My six-year-old son got into the car after school and declared he only wanted to have one kid when he grew up.
“Why do you want one kid?” I asked.
He is the oldest of three, so I figured perhaps he was feeling a bit overlooked, especially since the toddler has been in a needy destructive stage recently. I made a mental note to prioritize one-on-one time with him soon.
He looked at me and hesitated for a moment. It was evident he had been thinking about this answer for a while. It had nothing to do with the fact that I had just loaded him into the car, trying to ask him how his day was while soothing his sister who had just been hit in the face with a rogue flying truck thrown by my youngest. Or perhaps, it had everything to do with that — with that exhausted look on my face he saw all too often.
“Because I don’t want to go crazy all the time,” he said sheepishly.
My mind was suddenly reeling, digging up all the recent instances I had said to them that they were driving me crazy . There were many. Too many.
I teared up and tried to find something adequate to say.
“You don’t drive me crazy,” I said, but my words were already betrayed by my actions, and all the times I had told him the exact opposite before . He smiled and continued talking about his day as we drove, unfazed by the bombshell admission he had just laid at my feet.
For him, it was a blip on the radar of his day. I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop thinking about it.
When he said those words what I heard was “I don’t want to grow up to be a parent like you.”
He saw a mother who was always at her wit’s end. A mother who couldn’t handle the day-to-day of being a parent without becoming completely overwhelmed. He saw my life and saw someone who was unhappy — and he didn’t want that for himself.
His solution to only have one kid? It made sense. Surely my life would be easier with just him — I know that is true. I had intended to only have one child, in fact, before I became unexpectedly pregnant with his sister. But the truth is, I wouldn’t go back in time and choose only to have one child .
I would choose the life I have now over and over and over again.
I want him to know that with undying certainty. I want all of them to know I would never choose another life, an easier life, because it would never compare to the life I have now — the fullness I feel in my heart will all of them by my side. And I realized if I wanted them to know that, I would have to change the way I behaved to match how I felt.
Those little annoyances — like insisting on buckling themselves, only to have a meltdown moments later because they can’t do it? That can slide by without an eye roll and harsh tone. The constant requests for snacks? I can just feed them without huffing and complaining about it. The quiet moments? I can relish them more. I can linger a little longer at bedtime. Read that book one more time – at least some of the time.
I don’t want to be remembered as a mother who was constantly annoyed, asking my kids to leave me alone, telling them they are the reason I feel crazy sometimes.
I want them to remember love and feeling wanted, always — all of them.
When we reached home, I sat in the driveway an extra moment, telling them what I wished they had known all along.
“I love having all of you. Even if I feel crazy sometimes, it’s always worth it, because I love you more than anything in the world. If you only want to have one kid, that fine, but don’t ever think I’d want any less than three. I want you all, always.”
Now, it’s up to me to show them it’s true.
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