Counting Kids

I’m counting kids and I keep coming up with the same number. Wait, let me count again, just to double check the math.

One . . .

Yep, one kid in this house.

How did that happen? For starters, I’m a Mother of Three Kids. It’s one of my skills. I’m good at it, much better at that job than my previous position as Mother of Two Boys and before that Working Mother of Only Child Who Doesn’t Make Her Kid’s Halloween Costume by Hand and Who Sends Him to Daycare With Chickenpox. (Sending my oldest son to day care with chickenpox and light foundation was one of the saddest chapters in the tome that is my personal history of parenting. It ranks just above forgetting to get my son braces for two years and just below giving margaritas to my toddler, although he turned out to be a National Merit Scholar, so I think we can put that issue to bed once and for all. Plus I did some good stuff too.)

I was all about being Mother of Three Kids. It was just enough kids to make old people smile at me and say, “These are the best days of your life,” when at the grocery store with all of them cavorting around, especially when one of them wasn’t throwing up. But not so many kids that people made assumptions about my religion and judgements on what was in my cart. (“Why is she buying so much wine? With all those kids, you’d think she’d be saving her money for college.”) With three kids, people won’t think you’re Mormon and won’t even suspect that you’re Catholic.

[That reminds me: When I became Catholic, I had two boys and shortly after going through RCIA and converting, I got pregnant with my third baby. After mass one Sunday, I ran into my RCIA director, who was the closest thing to a spiritual advisor a former no-nonsense Lutheran can have. We were chatting and I told her I was expecting another baby.

“That’s great! Congratulations!” she said. “What a nice surprise!”

“Well, that’s what I was supposed to do, right?” I said.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well, I thought that once I became Catholic I was supposed to start having a bunch of babies. I thought I should get started right away.”

Catholics look funny when they’re scared.]

If I only have one kid at home, I’ve lost all my excuses for not having cleaned-out kitchen cabinets, something I vowed to take care of when my youngest child started kindergarten, then when my youngest child went to sleepovers, then when I found the good sponge.

Does this mean I have to start having nice things? Putting the toilet paper on the roll the way Ann Landers says it should be done? Decorating? Having a kitchen table with a flower arrangement in the center? Because I’ve grown quite accustomed to the kitchen table centerpiece I’ve had since my kids were in elementary school: pepper grinder on a bed of school permission slips, flanked by a flutophone and a soccer shinguard that needs dog hairs picked out of the Velcro before it’s functional. It doubles as my pile of things to do before Monday.

But most importantly, does this mean I have to get a job? Can I still be a stay-at-home mom if I’m the only one home?

I was good at counting kids when I had three. I almost always had more than three to count, with neighbors and friends and the occasional runaway who walked through our open-door policy home. It was usually more like seven when we got a swimming pool and was as high as 10 when we had a new Madden.

So what’s with this one kid? What am I, a piker? I can parent one kid with one arm tied behind my back (especially if it’s hiding a Heath bar).

My daughter is now essentially an only child, since my two boys are 2,000 and 8,600 miles away from home. When people see me tear up when I talk about them, they try to lighten the mood by cracking, “What did you do to them, to make them want to move so far away from home?”

Must’ve been the makeup over the chicken pox, and those margaritas.

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