“Why would I want kids?” She asked me in her letter, “I mean, they’re cute and all, but there are so many other things I want to do with my life. If I had kids, I couldn’t travel in Europe, I couldn’t sleep-in on the weekends, I couldn’t just ‘up’ and decide to go to the movie theater whenever I wanted. Just what about having kids do you like so much?”
She wasn’t trying to be rude. She was honestly curious as to why I was so enthusiastic about welcoming our third child into our home and why I was open and hopeful about the prospect of having more. Seriously, more children? Just what was so fun and alluring about the idea that I would keep doing that to myself?
During my boys’ naptime, when the house was quiet and calm, I fixed myself a fresh cup of coffee and wrote her a long letter in return. I listed the many reasons why I had chosen this life of peanut butter fingerprints and runny noses, scraped knees and temper-tantrum-taming. I explained how these children were my legacy, the only treasure I could take with me into the next life. I explained how I was ‘seeking first the kingdom of God’ and how I expected all those ‘personal fulfillment things’ (the world traveling, the sleeping-in, the movies) to be something that I could always do later.
I heard rustling in the bedroom and knew I had only a few minutes. I addressed and stamped my letter and set it on the counter. After some kisses and cuddling of the newly-woken children, I looked at the clock and realized it was time to prepare dinner. I put on a Veggie Tales movie in the living room, hoping the kids would be entertained long enough there so I could slice some raw chicken without being disturbed. The distraction technique worked for the 4-year old, but not for the almost 2-year-old.
While my hands were covered with raw chicken germs, Matthias came up to me and tugged on my leg. “Potty, potty.” He said, pointing to the bathroom. I washed my hands, undid his diaper and helped him visit the potty. It was a false alarm, but he does so love to flush! I went back to the kitchen and sliced a few more chicken strips before he was at my leg again. “Potty, potty,” he said again, pointing.
“No, I don’t think you really have to go.” I tried to shake him off, but his face turned panicky. As he threatened tears, I conceded. Washing my hands again, I took off his diaper and repeated the process.
A second false alarm. Nothing happened. But this time I got wise. I’d just leave his diaper off for a few minutes so he could visit the potty himself whenever he thought he needed to. After a few more ‘independent tries’, Matthias came to my leg again. “Hold me!” he cried, arms uplifted.
“I can’t right now, love. I have raw chicken on my hands. Go watch your movie.”
“Hold me!” he cried, not understanding. Biting my lip, I stood strong. He might cry for a few minutes, but he could wait a few minutes. We’d cuddle on the couch after I finished slicing….
Then warmth. Then wetness. Running down my leg. I do a little dance with the chopping knife in the kitchen. “Matthias, no! Don’t pee!”
“What’s wrong?” Gabriel heard my horrified cry from the other room and came running. Kitchen floors are slick, especially when wet, and Gabriel doesn’t know any speed but ‘fast’. When his feet met the puddle on the kitchen floor, Gabriel lost his footing and slid banana-peel style back-first at our feet.
The look on his face was confused. “Why is the floor wet, Mom?” he asked, still dazed.
“Because Matthias peed there, love.” My voice was somewhere between laughing and crying. “Now, stay there. Don’t touch anything!” I’ve put the knife down by now, but my hands were still covered with raw chicken grossness. Matthias clinging to my leg made it difficult to reach the sink to wash them. Somehow I managed a pregnant, crippled, and straight-legged hobble that direction, wincing at each new sensation of wetness.
Gabriel spread wet fingers above his face, like a character in some horror-movie, and began to hyperventilate. “You mean, I have—It’s—It’s pee? I have Matthias’ pee all over me?” He began to wail.
Meanwhile, Matthias suddenly decides he is interested in that Veggie Tales movie after all. He heads toward the carpet, still diaper-less, leaving little, puddled footprints behind him.
Hands still covered with chicken goo, with a wet pant leg, a pee-drenched toddler wailing at my feet, and the culprit still at large, I looked heavenward. “I WANNA TRAVEL EUROPE! I WANNA SLEEP IN ON THE WEEKENDS! I WANNA GO TO THE MOVIES!” Waahahahahaha..*sniff, whimper, cough*
I saw the letter on the counter. The aspirations inside mocked me. Somewhere, my friend was sitting dry behind a desk, probably plugging numbers into some digitally-predictable software and planning what she was going to cook undisturbed that night. I could almost hear the letter physically laughing at me.
Did I send that letter? Yes, I did (and I still believe in what I wrote wholeheartedly). Even though these children can be tons of work, nothing with great rewards is usually easy. And, thanks be to God, our evenings aren’t always like this.
But, like many great aspirations, there’s often a backstory. Sometimes a less than glorious one. So here’s that backstory, to that more dignified and inspirational letter, in the interest of full disclosure.