At lunch yesterday 3 guys sat around the table getting to know one another better. In the course of the conversation we chatted about kids. Each man had two. The guy sitting next to me affirmed that two was enough for his family and barring a medical miracle, they were done. The guy across the table said that he and his wife hoped for one more. When they found out I had a 5 (Paul is 6 next Saturday) and an 8 year old, they said… “So, you’re done, eh?”
I have to be honest. Now that Paul is almost 6 it’s at that point where— adding a third would be like starting a second family. At the same time Kristen and I look at each other and joke about a third child all the time. Truth on that is, we usually say it in the most sarcastic way possible when Megan or Paul is having “a moment.” You know, the type of moment so horrific that you label it as birth control. You know, temper tantrums at the Capital building, or in Battery Park, or the one in a hotel recently in which I was certain someone would call the cops.
There’s a more personal angle to this. It’s hard for me to acknowledge that I’m somehow old enough to be done having kids! The crazy thing is that some of the people I went to high school think that 33 is the time they should get married and start a family. When people find out Kristen and I met when we were 18, got married at 21, and had Megan at 24, they feel uneasy about that. They say, “Oh, you were just babies!” We look at our peers and think, “You waited until your 30’s to get married? You’re so old!”
9 out of 10 times I just roll with the joke that Kristen and I got married as children. But every time that comes up I am overcome with self-righteousness… No, we were the normal ones. No, we were the ones making the good decisions at 19, 20, and 21. No, we were the ones who didn’t buy into the middle class notion that you have to be a certain age to fall in love or get married. No, we were the responsible ones while all of our classmates were focused on keggers and messy college relationships which required years of recovery and regret. Indeed, we were young and naive about life. But who isn’t? How dare people tell us we were immature to marry at 21! [Steps off soapbox, hands microphone back to street preacher and walks away.]
I’ve done enough pre-marital counseling to know tt doesn’t matter what age you get married, you’re always ignorant about what you’re getting into!
Something is completely broken in our culture when we begin labeling adults (18-22) as too young to be adults. It’s jacked up to say people old enough to serve in the military are too young to be in adult relationships or make adult decisions. What’s next? 30 is too young to get married and have kids? What else will our culture throw in the way?
Why is it that middle class white people consider 24 to be on the young side to have kids? [Physically, that’s prime time.] And yet people in the city would say… “Wow, you were 24 when you had your first kid?” The answer is culture. In affluence we keep our children immature a lot longer. (Just look at the super affluent British royal family, Prince Charles still acts very much like a 17 year old, doesn’t he?) When you are affluent you don’t have to grow up because you don’t have to feed yourself, clothe yourself, or make enough money to pay the bills. Part of what matured Kristen and I in our early 20’s was precisely that. We needed real jobs to pay real bills. We had responsibilities. We made a lifestyle choice that kept us out of clubs. A few years into marriage we knew we made enough money and were stable enough to start a family. In essense, we were not developmentally delayed like our affluent classmates.
So, does 33 with a 6 and 8 year old mean we’re “done” having kids? It kind of looks that way doesn’t it?. I know I don’t want to go back to baby seats, puke, dirty diapers, and finding half-eaten Cheerios tucked behind the couch! Maybe we should just focus now, in our old age, on helping our friends with their babies?