I can’t remember the exact time or place, but several years ago — probably just after our 8-year-old, Grant, was born — my beautiful, devout wife and I were having a conversation about just how big a brood we wanted to have, ideally.
Ever since we were dating (seriously enough to have these types of conversations), my wife has been tremendously specific on the matter: She has always wanted four kids — two boys and two girls. Me? At the time, I was perfectly content with the two we had, but three seemed like a good number. Four was pushing it.
Anyway, during this conversation years ago, shortly before I turned 30, I came up with a compromise. (Ask my wife and she’ll tell you that I am supremely amendable, always willing to see both sides of an issue clearly and without bias. Fine, that’s a lie.) So being the flexible husband I am, I told her we could have a bunch of kids — plenty of kids, enough to fill one of those 15 passenger vans we see parked at our parish all the time — but there was one condition: Once I hit 35, that was it, no more babies.
My wife reacted like she does whenever I stand firm and draw a line in the sand: She respected my wishes and thought that sounded perfectly reasonable, even wise. (Fine, that’s another lie. She wasn’t terribly receptive and was quite mean about it.)
But while having an age cutoff might seem crazy — it certainly did to my wife — I had my reasons.
Reason 1: I didn’t want to show up at my kids’ high school graduation and have people asking themselves if I was the dad or the grandfather, because we’ve all been there, wondering aloud and placing bets. (OK, I might be alone on the betting thing.)
Reason 2: I wanted to be as active as possible — for as long as possible — with my kids, playing catch with Olivia or wrestling with the boys.
Reason 3: I wanted to get them — all of them — out of the house while I was still young enough to do the things that are impossible to do now. (Maybe impossible is too strong of a word; let’s go with “challenging.”) That might sound a little selfish, but I like to think of this blog as a one-man group therapy, where I get to forever hold the sharing stick. A few examples of things I hope one day to be able to do: play golf, eat a hot meal, stop shouting, read a book without pictures in it, not constantly step on toys, enjoy five seconds of quiet before 10 p.m. and make vacation plans that don’t center around a zoo or waterpark.
So while I thought 35 seemed like a good cutoff to avoid being grandpa dad, God certainly had other plans, and, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, we announced we were having No. 4 — just like my wife wanted, for I am nothing if not a giver — on the same weekend that I turned 37.
Being that our youngest, Jake, is now 5, everything baby related has been collecting dust in our crammed-full attic for several years. We’ve still got the swing and the Pack ‘N’ Play and the highchair and the bouncy seat.
We still have the crib, though there is an ongoing debate between my wife and me over this piece of furniture. I love that old crib and could put it together in my sleep, having set it up and taken it down three times. The front of it slides down so you can gently set the sleeping angel into bed without waking him or her up.
But, apparently at some point in the past five years, these drop-down cribs have been deemed unsafe. Allegedly, the sides were dropping down unprompted and babies were falling out. (A side note: Jake would fall out of the crib all the time, but it was because of his own ingenuity and perseverance; the crib is blameless. Also, it’s a fact that kids are mostly cartilage, so they bounce more than break.) So I ask, which is more harmful to the child: the very remote chance of a proven crib malfunctioning or having to drop a sleeping infant into bed from dizzying heights?
All this being said, my wife wants to get a new crib because the one we have isn’t safe, despite my irrefutable evidence of three perfectly intact kids who have never seen a stitch (even Jake). And if she’s truly worried about the side dropping down and No. 4 toppling out, I told her I could easily make the side stay put. I have a drill and bolts and super glue and duct tape.
Either way, more baby preparation looms, confirming the fact I knew years ago: I am getting too old for this.
Scott Warden is the associate editor of OSV Newsweekly. Follow him on Twitter @Scott_OSV.
For more of Scott's Confessions of a Catholic Dad, click here.