A friendly young air conditioner tech came over to check the system at our home.
Small talk led to him asking, “So how many kids do you have, anyway?”
“We have eight.”
Shocked, laughing, “Oh, are you crazy?!”
I was not offended; I could sense a good heart. ”Ha ha, well, two are in college, and so only six are in the house right now.”
Then he went and said it: “We had three, and then I got fixed.”
I didn’t even hesitate, and said with a smile:
“Oh, were you broken?”
Nervous laughter, hesitation. He really was not expecting that.
I continued: “My husband definitely isn’t broken, ha ha!”
Embarrassed smile, trying to figure out what to say, not quite meeting my gaze: “Well, my wife decided we were done. Three was tough. She is from a big Mormon family, eight brothers and sisters… her sister has six kids… so after three…”
“Uh-huh.” (Because I honestly understood.)
“…she said she couldn’t handle anymore. So I got, you know…”
I smiled warmly and explained how we hit the same fork in the road, almost took that route: ”Gosh, we had the same situation! We had three, and my husband was going to go get…’broken’ [I chuckled again, he accepted the joke], but then we changed our minds. He was Jewish, I was a lapsed Catholic, then we had big conversions of heart and went on to have five more kids, all boys.”
I sensed his approval, “Yeah, that’s so cool. Amazing. We just…I don’t know. It’s a lot of work.”
“I know, it really is. But nothing worth doing is easy. And these boys would not exist….” I gestured toward the two boys nearby.
He nodded. “Yeah, you are so right. We would have been just like you, with eight, if we hadn’t have….”
We chatted some more. I told him how everything changes, everything is a season, as it’s supposed to be. Things become doable as time goes on and children grow up. I explained that we have four of babysitting age now, and my husband and I can go out together on a whim — and we do. We have a total of five drivers in the family, which changes the dynamics completely. And, far from being put upon, all the children have begged for a new baby, often scolding my husband and me for being the only ones standing in the way of another sibling.
I also reminded this nice man that my kids are going to paying for his Social Security one day, as we have so few young workers coming up to support the aging Baby Boomers. Doing our part for the economy. He laughed and nodded in agreement.
He seemed eager to assure me that he loves children, loves that there are many young faces at his home: “We have all those cousins for the kids, and the neighbor kids come over, too. We have lots of kids around the house all the time, and it’s great.”
I told him, honestly, how wonderful that is. Big smiles. Have a great day, thanks again, very friendly.
And I am sad. He seemed sad, too. I think he knows what a blessing children are. I sensed this was not his decision. I sensed that he loves his wife, he loves his kids, and he is a good daddy. I sensed that he cut his family short too soon and would have been overflowing with love for any other child(ren) that could have — would have — blessed his marriage.