My parents are baby boomers. The baby boom, as we all know, was a big … boom of babies. Like, with the austerity of war behind them, people wanted to have lots of kids again, right? So, my parents come from families of 3 and 4 kids. But as baby boomers reached childbearing age, some kind of stupid recession kicked in, and for many people, having more than two kids started to seem unaffordable. Families got small again. My brother and I just had each other, though I can’t say we were lonely or anything. We gladly shouldered the responsibility of creating enough chaos to fill the house.
Almost all of my friends, cousins (on both sides!), and classmates growing up came in pairs of one-boy-one-girl. (What are the odds?) To many people, one boy and one girl sounds just about perfect. It’s the smallest number of kids you can have while still having “one of each.” Maybe we’re biologically programmed to want to balance the sexes; maybe it’s a cultural thing. I think we have to agree that it’s held up by many as the “ideal” family these days, often with the unfortunate consequence of suggesting that parents with two of the same sex must be unfulfilled. “Are you going to try again for a boy/girl?” is the infuriating question these parents get asked. (Say it with me: “None of your business!”)
Having grown up surrounded by one-boy-one-girl families, I was somewhat awed by the exceptions I encountered. I had this picture of male and female archetypes: my fundamental misunderstanding of genetics told me that when parents combined their genes, there was one inevitable male outcome, and one inevitable female outcome. The concept of a family with three or four sisters, for example, seemed like a fascinating genetic anomaly. I couldn’t help but compare them, and see them as variations on a theme. I still look at huge families (like, I dunno, the Duggars) and think … some of them must be doubles. Some of them must be repeats. How can there be that many different genetic combinations?
Obviously, there just are. And now, as with most things our parents did, we tend to wonder what it would be like to do differently – to explore the possibilities. For my generation, the pendulum might be swinging back the other way, and I’m noticing that many of my contemporaries are actually planning on three or more kids. It feels almost like an act of rebellion to have more than two children — so much so, that people often feel entitled to ask if the third was planned. (All together now: “None of your business!”)
I have one boy and one girl, and I’m pregnant with my third child. This is utterly blowing my mind. It feels like a vast, uncharted territory. The human penchant for relying on binaries is overwhelming: I can’t help wondering which of my two existing children this baby will be more like. Is it possible it will just be its own, unique person?
Well, yes, dummy. It’s not just a possibility, it’s a certainty. This baby will be someone who has never existed before; someone with their own astronomically specific identity and personality. I can daydream all I like, but I just can’t know yet who it will be. And yet, when it’s born, I know I will look at it and think the exact same thing I thought when my other kids were born: Oh! It was you in there all along. How did I not know you were you? It’s so obvious now.
How many kids did you want, growing up?
How many do you think you’ll end up having?
Is there a perfect number? Is there such a thing as too many kids?
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.