This is not how I planned my life. And by that I mean — four kids didn’t even occur to me. I grew up as one of three, and that’s what I wanted for my own family. For a few long, dark years, we weren’t even sure we would have a second child. And then we welcomed our rainbow boy. And for a while, I was okay. And then the feeling came back — THAT one, the I’m not done with babies, our family is not complete, I want another one! feeling. But we didn’t just get a third; we got twins, and suddenly we went from a family of four to a family of six… and from two kids to four.
The entire time I was pregnant with the twins I would have panicked thoughts like: Everyone is going to stare at me at Target/Publix/whenever I go with all four of them. We will never have an easy vacation again. We’ll need a condo or two hotel rooms. Six (SIX!) plane tickets (goodbye Europe, hello Florida road trips). We’ll have a passenger van so big that it has an aisle and a string of stick-people stickers on the rear window so long that no one can count all our kids before they pass us on the highway. I can almost field a basketball team. No one will invite us to birthday parties anymore because we will double the guest list. No one will ever invite us anywhere anymore. Six is just too many.
Sometimes I look at them around the dinner table in awe. Man, I have a lot of kids, I think. I do not, for one second, wish any one of them away. I love every single one of them in different, wonderful ways for their unique and beautiful selves. I am not — after so many desperate years of fighting infertility, body bruising progesterone shots, negative pregnancy tests, wrenching miscarriages — sad or regretful to have four kids. I will never, ever, forget that dark heartbreak, even though my arms are now full. I am just still sort of stunned. And deeply thankful. And overwhelmed. To be sure, the twins are just one year old. We are still adjusting to having four kids. Four kids we didn’t ever think we’d be able to have.
A big family brings some big worries. I worry if I am neglecting one child more than another. I worry they won’t get what they need emotionally from us, because four kids takes a lot of emotion. I worry I am too exhausted from taking care of the twins’ physical needs to have the energy to meet the big kids’ social needs. I worry the big kids are missing out on fun trips we otherwise would have taken because the twins are still too little to go many places or for very long without a nap. I feel badly the big kids don’t get as many play dates and get-togethers with friends at the park just because I often don’t have the capacity for one more thing or one more child in my house. I worry as they grow older they will all miss out on bigger experiences and trips because going anywhere as a family of six isn’t going to be cheap.
But then recently, my family celebrated my mother’s 70th birthday with a special trip to the beach. My mother is one of five, my father one of four. This means I have a lot of cousins — and now they are getting married and have spouses and babies. This great weekend with my family, when we were all sitting around one giant table for my mother’s birthday dinner, was such a joyful one. It made me realize — in 20, 30 years — my kids’ children will have lots of cousins. My kids will have big family gatherings (I hope, if they ever stop fighting over LEGOs). They will be surrounded by love and personalities and will be able to, somewhere in that big family, find a relative who is a best friend.
And while there’s probably going to be some things we cannot do, the flip side is that my kids each have three siblings, and they will always have someone who cares about them. There will always be someone to play with. Our house will inevitably be the party house, because four is already a party. We will be able to head to the park (when the twins get older) and have a fun three-on-three soccer or baseball game whenever we want. Birthdays and any other accomplishments will always be celebrated in a big way, because they’ll have three siblings to congratulate them. They’ll have three siblings to cheer for them on the sidelines and clap for them in the audience and to stand with them at their weddings. They will have enough.
We are teaching our children to take care of each other, to love each other, to stick up for each other, to help each other. We are teaching them that their siblings are the most important people in their lives. Right now, the noise in our house on any given day reaches Monster Truck-level decibels from squabbles over the green scooter/purple car/sparkle pen, and the screaming could power an entire Monsters, Inc. city for years. But I hope one day, when they are older, they will appreciate having three built-in friends to lean on and support. I hope they will love their big family, the volumes of laughter, the growing limbs on the family tree, and long weekends with everyone together. I hope, even though they don’t always care for or appreciate their three siblings yet, they will learn to love having a big family, just as I have this past year.