Avery and Patchy accompanied me to the local pharmacy this morning. We are always quick to make friends when it’s the three of us. People are definitely either baby or dog people - and often both. It so happened that there was a set of parents with their brand new baby boy in line right ahead of us. Avery is going through a love of babies phase. She smiles, laughs, kicks, and wiggles to get their attention and make friends. Unfortunately for her, this young man was still in his newborn haze and half-asleep. However, the dad and I got to chatting. This was their second son and, wow, is it ever different from having just one! Their other son is 4 1/2 and I can only imagine that his parents were just getting into a stage where he is semi-independent. Overnight, they found themselves at square one again, which is really like square one in a whole new Game of Life. When you land on “Baby Boy!,” you happily take a blue peg to add to your plastic car. You are immediately grateful for the tax-break you are going to get; except, in real life you are paying for diapers every time you pass PAY DAY, and often in-between. You also need to purchase strollers, various pieces of nursery furniture, bottles, swaddles, clothes, car seats, a bouncy saucer, buzzy seat, play mat, scary Elmo singing toy…It never seems to end. And these are only the tangible items. There’s no way to quantify the cumulative loss of sleep and hours you spend caring for this blue-peg baby.
“I was on a plane when we only had the one,” the dad started telling me, “and the guy next to me was a lawyer and started chatting me up. He told me that with one child we were just a couple with a kid. ‘You should have a family,’ he said.”
Our conversation got cut short there as my name was called to pick up my prescription; however, since then I’ve been wondering if this lawyer meant that having more than one kid provided a challenge that really made you a family or a joy yet unknown to parents of one child.
In our case, it was a pink-peg baby:
Our world of couple-hood has changed so much since we brought Avery home. We aren’t just me/wife and me/husband anymore, we are Aimee/wife/mother and Seth/husband/father. Often, the mother and father roles come first and that gets tough for me/couple, but great for me/parent.
I definitely see the benefits of being able to focus on just one child and take turns. Our only other immediate demand comes when Patch starts barking at us because, HELLOOOO, someone has to poop OUTSIDE. And, also, HELLOOOO, there is only super expensive, but totally crappy dog food in my bowl. WHERE IS THE CHEESE? Still, I’m struggling about this definition of a “family” necessitating multiple children. Some of my friends feel like their first completed their family, while others felt complete when they held their third or fourth baby in their arms. Okay, I get that four is more work than one. I will even buy that four kids is more joyful. I love hanging out with friends who have lots of kids. One, they are completely amazing when it comes to helping out a new mom who has no idea how to sooth a colicky baby. And, two, I admire how they make the time and go beyond their limits to parent the individual needs of their kids. Then again, don’t the parents of one child do just that, maybe even to the same degree for just that one child? What’s the threshold of “familyhood”?
What do you think? Are you only really a “family” when you have more than one kid, do you even need a kid to go beyond the definition of mere “couple,” should Patch be offended that we were just a “couple with a dog” before we had Avery?