8 May 2012

The Third Kid

Johan and I are both only children. 
This is a fact that many people refuse to believe.  What freaks we are.

When I told Tchic, my French tutor, about this fun fact during our early "get to know you lessons", he nearly fell off his chair laughing.  The unflappable Tchic simply could not imagine a family in which there are no aunts and uncles.  He thought my explanations of "honorary aunts and uncles" (of which, my kids have many) was just plain stupid.  And hysterical.

We have two kids: Elias and LouLou. Ages 5 (and three quarters) and newly 2.

We didn't have two kids as an anti-only kid statement or anything - but, it is quite nice, this sibling thing.  But, neither of us feels particularly scarred by our own only-child experiences and we even considered the plentiful benefits to making Elias an only-child too.  Then, we happily decided to have a second baby and Lou settled into our family perfectly.

So, now, there's the question of when do you stop?  We went ahead and decided to break with family tradition and have that second child, but what about the third, and beyond?

 Such a private discussion, but a popular one, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon of over-sharing. (Johan thought it was a little ridiculous and embarrassing that I would join the millions of other "mommy bloggers" who have written on this topic. Because he obviously reads these "mommy blogs." I argued it was only universal springboard to discuss other important topics.)  I think Sarah will also dish on what she and Adam think about the subject.

My opinions on whether to have kids or not have kids or to have one, two, or sixteen kids are still forming.  These aren't the sorts of decisions that can be made and held firmly.  I'm aware that my thoughts today could easily be knocked to the ground, rearranged, and built again by a single incident, article, or conversation tomorrow.  I'm also aware that it's a luxury to be able to muse over such life decisions.  For many in this world, family size is something quite uncontrollable.  To welcome or prevent is not always part of a perfect plan.

These days, Johan and I always sort of imagine ourselves with a random third child that straggles behind several years after the second.  I always liked people who were were that funny third kid - they always seemed quirky and self-sufficient - both things I value in kids and adults alike.  However, I am also aware that my imaginary third kid might very well just be part of the process to  happily being a complete family of four.

I admit that a part of not being ready for a third is because as a labor and delivery nurse, the superstition that those third babies always throw a curve ball - whether it's the pregnancy, the labor, or the delivery- is deeply ingrained in me.  So, maybe I'm a little scared of third babies.  And, after years of hearing stories from me, I think Johan is too.

Some of our hesitation to go beyond two is purely economical.  We live in Africa.  Our family is in the United States.  Have you checked Kayak.com recently for the price of one ticket?  Thanks to Lou's recent second birthday, she loses her "lap baby" status and we now need four.  If we needed five transcontinental tickets, we would be teetering on the $10K mark.  Luckily, we work in a place that helps us out with tickets for one trip a year - the summer.  But for Christmas, we're on our own.

There is also the resources argument.  I remember my mom showing me a list she and my dad had made as newlyweds: "Ideas for How to Live Responsibly" or something like that.  (Or did I make this up?)
                  #1: "Take submarine showers."
                  #2:  "Only have 1 child."

I'm not sure about the submarine shower (what the heck?) follow-through, but they stuck to their guns on #2.  Funny as it is, they had a point.  In my family's life, the resources we demand from the countries we live in and the travel we do grows exponentially with each person we add.  If we had a rambling farmhouse on several acres and knew we would be staying there forever, we would most likely not think so hard about having a third baby.

Submarine shower?
As an expat in the DRCongo, we consume huge amounts of imported goods.  In the U.S. we were die-hard supporters of "buy local."  In Kinshasa, we try to make similarly informed choices, but the fact is that the local economy is not set up to benefit the regular person earning Congolese Francs.  For example, last weekend, I stared at two bins of potatoes.  On one side were regular-sized white potatoes from South Africa.  On the other, were tiny, tough-skinned, manure- (whose manure I don't want to know) covered local potatoes.  I chose the import, with some degree of guilt.

Kinshasa tomatoes: 2500FC/KG, South African tomatoes: 8100FC/KG, & Belgian tomatoes: 13000FC/KG.  For the record, our tomatoes are always from the DRC.  I'm just saying...

When I purchase imported goods at exorbitant prices, I'm not contributing to a reasonable, sustainable, or just system.  The poor get poorer and the rich get richer.  The more people I have to buy food for increases our family's participation in this cycle.  Deep, I know.  But, true.  If I am choosing to live abroad, I feel responsibility to do it with some degree of respect.  Maybe a little bit of a stretch when considering the question of another kid, but hey, these are the things I think about when shopping for produce.

Still, I pine sometimes for that third child.  And maybe someday, we will have a straggler.  At which point, we will re-read this article and laugh.  And create a list of reasons why 3rd kids aren't so bad.


  1. For the record, we only had one child and we still take submarine showers!! Not sure the ranking was in that particular order (!) but I'm pretty sure a list of some sort did exist!

  2. Oh, wow! with much love from me.....

  3. Another idea from someone who had 4 kids (not me, I had three). She said "my kids know how to split a cookie 4 ways." There is something to be said for that, too. Love your blog!


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