To Three or Not to Three?

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

From the beginning, Kate and I knew we wanted two or three kids. After spending a year or so with our firstborn, Liam, we decided on three kids. At least, we thought we decided.

Maggie came along right after Liam turned 2 and taking care of a newborn while wrangling a toddler proved more taxing than either of us had anticipated. One evening, on a bleary-eyed amble with the double stroller, I admitted to Kate I couldn't comprehend having a third child. Our family of four didn't feel incomplete and, if any more of my independence and sanity were stripped away, quite possibly I could become an embittered, wretched person.

She concurred, and that was that. Until…

We had a pregnancy scare. Initially, we thought we weren't ready for another kid. But pregnancy has a way of making you ready and, by the time we found out Kate wasn't pregnant after all, I was disappointed. In the span of just a few days, I had made peace with the idea and was actually growing excited about it.

Eventually I got over it and, again, that was that. Until…

My sister is pregnant. My brother's wife is pregnant. Kate's sister is pregnant. My best friends from college and high school are pregnant. My kids' part-time caregiver is pregnant. Everyone is pregnant. That affects guys, too, because I feel like a wuss. I really can't handle one more kid?

I was talking with a fellow stay-at-home dad recently about the three-kid conundrum. Sure, he said, it would make life difficult for a few years. But, after all that work, you've got a person to show for it - a human being who will, in all likelihood, live a long, full life and bring joy to parents, siblings and friends.

As another dad friend said, the greatest gift you can give your children is another child. So, is it worth denying myself, my children and the world that gift just because of a few challenging years that go by in the blink of an eye?

It's a compelling argument, but I'm still undecided and I lean toward keeping our family its current size. With both kids synced up in preschool and pre-K, I have more time to write, which means fewer late nights scrambling to meet deadlines. Both kids are potty trained. They put on their own shoes. They brush their own teeth. Instead of wiping Liam's runny nose while he's teething, I'm putting money under his pillow for the tooth he lost.

Our house isn't overrun with baby-related gear. The gate at the top of the stairs is gone. We don't require bunk beds. Things are getting easier and the longer we wait, the harder it is to imagine going back to the days of diaper explosions, 3 a.m. screaming sessions and smelling like spit-up all day.

We went to Sesame Place in Pennsylvania this fall. The first time we traveled there, Liam was 2 and he gave Cookie Monster the biggest hug on record. He was in heaven. He enjoyed himself as a 5-year-old, too, but before our trip he asked, "Daddy, those are just people inside the costumes, right?" I told him the truth.

It's part of growing up, of course. At some point every kid outgrows "Sesame Street." I just don't know when parents do.

-Joel Oliphint is a freelance writer, often running his mouth about music inThe Other Paper and other pubs. His two kids refer to Bob Evans as Bob Dylan's and still don't know the purple dinosaur's name.