“What were we thinking, having two kids?” my buddy Allen asked last week while he cradled his youngest son, Owen, against his shoulder.
“RRRAAAA!” Owen said, not appreciating where this conversation was going.
“Aw, come on, you guys are just getting started, right?” I asked. With Owen’s birth, Allen and his wife Anna joined our family in the Two Boys Club, but they’ve been talking a big game for years about how they’re going to have a Duggar-esque brood of their own someday. Not enough to fill a bus or a reality show, but they’ve considered as many as four, which always sounded crazy to me. Kids are like cats: You’re allowed to have a maximum of three before the outside world can safely assume that you’re crazy. And even three is toeing the line.
Anna and Allen were encouraged to consider becoming crazy child people because of their experience raising their first son, Charlie, who just turned two. Charlie was the kind of smiling, happy, mellow baby that people like me and you don’t have. You and I, we have normal babies, the kind that scream in your face because you haven’t figured out what they want, which is usually to scream in your face more.
That’s all our two sons ever wanted when they were little. As long as they were screaming in our faces, they were happy. Our second and final child, Zack, had colic, which doctors call “the prophylactic disease.” Actually, they don’t call it that, but they should. Colic works better at birth control than the pill, because the pill is only 99.9% effective.
“You know what I want right now? Another one of these,” is something 100% of parents with colicky babies do not say.
And just in case Zack ever reads this column, I’d like for him to know that we decided long before he was born that we were only having two children. He could have been a calm baby who ever slept through the night, like Charlie, and we still would have stopped after two kids, in part because we are sane, and in part because at this point in our lives, we just can’t spare the love and attention that a minivan deserves. It just wouldn’t be fair to the minivan.
But two kids, we can handle. And as much as having multiple kids introduces exponentially more chaos into your life, sometimes, when your kids aren’t pushing each other off the couch, they can pleasantly surprise you.
“Can I have my elephant calendar now?” Zack asked a couple of weeks ago. Our sons had received Advent calendars from their grandparents, making every day a countdown to chocolate.
“Sure, buddy, go ahead. And it’s ‘Advent calendar,’” I said.
“Hooray, elephant calendar! What day is it?” he asked. When I pointed to the day, behind the flap, there was just a hole where the chocolate should have been. He’d “accidentally” eaten two chocolates earlier in the week, thereby dooming himself to a future day without chocolate. The future had arrived, and it didn’t have flying cars, cold fusion or peace on Earth, just a horrifying lack of chocolate.
Just as Zack started to cry, his six-year-old brother, Evan, walked into the room.
“Here, he can have mine,” Evan said, grabbing his Advent calendar off the counter and handing it to Zack.
“Aw, buddy, you don’t have to do that,” my wife, Kara, said.
“He’s sad because he doesn’t have chocolate. I want him to have mine and be happy,” Evan said, wandering off. Sometimes, your kids embarrass you in restaurants, but sometimes, they are even better than you raised them to be.
“Evan, that’s really sweet,” Kara said as tears formed in her eyes.
Someday, Anna and Allen may graduate out of the Two Boys Club. We‘ll happily cheer them on from the clubhouse.
You can push Mike Todd off the couch at firstname.lastname@example.org.