What's your magic number?



I've been pondering the question of how many kids is the 'right' number of kids? Or how do you even know what the 'right' number for you is?


I know, some people wish dearly and with every last cent for just the one. Others harbour dreams of a soccer team instead of a tennis doubles. Some are directed by culture and time, others by purse-strings and biology.


Some thoughts, thrown down on a page...


Yesterday, me, my husband and the baby dancing in the kitchen. A rare moment when he didn’t have to share the limelight with his big brother, when he was free to rest his warm cheeks against ours and bask in the glow. Our love brought to a central focus on the little one for a moment, while the older boy is in preschool. We do not do this often. Instead we split attentions and share the load. At the start I took the baby, he took the toddler; a natural distribution of the labours of our love.


I saw an old friend on social media, belly swelling with a third baby. I felt a pang of what might be jealousy. Betrayed. I thought their (perfect) life of 4 reflected ours, reassured me that this number was ok, good, chosen by those whose lives I envy (at least the lives they hint at through the lens). But then, a shock. Two is not your magic number. But your life looks nothing like mine- why should the number of your family be the same?


Another family, four kids, two parents this time. I see you, hear you, tell of the mess and the chaos and I wish I could embrace the chaos of our life as it is. Truth-telling, I have enough with two kids and a dog and a house that needs fixing in every corner. I struggle to embrace the chaos of that. I struggle to have enough time for kids and me, and kids and work, and kids and love with the one who made the kids with me.


But I would love to relax and embrace the chaos and the kids while the dishes and the work wait.


Stopping at 2 kids says:


I am done with my childbearing days.

I am old.

I am moving into a different phase of life.

I am bad at mothering because I cannot handle more.

I will not feel my belly swell with love again.

I will never look on my baby for the first time again; never experience the powerful surges that push life into the world, into my arms; the only action required from me being acceptance, saying "step out of the way now, ego, and let the body get on with this business of birthing"


Stopping at 2 means:


I move into my child-rearing days, say goodbye to nappies and breastfeeding, baby carriers and buggys.

I decide not to worry of the risks of being an older pregnancy.

I am good at mothering these two and it feels right.

There is one for each of us. Quality time with one parent at a time (and a little time for me for you, for us two, too)

I will feel my heart swell at every stage of their journey.



I am one of 7.


7

What possessed them?

I see families of 6 and I cannot fathom it.


I grew up in the middle and felt lost, often.

Unseen sometimes (you cannot see the child for all the children)


But not unloved; there is a different kind of attention. That of the parents complimented by the siblings’

Parents of some many may argue different. This was my experience.



Before I was a parent, I believed family was more than one child. But as soon as my son was born, I knew different.

In a moment we were family; you its beating heart in tiny chest.

One was enough to be family.

One was focus, one was shared hearts. One was always someone to share the load.


Then two.


The load gets bigger, the love gets greater.


And new things...

Managing jealousies, activities, bedtimes

Intervening in squabbles and removing toys-turned-into-weapons

Finances, drop offs and pickups


Other things...


Watching two play together without need for us.

Giggles in the back seat at bad (terrible) knock knock jokes

Two colluding at bed time with demands for the other.

Holding hands sometimes

Sharing food. The baby always asks for two so he can share.

Two is good. Two is neat.

Magic, for me, for us.




What is a magic number? What is yours, mine? Different- maybe, different reasons- probably.


A fear.

That the magic number will change in a few years time and it will be too late.

That there was a baby girl waiting in my dreams and I will never meet her.


But also the fear.


That me time and me-and-you time is a scare resource now, and would become scarce to the point of non-existence.

That someone would get lost in the middle of it all.

That we have two such healthy beautiful babies; surely tempting fate to ask for more?

That money would be stretched and lips tightened, features shaped into scowls. Struggling.


That I would be lost in the middle of it all.


What is the magic number?


Once I asked my mother. In a different time, in a different place, how many siblings would I have?

“I suppose we might have stopped after three.."

Looks at me, remembers family position “…four?”


Truth-telling, there is no magic number,

There is the magic you make with the number you have.


And the enchantment of this chance to consider the question.

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