the family you plan for, the family you get

According to the World Health Organization, the concept of “family planning” allows people to attain their desired number of children and determine the spacing between them.

According to the old Yiddish proverb, men plan and God laughs.

I had a plan for my family. I wanted three children. If you had asked me before, I would have said this: two boys, relatively close in age, and then maybe a girl, though I wasn’t bothered about the sex. I would wait a little longer to have the third child—settle the first one into school, break the back of the second’s toddlerhood—so I could appreciate fully that last ride round the carousel of new motherhood. So I could swill it in my mouth like the fine wine it is.

I had my two boys, just over two years a part. And then three and half years later, I had twins.

I’m not sure I think the configuration of a family is something we should aim to control absolutely, though modern medicine offers increasing opportunity to do just that. There is much beauty to be found in the unknown, in the mysteries the reproductive process is so good at serving up to us. But still we are human. And still we make plans, we make choices, whether Mother Nature is smirking behind our backs or not. We harbor ideas and desires about how many children will be sitting at the dinner table, about what they might be like, and we have regrets, too, regrets that creep in like frost, even though it’s not always socially acceptable to say so.

I planned for three children and I ended up with four, and it has changed my life more than I ever imagined.

You can read the rest of the essay here, at Brain, Child Magazine.




Filed under parenting

11 responses to “the family you plan for, the family you get

  1. Richard Apfel

    Loving insights beautifully written.




  2. As my wife said, there never is a good time to plan. We both really only planned one of them, though have three! It was the middle one who was planned and the third one was more on her end of planning than mine, though they are three awesome girls…By the time the third one came around I pretty much thought it would be easier to have another girl as we had all the stuff already from the first two!

  3. ASL

    We’re living nearly parallel lives. As the youngest of three (and married also to the youngest of three), we, too, planned on three children. Had two boys, two years apart, then waited a bit for #3 so our oldest would be in kindergarten at that point. And BAM, surprise - twins!! But ours are both boys - so we had four kids in five years, including a set of twins, and all four boys. Yowzers.

    The word “chaos” is not nearly strong enough to describe my household, particularly as the twins approach their third birthday this May. But wow, is it fun (most of the time). And loud (all of the time). And filled with love and mischief and aggressive affection and so.much.pee and always being able to find a playmate and and and and…

    There are certainly days when I can pick out the one I could do without at that particular moment in time - but I literally can’t imagine what life would be like with “only” three. Would I even notice the enormous, gaping hole? I guess I wouldn’t, but I’m so glad for that bonus baby and the overfull life I’m leading.

    • Thank you so much for your comment - I love connecting with people who have this (crazy) family configuration. And I am laughing, because there are always days I can pick the one child I can do without ;). I admire your positive attitude and hope you will stay in touch!

  4. Suzanne

    I recognise so much in your stories! I was expecting just the one and got two. I love them to bits, obviously. But while the world seems to think I got all I could have ever wanted in one go, it’s a struggle. We’re trying to be practical about it, but in the mean time none of my dreams of faffing about with a tiny bundle, cuddling or singing or reading stories even, have come true. There is only chaos and toddlers bashing each other’s heads in : ) Sometimes I envy friends with ‘just the one’ and indeed, when one is away, the boyfriend and I exhale loudly and cannot believe how much easier it is… They’re two now and the little moments of enjoyment, contentment and feeling lucky are growing in number, thank goodness. I am a writer like you, I write about food though, not parenting and am grateful to have you putting all those ill constructed, guilt creating thoughts that swirl around in my mind down so eloquently and reasonably. Lessens the guilt, for sure. Thank you!

    • Such a wonderful comment, thank YOU. I think there is always an element of pining for ‘just the one’ with twins, wherever they come in the pecking order. And as first children, obviously you miss out on the chance to have that cosy single baby experience. My twins are almost four and still bashing each other’s heads in, by the way ;). Hope to connect again. I love reading about food, let me know where I can find you.

      • Suzanne

        I’ll find you on Facebook. I’ve started reading ‘All joy and no fun’ by the way. I love love love that it’s about (the impact on) us parents for a change 😉

  5. Sara

    Ahhh!! So glad to find your blog. We have the same age breakdown with opposite genders… Two girls 9 & 7 and 3yo boy and girl! People have started saying things to us very bluntly when we tell them how many and how old, like yesterday when the checkout clerk said, “that’s A LOT of kids”

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