I don’t normally take requests for my blog posts. Nor do I normally get them. But my wife has asked me if I could please please please make my next post less depressing. She said the last one made her want to kill herself. Pretty sure she was exaggerating. She said it also made one of her best friends no longer want to have kids. Pretty sure (hope) it was one that didn’t have any yet. She went on to say that maybe I could once in a while write about something happy. Anyway, that was over a month ago. Then, the other night Kate reminded me that I haven’t written a post in while. I had to tell her that I was still waiting for something happy to happen.
Looking back on the posts, I can sort of see her point. There’s some darkness there. In fact, the only post that seems genuinely happy is the one about the birth of Theo, and even that had to draw physical comparisons between my newborn son and Hosni Mubarak. So, perhaps Kate was looking at the blog patterns, looking out for my mental health when, the other day, she sent me an email saying she thinks she wants to have another baby.
For those still counting, that would make four. Four children.
Kate, bless her heart, is a little out of touch. She’s at work all day. The kids, I’m sure, look quite sweet in the pictures on her desk. The yaps she hears in the background when I call her to ask when she’s coming home I’m sure sound pretty cute. Kids do better in our minds. It’s like how on date night we spend the whole dinner talking about how great and funny our kids are only to come home and yell at them.
But, in Kate’s defense, babies are different. They’re cute. I’m a stay-at-home dad mostly because I love babies (and because I’m unemployable and Kate trapped me). I’m less into older kids. I think it’s the talking that kills it for me.
So then maybe we should have another one, you say. Four is an even number, after all. I’m the youngest of four. Would I not have wanted my parents to have me? Then there’s this other thing. And this is kind of amazing. My kids match up almost exactly in age spacing and gender to my three older siblings. If I could convince Kate to have sex with me in about two years, we could, if all goes well, have me.
So, if I could recreate my childhood and right all the wrongs –like, not let our dog diarrhea on me as I slept in the back seat of our family wagon while wearing my brand new pleather Michael Jackson “Thriller” outfit, or not throw a birthday party for Ben Jr. in which I (as his dad) make his 11 year old guests (including first girlfriend) clean up dog shit as part of some lazily concocted army “mine patrol” game– I could see, through Ben Jr., what kind of person I could’ve/should’ve been, I’d have to do that. Wouldn’t I?
Maybe not. But I’ll continue to entertain the idea and throw this out there…Yes, four is a lot and I’m pretty overwhelmed as it is, but I’m also just starting to get our current three to pull their own weight…
Like, Theo’s been helping me cook…
And just the other day Louisa helped me with some much needed auto body repairs on our Volvo.
George is actually still pretty useless…
And then there’s that whole ‘dogs running away and attacking other dogs and killing wildlife’ thing that has driven us to near insanity –and our neighbors to near lawsuits. That whole thing? Very nearly solved. We bought an underground electric fence. Installed it myself and turned it up to 11. It worked. Really worked. The only snag is that now Greeley uses our living room rug as her toilet because she’s too scared to go outside. It’s taken me awhile to get used to.
I take her collar off and walk her but she just holds it in. I’m starting to think she’s just doing it out of spite.
There was this one on the couch pillow. She didn’t need to go there.
And then this one on one of George’s toys. Doesn’t seem like a great place.
And then there was this one. Felt like she was trying to tell me something…
Part II: In which I use human feces and dead baby rats instead of dog feces and bad parenting to explore the pros and cons of having a 4th child
I once read that rats will have as many babies as their living space will allow. I think this mostly holds true for us humans as well. Assuming you’re not clever enough to rig up one of these…
…you generally move out to the Suburbs to have lots of babies. That’s what we did. And now we’ve got all this room, so why not fill it up? Our house isn’t big but we do have two more heating vents downstairs that are as yet unaccounted for (the ones upstairs don’t work but, thankfully, heat (and hope) rises)…
Of course, you can go overboard. With all the space in the world, you can still outbreed your patience. One particular mother rat I’ve gotten to know through our compost bin (rats love hippies) found her ultimate solution in our recycle bin.
I’m pretty sure she drowned them. Just got overwhelmed.
Now, I’m not saying I’d drown a fourth child if we had one, but I can say with some confidence that this child would not be given the quality attention it deserved. It’s already a bit dicey for Theo…(he’s got quantity, just not quality)
Then there’s the money issue. Financially, a fourth child doesn’t make a lot of sense. We’re already feeling the strain with three. For instance, a couple months ago Kate decided we needed to start buying diapers in bulk to save some money. It took Theo about two weeks to outgrow the size she bought. But we still have about a hundred left. So we’re dutifully working through them.
But here’s really why I can’t do a fourth child. (And it is not, contrary to rumors still lingering from middle school, that I have only one testicle. Nor is it because Kate strategically places Theo between us in bed every night.)
One night while Kate and I played our favorite “race to the bottom” game (rules of which are to argue your case for having a harder day than the other person without seeming like you’re complaining), she asked me to hold Theo while she made some tea. I took him, not thinking much of it. Then it hit me. WTF?! I hold Theo all f-ing day. Embracing my bitter inner child, I handed him back to Kate and said, “no, you hold him, I held him all day, even dropped him in the shower while trying to wash my hair”.
“Did you really?”
“Yeah! I really did. Fat baby skin is nearly impossible to hold onto when it’s soapy.”
“Did he get hurt?”
“You’d be amazed at all the things I do while holding him.”
She took him carefully from me and hugged him.
In conclusion, I think we –mama compost rat and I—have reached our carrying capacity. I can’t speak for the rat but I don’t think I can go back to square one with my regression into the petty, crabby, whiner that parenting has thrust upon me (I’m a victim here!) And it also goes back to the “on the same page” issue I wrote about a couple posts ago. Kate doesn’t really know what it’s like to do this job. And I hate that…separateness. Sure, she dives right into it when she gets home from work (I once timed how long it took between saying hi to them and yelling at them…35 seconds) but she’s gone most of the day. She doesn’t know the monotony. Not like me and mama compost rat do anyway.
If I didn’t know she’d eat it, I’d have Kate carry an egg around with her all day like I had to do in 5th grade as part of a lesson on the dark truth of child rearing. She’d probably understand then. (Side note: my brother, Justin, egg-napped my egg and left a ransom note. I eventually found it in the microwave but not after parting with some treasured candy.)
Chances are we will not have a fourth child. If I were to find a career for myself and it paid well enough to allow Kate not to work, then maybe. But those chances are small. I’ll always be curious though… Who would I have been had I had proper parenting? No offense, mom and dad.
Now, Kate will probably say all this is “depressing”, that using a non-existent fourth child to explore the possibilities of a life do-over is “sad”. She’ll say something about how neither dog shit nor shit oozing from our son’s ill-fitting diaper could be construed as uplifting. What she’d be missing though is that it’s also been a pretty good waste of time. I’ve worked through a past that won’t change and a future that (98% sure) won’t happen. Now, Kate’s probably thinking I’m coming around, hoping I’ll wrap this up all sweet and happy with something like… “Maybe it’s time I focus on this life and these three kids and hold them real tight because, you know, when they get wet and soapy, they get pretty slippery.”
Fine. I’ll leave it. Done with my happy blog post.