Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pick a Number, Any Number

My husband and I have two kids.

Snoodie and Crinkles, as depicted by smiley peas

As Crinkles approaches the 9-month mark, I am beginning to get THE QUESTION with alarming frequency. And THE QUESTION is:

"So, do you think you guys will have another one?"

Depending on the asker, THE QUESTION can have entirely different subtexts.

From some (like Grandparents, or baby-happy friends, for example) it translates roughly to,

"That Crinkles of yours is getting way too large. Please make us a smaller one immediately. And if it's not too much to ask we'd really like a girl this time..."

From others it's more like,

"Oh, God. You're not one of those crazy families that's going to have like 8 kids and drive around in a bus are you?"

But, regardless of subtext, my answer remains constant,

"Thank you for your kind inquiry regarding my uterus. My lifemate and I are currently engaged in high-level talks on the subject."

Having begun to reproduce at the age of 37, I can say with some assurance that 6 more children are definitely not in my future. But a third? I have to admit the idea has some appeal.

Maybe it's because I come from a large family. And I mean like '100 people at Thanksgiving last year' large. At a recent family wake, when my aunt noticed at a gathering of three dozen or so mourners in an adjacent room, she declared with undisguised contempt,

"We get more than that for a bad cold."

My grandmother was one of thirteen. My Dad is one of six. I have so many first cousins that my husband and I have the following conversation on a regular basis:

ME: Hey, my cousin is coming to town...
HUSBAND: The one who owns the restaurant?
ME: No.
HUSBAND: The handbag designer?
ME: No.
HUSBAND: One of the Mollys?
ME: No.
HUSBAND: The one who works for Fox?
ME: No.
HUSBAND: The one who drives the Shelby?
ME: No.
HUSBAND: The one who was in a coma for a while?
ME: Okay, if you don't stop guessing we are going to be here all night.

Coming as I do from such a sprawling mass of humanity, I think stopping after two children would just feel like an underperformance.

That being said, I recognize that, unlike my forebearers, who had family farms to tame and/or lax child labor laws to exploit with their expansive broods, I have no real NEED to have more kids. Nor, if I'm being honest, do I find myself at present with an extra quarter of a million dollars burning a hole in my pocket these days.

Still, I cling steadfast to what I feel is the most compelling argument for a three-child minimum.

And that is my theory of the "Valve Sibling".

The purpose of the Valve Sibling (sometimes known by its more common name, 'the third sibling') is to serve as a valve for when the relationship between Sibling Number One and Sibling Number Two becomes problematically pressurized.

Let me give you an example from my own life.

I have two sisters. They are both genuinely made of Grade-A sister stuff. Nonetheless, throughout our lifetimes I have engaged in some epic Cain-and-Abel-level conflict with each of them. And at such times, I count myself lucky to have a valve sibling to turn to.

Whenever my older sister and I get into it, at some point both of us will go to our corners, pick up our phones, and call our younger sister to chronicle for her the other's faults in minute detail. At that point younger sister, serving as the valve, listens politely, cools tempers and enforces calm.

And soon, my older sister and I have reconciled and all is right with the world. All because of the valve sibling.

Then, at times when my sisters are annoying each other, I'm their valve.  I tell you, the valve sibling is truly the gift that keeps on giving!  Whatever the downsides of a larger family may be, I'm not sure that having a valve sibling is something I can deny my own children.

So that's where we stand on the Kid #3 debate. One the one hand there's the force of family history and the unquestionable logic of the valve sibling. On the other hand, A QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS, people.

Negotiations remain ongoing.