Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A family of four

Prior to actually having a family, when asked about how many kids I would like, I replied four.  I grew up with three other siblings and thought it was nice.  While I wasn't close to any of my siblings growing up, they have become invaluable as an adult.  I really wanted my children to have the mental, emotional, physical support that siblings can provide.  And I wanted them to have more than one option.  

After getting married and actually having a child, I decided four was unlikely.  The late(ish) start on our family and the reality of having a child and not ever sleeping again were strong factors. Three, instead, became the perfect number.  There is a lot of symmetry with three: an eldest, middle, and youngest child.  The siblings start to feel like a unit unto themselves.  Three was perfect.

Have you ever wanted something, and it was a good, honest, righteous desire, but you realized that that particular reality was not destined to be yours?  That is a hard, painful place to be.  I felt a lot of grief when I let go of my vision of a family of five.

There were a number of factors influencing our decision: Mr. F.'s and my health (or lack thereof), the intensity of our children, Mr. F.'s and my personalities (which are not what you called laid back), the fact that we haven't slept since having children, and realizing that I don't have memories of most of Finn's childhood and Enna's first year and a half because I was sleep-deprived and depressed.  I finally reached a point where I was 1) getting some sleep, 2) exercising consistently, and 3) enjoying life and having energy.  The difference was amazing and life-changing and everything wonderful, and I had no desire to reset everything and start from ground zero.  In fact, even contemplating getting pregnant again and dealing with the fatigue, sleeplessness, and depression gave me a feeling akin to PTSD.

But the guilt!  It became apparent to us that our family was complete with our two kids.  However, we are Mormon.  And Mormons don't just stop at one or two kids.  (Not unless you are physically incapable and even then you adopt.)  We should bring as many souls into our wonderful family as we are able!  Who is better equipped to raised them?!  I am being a bit facetious here, but not by much.  I would look around at my congregation as I wrestled with this decision of stopping at two children, but then seeing every other family in our age group having more.  I felt like a failure.  Why couldn't I cope with more children when everyone else could?  Why was I so tragically flawed?  Obviously, those aren't healthy thoughts.  But there were there, and they still rear their ugly heads.

The guilt really obscured the confirmation that this decision was right.  How could two children be the perfect number for our family when it wasn't for practically everyone else?  Were we just being selfish?  But, no.  We are meant to be a family of four.  The peace was there under all that cloud of doubt and self-criticism.  

Mostly, I worry about my children.  I so desperately want the two of them to be friends.  I want them to be able to depend on and support each other as adults.  I know very few people who grew up with only one sibling and those that did and are still close friends as adults are those with siblings of the same sex.  However, I read one passage in Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist that gave me hope.  She said:

Because Todd is my only sibling, and I am his, there's something completely singular about out relationship.  There's no one on earth who has shared our history, no one on earth who can see the world from the corner that we alone inhabit.  As children, we played on the beach together for hundreds of hours.  Our friends were back at home playing video games and going to sports camps, but he and I, he and I, were always at the lake, each other's best playmate by default.

She then says that she feels that bond and kinship even now as adults.  That she can just look at him across a table and know what he is thinking at that moment.  I have to have faith that Finn's and Enna's shared history will bind them to each other in a unique and powerful way.  A way that will see them through adulthood.          


Amy said...

Oh I know what you're saying, particularly the part about wanting them to have more siblings! My husband and I both grew up in large families (9 and 8 kids, respectively), and we loved it. We always thought we'd have a large family too. But now we're at four kids, and we love them, but it's not all smooth sailing. I don't know what the Lord has in store for our family, but I also know that it's important for each new addition to feel right. I shouldn't rush ahead of the promptings of the Spirit just because of some preconceived, newlywed notion of what I thought our family would look like. I think you are doing a wonderful job, and I'm glad you've come to a place of peace with your decision (I love that quote you shared!). Your kids are lucky to have you for a mom.

Melanie said...

Two kids is just perfectly fine! Some friends and I were talking recently about how being older and single and most likely not physically able to have a bunch of kids if and when we marry is kind of a relief. Years ago I used to say that I wanted four or five kids, not because I really had a burning desire for a large family but because those seemed like good numbers. I have no idea how I'll feel when I actually have the opportunity to have children, but from where I sit right now, two seems like the perfect number. (That's not at all to say that I think there's anything wrong with having a large family, I just know that with my personality I'd probably handle fewer children better than I would a whole gaggle of them.)

RFamily said...

I love this post and I LOVE that quote. It's what I hope for too. I don't think I realized what a role guilt played in the decision - in terms of obscuring the answer. You made a good, carefully thought out decision and I am glad you feel peace about it!

joyce hanks said...

You have a great family and you know what is best for you, so be happy and content with the two beautiful children you have.


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