by Risa Green
I’ve been “cleaning out” our playroom for the last four years. Every six months or so, I get sick of the mess, I grab a fistful of trash bags, and I start tossing stuff. Games with missing pieces, half-finished art projects, Bionicles with severed limbs – it all gets sent to the big playroom in the sky. However, even though my children have long (long) outgrown their preschool toys, I’ve never had the heart to give away the plastic kitchen and its drawers full of plastic food and cutlery. I can’t get rid of the baby dolls and their tiny, Peg Perego stroller. I can’t bring myself to donate the Lakeshore games, or the bin filled with Thomas the Train pieces or even the giant, Thomas the Train train table that takes up almost half of our playroom floor space. I hang on to these things not because I’m sentimental about them, but because somewhere, way, way, back in the recesses of my brain, lies the thought that I might, one day, regret throwing away all of this exorbitantly expensive crap, because one day, I might have another baby who will use it.
In addition to “cleaning” our playroom for the last four years, my husband and I have also simultaneously been playing the “maybe we should have another one” game. We both come from families of two kids, and when we got married, we both assumed we’d have two kids. The only circumstance in which we could foresee having a third was if we had two boys or two girls. So when we ended up with one of each, it was kind of the end of the conversation. That is, it was the end of the conversation, until my kids started growing up so damn fast.
Somewhere around the time that my son turned three, I suddenly found myself mourning every milestone he reached as the last time that I would experience it. The last time I would ever go to toddler class. The last third birthday party I would ever throw. The last last day of preschool. The last first day of kindergarten. It got to be pathetic. So every six months, my husband would come home from work and I would announce that I wanted to have a baby. Sort of.
We spent hours discussing it. The pros and cons of can we afford it, do we have the time, do we have the space, do we have the patience, do we have the energy? We talked about whether it was really a baby that I wanted, or if I just wanted our existing kids to stop getting older. We closed our eyes and imagined going back to diapers and breast feeding and naptimes, going back to cutting food into miniscule little pieces and not turning our backs for a second and re-babyproofing the house. We tried to picture waking up at 5:30 in the morning with a baby while our older kids slept until 9:00. But then we also talked about how nice it would be to have another kid in the house when the older two went off to college. How fun it would be to see what other personality we might produce. How amazing it would be to have six grandchildren instead of four, or nine instead of six. At the end of every single one of these discussions, we decided to revisit it in another three months.
I think I knew that deep down, I really didn’t want another baby. I think I knew that I was just struggling with the idea of no longer being a mother of young children. I was having a hard time accepting the fact that my kids were getting older – that I was getting older – and that, by declaring the baby shop closed for business, my whole purpose, my whole evolutionary reason for existing, had ceased. I was no longer a glowing, fertile young thing fulfilling my species’ need to reproduce. From here on out, it would just be a long, slow decline towards death. I know, I know. I can be very dark sometimes.
Finally, though, I’ve come to grips with myself. I’ve realized that having another baby will not make me any younger. It will just make me someone who is old to be having another baby. The truth is, I like my family and the life that we have. I like being able to go out for the day without packing a diaper bag, or rushing home for naptime. I like that we can take family trips, that we can watch movies together that aren’t about princesses or Winnie the Pooh. I like that I have my days free to work, and that we all sleep in on the weekends. I know that all of this is temporary, and I know that I would never regret having another child. But I like the kids I have, and I honestly don’t feel the need to have any more. Sure, sometimes I think it would be fun when they’re older to have a really big family with everyone coming and going and lots and lots of grandchildren. And sometimes I see a see a baby or an adorable two-year old and I feel a pang of something…not regret, exactly, but a wondering, perhaps, of what it would have been like. And sometimes I feel like there’s something wrong with me since three has become the new two, and I hardly know anyone who doesn’t have a third (or a fourth) kid. But I’ve made my choice.
Today, I cleaned out our playroom for real. I gave away the Thomas table and the plastic kitchen, I got rid of the Lakeshore games and the baby dolls and the Peg Perego mini-stroller. After we were finished, my kids and I went online and researched air hockey tables and pinball machines, to go in what we’re now calling The Gameroom. It was fun. And I’m looking forward to the time that we’ll be spending there together, the four of us.