There are lots of important things to discuss before marriage. Chief among them: how many kids you want. Some people come from big families and have large broods in mind; others are nervous at the thought of raising a large family. Some may intend to have no children at all. The topic is very important to discuss, right?
My husband and I thought as much. So we discussed and decided to have two children. Then we went ahead and had four.
No, it wasn’t planned. But looking back, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Neither my husband nor I came from particularly big families, but I’ve wanted children since I was 6 years old. When I played with dolls I would count on my fingers the number of years until I thought I would be old enough to have children. (For some reason I was under the deluded impression that people mostly had children at 16, so my count was off by several years.) Anyway, I always knew that a house overflowing with children was what I wanted for my future. I never thought twice about it. I also never considered that I might fall in love with someone who felt differently.
Fast-forward to adulthood, and suddenly having children was far from my mind. I was too busy navigating life. But then my boyfriend asked me to marry him, and I realized that we had never really seriously discussed children. It turns out he wanted none but felt it would be generous to settle for one if need be. Coming from a home with three sisters, I couldn’t stand the idea of just one child, but I also couldn’t bear the idea of not being with him. Either we both agreed to something, or we had no deal. We both made serious compromises and agreed to having two.
I convinced myself that I could be happy with just the pitter-patter of two pairs of little feet, and he convinced himself that two pairs of little feet would not change his plans for his life that much. Turns out we were both wrong. Somewhere along the way we both lost sight of “the plan.” Life happened, and before we knew it, we ended up with four little rug rats. Neither one of us could have predicted how things would end up nor would we change it for the world. In fact, having our daughter and three boys has turned my husband into a man he never thought he would be.
Yes, I skipped the middle part of that story, and yes, the middle section has its hairy moments, but the end result is still the same. It’s not that my husband changed his mind about having more children. Number three came at the tail end of breast-feeding number two, when I didn’t even know I was ovulating again. And, despite our attempts to avoid pregnancy, baby number four really beat the odds to make his way into our family. In fact, one of those hairy moments I referenced above came when I tried to figure out how to tell my husband that his anticipated two-kid home would soon be doubled.
Considering I had to strong-arm him into agreeing to two to begin with, he took the news way better than I expected! The thing is, we’ve learned over time that our family needed these two extra sweethearts. Even my husband couldn’t deny that. Our second child (our first son) is a bit of a socially awkward fellow, and it’s not always a breeze for him to make friends. If we’d stopped there, he might have been a loner for most of his life. But now with two brothers after him, he has two built-in, lifelong buddies.
Further, my husband and I could have never anticipated how delightful and surprisingly easy our fourth child would be. I have joked that our youngest is God’s consolation prize for putting up with the other three. Don’t get me wrong, we love all our children equally of course, but our youngest, Louie, is hands down the happiest person I have ever met. I have never met anyone in my life brimming with such pure and unadulterated joy. For instance, once while playing a board game, Lou rolled a one (the worst number to get in this game), and he yelled, “Yes! A one! Woot, woot!” as he moved his piece with completely unsarcastic enthusiasm. This story may make him sound a little doltish and like he didn’t understand how the game was played, but that wasn’t the case. I distinctly remember thinking at the time, “That little exuberant guy is happy no matter what! You just can’t be sad when you’re with him.”
Yes, having four kids in my home is a completely different picture than my husband and I had anticipated when we got married. There’s more laundry, more food, and more expenses, for sure. But there’s also more joy. Right now as I write this, my husband and kids are clearing the kitchen table after dinner and compiling a parody rendition to Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Who would want to trade that?
At the end of the day, our plans are just plans. Our reality is that I feel incredibly lucky to have the four awesome children I have and a husband who loves us enough to roll with the punches. Yes, I occasionally wonder what life would be like with more children, and I’m sure my husband has thought about what it would be like with fewer. But in the end, we both choose to take a page from Lou’s book, to be happy and thankful for what’s right here in front of us.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Trahan