Everybody has an opinion on how many children we should have, and every theory is different. The one common element is that no one ever thinks we got it right. I've been berated for contributing to population explosion and ordered to have one more child so that my daughter wouldn't suffer from "middle child syndrome." One little old lady thought I'd ruined everything by having my children so far apart, because they'd never be friends, and another thought I should have spaced them further apart, so each one would have plenty of individual attention. For every smirking joker who asks, "Don't you know where those come from?" there's someone who warns that Adam shouldn't have had a vasectomy because we might change our minds and want more someday. Inevitably, this last group ends its arguments with a triumphant, "How do you know you're really done?"
Trust me. I know.
It's not that I don't like babies, but when people look at Alec and coo, "Don't you just wish they could stay like this forever?" I have to bite my tongue to keep from yelling, "No!" Babies are sweet and cuddly and precious. They're also an incredible amount of work. They're sticky and messy and they keep you up at night and they hardly ever listen to reason.
The stage Alec's in now is particularly difficult because he's old enough to be mobile but too young to understand his limitations. If he's awake, I can't get anything done, because I have to be ever-vigilant, always assessing the environment for potential risks.
I had a friend on-line who used to describe the constant assessing of hazards as "the baby of Dorian Grey" syndrome, as in "what happened to the fire place tools?" "Oh, the baby of Dorian Grey poked her eyes out with them, so I put them in the garage." We've definitely arrived at Baby of Dorian Grey time with Alec. He's not quite walking, but he can crawl or scoot anywhere, and he's climbing everything. Turn your back for an instant and he's on the table and reaching for the windowsill.
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He'll be a year old next week, and a few days ago, he stopped smelling like a baby. We'd been playing in the backyard and swinging on the swing set. When I picked him up, he smelled like a hot, sweaty little kid, not a sweet, milky infant. I admit it made me a little teary-eyed. But whatever nostalgia I might have for the days when I could put him on a blanket and know he'd stay there, happily playing with his feet, is balanced by the indescribable joy of seeing him develop a personality, learning to walk and talk, and becoming a real person, instead of an (admittedly cute) unformed lump.
The older kids are growing up too. Drew will be in second grade next year, and he's nearly as tall as I am. With a little prodding from me, he puts himself to bed now, sitting up late into the night reading Calvin and Hobbes comics and giggling hysterically. Franny is going into pre-kindergarten and can read "moon" and "cat and "flower." She's developed a sassy little hip-shot stance that makes her look about thirteen and a smart-alec-y attitude to match. Last month we took a two- day car trip to visit Adam's parents, and we were amazed at how much easier the trip is now that Drew and Franny are both toilet trained.
I know I'm supposed to miss my babies, and of course, there are things I miss about those drowsy, slow-moving, early days. But honestly, I can tell my family is complete by the degree to which I greet every new milestone with, "Whew, that's the last time we have to do THAT. "I'm sure, with the passage of time, I'll forget the more brutal realities of having a baby. And I do realize that every stage brings it's own issues and concerns, and that in some ways, infancy is the simplest time of parenthood. But I appreciate my older children's ability to tell me when they're hungry or tired. There's a lot to be said for being verbal. Communication is good. Independence is good. Being able to send them out to the backyard to play, and not watch them constantly is very good.
We've been mired in the baby/toddler stuff for seven
years now, and frankly,
I'm just glad to finally be getting some forward momentum. That's how I
know we're done.
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