I have a bad habit.
We’re a family in constant motion. We’re very rarely ever together anymore. Someone’s always off doing something, so when we go to a party or event, I inevitably get asked where one of my kids is. I’ve gotten into the habit of saying that we left the missing party along the side of the road. It’s easier than saying my son has marching band practice or my daughter is 350 miles away at college.
I like to think it’s a funny comeback. Okay, a bit sarcastic, but still funny. My wife doesn’t quite share my humor. She inevitably looks aghast. My family, friends, or whoever I’ve told the lame joke look at me, not sure if they should laugh or cry. (Oh, for the record, I would never think of endangering one of my kids. Next to my wife, they’re my everything.)
So yes, it’s a bad habit, lest someone think I’m actually serious.
In any event, I’ve been thinking some about the joke, because a friend of mine from college asked recently how we came about the decision to have three kids. He got married recently and is now running after two step children. For us, three was the right answer. I can’t imagine life without all three of them. Yes, they frustrate me, yes, they age me, but we’re perfect together, we’re a family.
In this day and age, I’m very much aware of how unique we are. The Pew Research Center reports that the average size of an American family has been shrinking, from 3.7 children in 1960 to 1.9 today. Get to three or more and you get the following response: “Are you kidding me.” Trust me, I’ve seen the look up close. It’s shock and bewilderment!
The list that made no sense
Of course, our large family started simple enough. I’m a man of lists. I make them to remind me what we need to buy at the store. I make them to help with tough challenges. So, it was no surprise for me to root through a desk drawer recently and to come across a pro/cons list that I had written years ago.
My wife and I were the parents of two busy children and were trying to figure out if we were done having kids or open to having another. In my tired state, I sat down and wrote out my concerns.
The cons outnumbered the pros by a significant amount. The cons all centered on money. In bright bold letters, I wrote, “day-care costs.” As if the message didn’t hit home the first time, I had written it again in the line below. I had included other concerns too including the need to buy a bigger car and college costs.
I was wise to lists costs. The Department of Agriculture estimated earlier this year that for a middle-income family to raise a child born in 2015 through the age of 17, the cost of rearing a child has hit $233,610. The price jump is a 3% increase from the previous year, according to the report. Housing and food costs took up the bulk of the expense with many others that I hadn’t even included in my list.
In contrast, my pros all had something to do with the heart: we didn’t feel that we were complete; we felt our two needed a younger brother or sister; we had room for one more.
I look back now on that list and laugh. We of course ended up throwing risk to the wind and having baby number three. Our baby turned 14 this year and I can’t imagine not having him.
A few challenges
Yes, five poses a few challenges. After having three kids, I learned that rocket scientists, nuclear pshycists, and restaurant matre’ds have the most complicated jobs in the world.
For whatever reason, restaurant hotstesses can seat two people with a snap. Three, no problem. At four, the wait time starts to get longer. Seating five, now that’s near impossible. The wait time drags on and on, taking about the same amount of time as getting a degree in Chemical Engineering.
There are other challenges too: picking up three kids from three different schools; grocery shopping for three different taste buds; and putting college money away for three to name a few of the challenges.
Meet the family
Yes, a large family has meant a few sacrifices, but there are some great positives to having three kids. We now have the requisite number of players to have our own starting five. We’re not great basketball players, but I like our chances, outside of Lebron James and his brood.
We could field our own rock and roll band too. Bass guitar, lead guitar, drummer, lead singer, and backup singer, we’re all set. We would need some practice and some actual talent, but the skies the limit. Yes, tables are tougher to find in restaurants, but we got our own fine restaurant staff: head chef, sous chef, pastry chef, food prep, and matre’d/wait staff.
Heart over head
For every challenge, there’s a positive. You just need to find it. When we first thought about having a third, I worried about the math of having three kids for the longest time. I would come home and play with the numbers. I would try to budget here, scrimp there, the numbers never seemed to make sense.
My wife inevitably convinced me. She reminded me what made us special to begin with: family. And ever since our bundle of joy burst onto the scene—okay, he’s a teenager, closer to going off to college than his bundle of joy days—I can’t imagine not having him or any of our children in our lives.
It’s who we are.