sister, but Politica's relationship with her sister is really an argument for having only one child. This is an argument that doesn't have much cultural credibility; as soon as Curious Girl turned two, people started asking when we were going to adopt again, or when she would have a sibling. (Some of those conversations have included lectures on the Importance of Siblings or the Problems of the Only Child, which I appreciate about as much as all the advice I ever got from relative strangers telling me my child would eat when she was hungry enough. Thanks, no.)

We've thought about siblings for Curious Girl, other children for us. It's tempting. Parenting Curious Girl is one of the very best parts of my life. I love the family we have become and the way all three of us come to know each other. I love the Politica I am coming to know in this family, and I like myself these days. Part of it is maturity, part of it is effective therapy in my thirties, but a lot of it is parenting. I love it. So it's tempting to do it some more, again.

But I don't think that's in the cards. When I write down or talk about the reasons, it sounds so cold and calculating. But basically, it boils down to the fact that I like the family we have. We're busy, but not too busy. Politica and I work, and I like that we work. We have time for Curious Girl, and I like that, too. We have a pretty good balance between all of us, and it works.

When I try to explain the specifics more, I fear that I sound like I'm saying "I just don't want to cut back on my work to have another child." The truth is, I don't want to cut back on my work. I like that Politica and I each have our own health insurance, each have our own independent paycheck. That makes our family more secure, espeically given the hazy legal standings our relationship has here. But it's not just the money, it's the pleasure of my career. I like what I do, and I think it makes a small bit of difference in the world. I like what it gives me. I also like my CG-days, the day I have spent home with her since I went back to work after her first 9 months home. I like being home, I like being at work.

But it's hard to be firm about deciding to stop. Sometimes I think if we had more money, if I were ten years younger, if Politica had fewer chronic health problems, if, if, if, perhaps I'd have another child. (And oddly, if it became possible to adopt one of CG's biological siblings, assuming there are any and are available for adoption, we'd add to the family in a heartbeat: not sure what that does to all the above arguments or my sense that families are chosen, but there it is.) But if, if, if....then I'd be a different person. I wouldn't be me, here, now.

And for all the reasons that it may be good for Curious Girl to have a sibling, it is also good for her to have a balanced, happy family as she grows.

And so for now, we are three, with a fourth joining us in play. I think we'll stay that way, and most days, I'm so sure that's the way to be. Some days, I'm sad about that; some days, I'm not sure. And maybe that's the way of it, that no matter how many children we have, there's a sense that perhaps one more might be fun. I've read a lot of posts about people who wanted another child and couldn't have one, and fewer posts about how people know when their families are done growing. I'm not sure I'm explaining our choices very well here, but I hope to hear a few more stories from others. How do you know when the family is the right size?


PPB said...

sounds like you know.

Bardiac said...

No answers from me, but I wanted to let you know that I really enjoy this series. You and Politica sound like wonderful parents, and Curious Girl just comes through in your writing so well. Thanks for sharing her.

Elizabeth said...

I think we're done, although I'd like to foster at some point, and could imagine that leading to a bigger family.

But I have no interest in being pregnant again, no desire to go back to the infant stage of sleepless nights. T says that he can't imagine having the kids outnumber the adults. My only wistfulness (regret is too strong a word) is at not getting to be the mother of a daughter.

elswhere said...

We are a family of three for very similar reasons to yours, plus the smallness of our house. For a year or two (around when all her best friends were getting them) MG really, really wanted a baby sibling, and made heartbreaking pleas in that direction. We also got a fair bit of pressure from some of her friends' parents, who are our friends.

But it wasn't right for us, for our family as a whole. Sometimes I want another child, and sometimes I think it'd be good for MG to have some of the focus taken off her. But mostly I like our little family, the compactness and freedom of it: we can travel; we have some slack time now, finally, to do things besides work and parent; we can keep the satisfying but low-paying careers we have without worrying about more childcare, a bigger house (our house is really quite tiny), another set of college tuition fees.

I think it's harder for me, partly because I have a brother and while we're not always close, I'm glad he's around for a variety of reasons. RW is an only child and has always liked it fine (except for dealing with grownups who told her how lonely and deprived she was).

Anyway, it's not the right thing for everybody. But it's the right thing for us.

Arwen said...

We have a family of four, and you'd be surprised how often I'm asked whether we'll have another -- because we haven't had a girl. And when you're asked something often enough, you think about why the answer is no.

So I often revisit why we're finished adding to our family, and it's for very similar reasons to why you are finished adding to yours. The number of kids is irrelevant.

We planned on having one. Then we had our first, and we changed our minds. Now, we've got our hands full, emotionally and financially. Even if we had a huge house with many rooms and a yard for kids to go outside in, I don't think I'd have the energy to parent another the way I want to parent.

Plus, fundamentally, I'm selfish. I don't want to add another five years before that day when I have older kids who need me less. (I remember fondly the days of up late talking and sleeping in the next day.)

And even more - very small children have a lot of needs; I'm certainly not cut out for lots of years of infant and toddler care. There really are only so many hours in a day, as well. A crying baby would take priority over talking to a school-age child about her/his project on butterflies, and I'm looking forward to enjoying that part.

My husband's an only kid. (Well, okay: he's almost an only kid. His brother came 21 years after he did, and he'd already moved out.) He doesn't feel like he missed out or is lonely. If we had stopped at one, I don't think it would have done our eldest any harm.

S. said...

I'm one of three, and I'd really like to have three. I distrust two because my relationship with my sister has been rocky and I was so glad to have another sibling--I know that if I had not had my brother, being on the outs with my sister would have been much more painful. So I believe in the emergency back-up sibling.

A. has only the one sister, has always gotten along with her (perhaps because of the large differences in their personalities), and can't imagine having three kids. The idea perplexes and scares her. So we may not get there.

However, financially, right now, I don't see how we could even get to two--and I recently decided to postpone trying for a second pregnancy. Maybe next year. But postponing #2 when you're in your mid-thirties makes #3 less likely.

Rev Dr Mom said...

I thought I was through once, and then my life changed dramatically and I had another baby. And then I knew I was done for many reasons--money, age, time, energy.

You sound like you are in a good place about this and you sound happy. So just go with that. If things change, you'll know that, too. You have good instincts about your family.

And fwiw, I don't think all those warnings about "onlies" really mean much. There are too many other variables that come into play.

landismom said...

First, let me just say, I agree with PPB.

Second, I thought for the longest time that we would have three kids. After the Bee was born, I knew that I had been wrong to think that. Both landisdad and I are the children of an only child (his mother, my father), and we knew that we wanted to have two, but after we became parents, we knew that we'd stop at two, as well.

There are days, don't get me wrong, when I see a new baby, or think about how it would be nice for each of the kids to have a second sibling. But those days are much less frequent than the ones when I know we made the right choice for us.

liz said...

I face this question most days. But MS is done. So we're complete with three.

Suburban Gorgon said...

You know, all the "research" that had been done to indicate that only children had all kinds of disadvantages when compared to children with siblings has all been discounted and disproven by now. I have friends who are only children, and friends with siblings, and truly, as adult people, I see no difference that I could call positive or negative either way. If you should decide at some point to add on, more power to you. If you should not, more power again for knowing that it's not the right path for you. There is no right or wrong decision here, only what you feel in your heart.

Virago18 said...

The other day J told his papa, "Before I was born, you were even, but now we're odd." I think that's how I know our family is the right size.

Magpie said...

I wonder what would have happened had I gotten pregnant at 34, instead of at 42. As it is, I'm too damned old to have another child (now 46) AND we have a tiny two bedroom house AND we like the dynamic of just one kid. But at 34? We sort of assumed we'd have two.