We’re Done Having Kids… (Touch Wood)

We're done having kids... (touch wood)

This week our youngest child turned four and the last of the baby-gear items left our house. The item in question was our trusty Ergo baby carrier which we had kept in our minivan (aka the rolling jail), for just-in-case occasions.  But this last week we also said goodbye to the a/c-less minivan (and hello to a blissfully cool SUV), and when cleaning out the minivan I realized it had been months since we’d used the carrier. It was time to bequeath it to a new family. In so many ways, it’s the end of an era.

We are officially a house where no bicycles have training wheels, no-one except Mommy needs to nap, all seat belts can be buckled by their occupants, and everyone can wipe their own butts. (<< note I said can, not does. There’s yet work to be done.) It’s been a long nearly-nine-years but we have made the transition from being the parents of babies and “little people” to being the parents of articulate, opinionated, growing-in-competence, medium-sized people.

There are some really beautiful things about this change. We all usually sleep through the night. They can tell me where it hurts, and they laugh at jokes. Sometimes, when the planets align and all my mommy-mojo is at work, they play nicely together and I can read a book while the children are awake and occupying themselves. I mean WHAT?! Really?!! There were a couple years there that I didn’t think that kind of daytime luxury would ever be mine again. For these changes in season, my primary emotion is one of gratitude.

There are also moments of unmitigated sentimentality. Like the day we dismantled our youngest’s crib and left it to rest in pieces, and there was something so sudden and unexpected about that change that I cried on and off for several days about it. Every now and then one of my kids will climb into my lap and ask me to read them a story, and I know that one day it will be the last time and the thought catches in my throat. But that time isn’t today, and so I read and try to keep the schmaltz at bay.

But between the gratitude and the sentiment, I just wanted to confess one more feeling: fear. For I know a handful of people who were just settling into this sweet post-toddler zone I’ve been describing, who had just given away the last of their baby gear, only to discover that—surprise! surprise!—they were pregnant again. And lest you think we only keep company with Natural Family Planners who rely on calendars to keep them child-free; let me say we’ve heard this story from people who’ve taken permanent steps to stop them brooding breeding.

(Joke from my husband: What do you call people who practice the rhythm method? Answer: Parents. Crazy voice in my head taunting the “what if” scenarios: What do you call people who’ve had vasectomies? Answer: Very surprised parents??)

So this week, as my children buckled themselves into their seats and I drove across town to drop off that last baby item to a new foster family… I’ll confess I felt a little fear. Because what if this is our story, too? Just when we feel we survived the baby-years and are settling into the sweet season of the elementary years?

Well, I guess we’ll cross that bridge should we come to it. We had been hemming and hawing about if and when to have a third kid when God short-circuited our decision-making with a surprise pregnancy… and he was possibly the best surprise ever. We have laughed more and loved more every single day on account of that unexpected little boy. And I suppose that even if we were to have a (VERY!) surprise fourth, we would look back with gratitude and a “we couldn’t imagine life without them” testimony.

But for now, as I look at my baby-gear-free house, what I feel mostly is a quiet gratitude for the years past and the season we’re in. We have three kids and that seems a good number to us. The bakery is closed: no more buns will be baked in this oven… that we know of.

That’s our plan, but I know from experience that God pays little attention to my plans. So I’m giving away that baby gear, but—as with all things—leaving room in my soul for some divine mischief and mystery.

The pros and cons of having kids

Once upon a time we were a young, married couple.

Young, married couples in the 18th century knew that a decision to get married meant you were signing up for the marriage -> sex -> children package. The three came together.

But these days, the decision to get married, the decision to have sex and the decision to have kids seem to be regarded as three separate (and not necessarily related) decisions.

Being in the Christian camp, we knew that marriage and sex ought to go together. But what about whether to have kids?

And so this young, married couple did what we had been taught to do when making hard decisions: we made a pro and con list.

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The con list looked something like this:

* we haven’t been married for very long.

* we have almost no money.

* we know nothing about raising kids.

* what if I don’t LIKE my children?

* what if that means we won’t be able to do ‘ministry’ anymore?

It was a scary list of cons. Looking at the list, it seemed that perhaps all we had heard from other lets-wait-to-have-kids couples was right: to have children would be irresponsible and unwise.

But as we thought and prayed and thought and prayed, this one thing appeared in the list of “pros”: God says children are a blessing.

“Children are a blessing and a gift from the LORD.” – Psalm 127:3 (CEV)

I was undone.  Who was I to be making lists of pros and cons, when God had directly said they were a “pro”?

When I revisited my list of pros and cons, it began to look suspiciously like a “fear” and “faith” decision:

Cons (i.e. Fears):

* A fear that we would have less fun and miss out as a married couple (i.e. an underlying belief that children DETRACT from fun and fulfillment)

* A fear that we wouldn’t have enough and that God would not provide.

* A fear that we wouldn’t know what to do and that God would not give wisdom.

* A fear that ‘ministry’ as I saw and valued it, would be lost…

Pros (i.e. Faith):

* Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord.

As I stared at my list again, Mark 4:40 came to mind:

“He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

We scrapped the list, took a deep breath, and threw away the birth control pills.

And you know what? Six years down the line we could fill that “pro” list up with 500 things and still keep counting. Children are a blessing. Indeed.

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